I’ll admit one of the most naive ideas I ever had was that once I got a real, grown-up job I would be done. Like, done panicking and worrying about where my future would go, because I could just hang out in my office and do my work and keep getting promoted or something. In reality, I feel more overwhelmed by my career than ever before. Once you’re in the workforce, there seems to be even more options — but there’s also more to lose. I have a nice, stable job that I could stay in for decades if I choose to, BUT I’m also only in my mid-twenties with no long-term obligations and a seemingly endless array of opportunity.
I hold the sincere belief that, regardless of what investments you might have, you are always your most important financial asset.
Why? Because you and how you spend your time and efforts is what will determine how much money you receive to invest in tangible financial assets. If you work hard to develop your skills and experience, you will be eligible for higher-earning positions. On the other hand, if you don’t aggressively pursue more challenging roles, you will earn the minimum return on your investment in yourself.
You should protect your earning potential by:
Work hard on professional development. Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills. Take classes, earn certifications, and volunteer for projects that are outside your realm of responsibility. You’ll reap the benefits in abilities and connections.
Keep your resume updated regularly. I have no intention of changing jobs any time soon, but I still update my resume every 6-8 months. This means should I ever be laid off or choose to make a career change, my resume is ready to go.
Collect mentors. I collect both professional and personal mentors. These are people who emulate characteristics or have achieved successes that I admire. I keep in touch with them regularly (coffee every few months) and learn about how they got to where they are and what they do to manage their success now. I strongly encourage everyone to do this. I credit so much of my own achievements to having the right mentors. The professional world is infinitely easier to navigate if you know someone with a map.
Network constantly. I probably don’t put as much energy into this as I should because I essentially coast on having a position that forces me to interact with a number of people in all different industries, but I believe career success can hinge on knowing the right people so those relationships have to be created and nurtured. After I finally learned how to use LinkedIn with some semblance of competence, it became a useful way to keep my professional network in one place.
Work hard on the present but always look to the future. You can’t neglect your current position by constantly thinking about where you should go next, but you also can’t just expect to get to the next step if you’re not keeping your eyes open for the opportunity. If you’re interested in a certain business or industry, run a company check to learn more about it. Knowing where you want to get to next gives meaning and purpose to what you’re currently doing.
What do you think is essential to taking care of yourself & your earning potential in your twenties? What life/career advice would you give to your 20-something self (or someone else) about determining their professional future?