10 Crucial Pieces of Career Advice for Young People

The young professional lifestyle is unique, which is why some companies build career programs specifically for young adults. They recognize that, as early career professionals, we have different needs, desires, and goals than our more senior counterparts.

But even as young adults, we can have a meaningful impact on our organizations. All we need is some solid career tips, time and experience, and a hint of our own flair. These 10 pieces of career advice for young people will help you become a more confident, successful young professional.

Young woman of color working on laptop outside a building

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Career Advice for Young Professionals

What does it mean to be a young professional?

Typically, young professionals:

  • have less than 5 years of full-time work experience
  • begin working at an entry-level job
  • work at the base of a corporation’s workforce

Sometimes young professionals are also referred to as college hires or degree hires if they recently obtained an Associates or Bachelors degree. Depending on the industry, those who hold Masters degrees may be considered young professionals, too.

There is no secret formula to becoming a successful young professional, but there are certainly things you can do to head in the right direction. Those are actions we focus on in these 10 workplace tips for young professionals.

  1. Early Career Professionals Don’t (and Shouldn’t) Know Everything
  2. Pursue Development as a Young Professional
  3. Prioritize Work Life Balance throughout Your Career
  4. Have Realistic Expectations of Career Growth
  5. Adopt a Growth Mindset
  6. Listen as Much as You Talk
  7. Be Flexible
  8. Work Hard Early in Your Career (and Throughout)
  9. Maintain a Good Attitude
  10. Ignore the Haters

1. Early Career Professionals Don’t (and Shouldn’t) Know Everything

In my first year working, I felt pressured to know all the answers and scared to ask questions. I’d recognized early on that my knowledge was limited, at best. 

While that college degree was shiny and I worked hard to earn it, there were simply some things I couldn’t learn from school. But companies know that, which is why they don’t expect young professionals to join their companies as an expert in their field.

Once I realized my company hired me because of my potential, not my expertise, I felt more free to ask questions to my senior colleagues and request more direction from my boss. You can be professional and ask for help from others.

Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know.

This brings me to my second piece of career advice for young professionals.

2. Pursue Development as a Young Professional

Experience is one of life’s best teachers, and as young professionals, we naturally don’t have a lot of it. For that reason, pursuing development as a young professional is instrumental to success in your early career.

You should seek out opportunities to learn from:

  • Your peers
  • Your colleagues
  • Your clients
  • Your customers
  • Other industry professionals

If your company offers training classes, tuition reimbursement, mentoring programs, or knowledge exchange networks, take advantage of them now. Later in your career when you have tighter deadlines and more responsibilities, you’ll be glad that you took advantage of those opportunities while you had a bit of “down time.”

3. Prioritize Work Life Balance throughout Your Career

Some believe that young professionals need to “pay their dues” in the entry-level positions they are placed in, and be willing to work crazy hours to please the “big guys.” Please put that idea out of your mind!

Early on, I decided that maintaining work life balance would be a priority for me, even in my young career. Work life balance is just as important for young professionals as it is for senior professionals.

Becoming disciplined in setting workplace boundaries will make for a happier career and a well-rounded life.

4. Have Realistic Expectations of Career Growth

No list of career advice for young professionals would be complete without this: Have realistic expectations. Young professionals can’t expect to be given a corner office on day one. 

Young careers need time to grow.

Even knowing that, being patient during the growing period can be difficult, as it was for me. During my first year working in corporate, I felt that instead of doing impactful, meaningful work, I was stuck with administrative work and mundane tasks.

When my career wasn’t as glamorous as I expected, disappointment and frustration took over. I had to remind myself that this is just the beginning of my career. I’m only a young professional now, but so was everyone else at one point.

Every chairman, executive, president, and senior professional began as a young professional in my shoes. 

Since then, I’ve done a better job of managing my expectations and looking with hope toward the future. This is just one key of the transition from college to career.

5. Adopt a Growth Mindset

For developing young adults, adopting a growth mindset is key. Oftentimes, we are tempted to stay where we are most comfortable, but where we are comfortable, we are also stagnant.

A growth mindset is curious, inquisitive, open to new ideas, and seeking opportunities for development. 

To develop and grow as a young professional, we need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We must be unafraid to push boundaries and ready to tackle new challenges.

As a result, we’ll learn more skills, gain valuable experience, and maybe even discover new passions. If you’re not convinced, try one of these 14 ways to step outside your comfort zone.

6. Listen as Much as You Talk

The importance of strong communication and interpersonal skills cannot be overstated. All professionals should be listening actively in conversations with colleagues and clients.

Instead of listening to respond, listen to listen. If we listen with the intent of waiting for an opportunity to get another word in, we will miss what the other person says. 

When you speak, your responses should be thoughtful and relevant to the conversation. In your communication, you should always be adding value.

Remember from earlier that you aren’t expected to know everything! So it’s okay to just listen sometimes.

7. Be Flexible

Industries are always changing. Technology moves so fast that the new phone just released is obsolete a month later. Companies change and evolve overtime, so your role may change also.

Don’t be afraid to explore other areas of your company, learn new skills, or take on new responsibilities. As long as you are always learning, you’ll be preparing yourself for the next step in your career. Even if you don’t know where that next step is!

Being flexible and seeking out challenges at work could lead you to a new career interest or to developing new skills. 

8. Work Hard Early in Your Career (and Throughout) 

Nothing can replace hard work in the workplace. Young professionals have a bad reputation of being lazy, unreliable, and slow to start.

Unfortunately, that means that we have a lot of stereotypes to overcome in the office. At the same time, expectations are low. So, you can really stand out in your early career among your peers by working hard.

Here are others tips for young professionals that show a good work ethic: 

  • Always meet your deadlines.
  • Complete the tasks assigned to you.
  • Be a self-starter.
  • Look for ways to go above and beyond with the tasks you’re given.

People will take notice of your work ethic, and you’ll become the hardworking young professional everyone wants on their team. Then, keep up the good work throughout your career. 

Hard work doesn’t mean you won’t ever have set backs. But hard work is a product of your integrity and character to cherish.

9. Maintain a Good Attitude

One of my business professors taught that companies hire based on Skill, Knowledge, and Attitude. 

“Skill and Knowledge,” he said, “can be taught to anyone who is coachable and willing to learn. But a good Attitude can not be taught or forced. For that reason, companies hire because of Attitude and teach all the rest.”

Aside from skills, knowledge, and a diploma, your attitude is one of your biggest assets. Do you have a growth mindset? Are you willing to learn? Do you take and apply constructive feedback?

Companies can teach you skills, but a good attitude has to come from within.

10. Ignore the Haters

I deal with coworkers who look down on me because of my youth and lack of experience. So my biggest tip for young professionals is to ignore the haters.

Though you are a young professional, you do have something to offer to a business and great potential. There will always be people who don’t like you or whom you don’t get along with – don’t let that affect your work.

Paul says it better than I do in 1 Timothy. 

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)

So, my most valuable career advice for young professionals is to be an example to fellow believers and unbelievers in your work. 

When you’re at the office, act with love, faith, and integrity. Then, the haters will have nothing to say except “Great work!”

young professionals working as a team hands only

Career Advice for Young People

To all the young professionals out there: You did it! You finished your education (for now), locked down a job, and are headed straight first into adulthood. Exciting! (And probably scary, too.)

While you transition to the working world, you may feel like you’re stranded in a big city without any road signs.

To help with that transition, utilize these 10 tips for young professionals. This career advice for young professionals will make sure you’re not wandering around lost on your first day in the big city. 

What advice would you give to young professionals?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:

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12 thoughts on “10 Crucial Pieces of Career Advice for Young People”

  1. You shared some great wisdom here! I have a sister who is navigating life as a new young professional. I will share this with her. I believe the things you shared will be a great resource for her. Thanks!

  2. Such a well written post and such wise advise Kara! This is actually really good advice for any young person entering the work force. I’ll definately share this with the older teens in my life who are all just starting first jobs! Thank you!

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