Whether you’re interning, working through a grad job, or slowly climbing up that career ladder, here are four career lessons you should learn in your twenties.
1. You Can’t Do It All
This takes some getting used to, especially for those people-pleasers who struggle with saying no. Sure, during your first few months settling into a new job, it’s great to be keen to please and show that enthusiasm. But a persistent inability to say no leads to getting taken for a ride by co-workers and the boss, as well as burnout. And no-one wants either of those things.
So learn how to say no, delegate and accurately measure your capacity. If there’s a lot on your plate, be honest and offer to help out once it’s calmed down. Otherwise, you’ll be working 14-hour days without getting paid overtime on your projects as well as everyone else’s.
2. Time Management
The thrill of a looming deadline excites me as much as anyone else, but it can (and should) be avoided by starting long-running projects earlier. It’s always nice to have a buffer period, especially if you rely on other people for input or approval.
Spur of the moment and last-minute requests come up, and that’s fine. But managing tasks and projects on a long-term basis is probably the biggest lesson you’ll learn and keep learning as priorities change.
It will take a while to figure out what absolutely must be done today and what can wait until tomorrow. Just because you didn’t get all the way through a to-do list doesn’t mean today wasn’t a success. Add a time deadline to a to-do list to stop spending longer than necessary on simple things. A to-do list with ‘eat lunch’ on it doesn’t count.
3. Hard Work Isn’t Always Recognised
This is another lesson that’s hard to swallow, particularly after school or uni where hard work usually was acknowledged and rewarded. Long nights, unseen hours and small successes are sometimes going to go unnoticed, colleagues are going to take credit for your work, and you’re not going to get a gold star for meeting your job description or KPIs.
No matter how great at self-promotion you are (and I’d always say less is more) it’s completely unrealistic to expect a slap on the back or congrats for each thing you do. So don’t get annoyed when it doesn’t happen, and don’t go fishing for it.
4. You’re Not Entitled To Anything
Whether it’s working for free, getting paid peanuts, or feeling flat after a bad day, it’s worth remembering you’re not entitled to anything. No matter what your previous job was, where you went to school, what your potential is or who you know, forging any sort of career path requires thinking smart, working hard and making relationships.
This false sense of entitlement is a pretty good explanation of why Gen Y are feeling unsatisfied with life.