You did it! You finished your education (for now), locked down a job, and are headed straight first into adulthood. Exciting (and scary, too)!

While you transition into the workforce, you may feel like you’re stranded in a big city without any road signs. At least that’s how I felt during my first year as a young professional. To help with that transition, I’ve rounded up some valuable career advice for young professionals.

This advice for your early career will make sure you’re not wandering around lost on your first day in the big city.

Career Advice for Young Professionals - 3

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What does it mean to be a young professional?

We are first and foremost professionals. We earn our pay in exchange for labor and have an official title, though it may be a small one. The modifier “young” means corporate is letting us into their world for the moment but keeping their eye on us.

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.

Career Advice for Young Professionals

So now that we know who young professionals are, why do they need their own set of career advice?

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 with some solid career advice and a hint of our own flair, we can have a meaningful impact on our organizations even as young professionals. Without further ado, here’s the list of early career advice!

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. 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.”

We’ll talk about continuing to learn and grow later on in the post, too.

3. Maintaining Work Life Balance in a Young Career

Early on, I decided that maintaining work life balance would be a priority for me, even in my young career.

There is an idea 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!

Work life balance is just as important for young professionals as it is for senior professionals. Becoming disciplined in setting workplace boundaries for a healthy work life balance will make for a happier career and a well-rounded life.

Related: Maintaining Work Life Balance as a Young Professional.

4. Young Careers Need Time to Grow

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

Young careers need time to grow.

Kara J Lovett Co.

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. It’s all a part of the transition from college to career.

Read More: Having a Career is a Journey in “The Best Career Advice I Ever Got.”

Workplace Tips for Young Professionals

So, we’ve covered some great career advice for young professionals, but how should young adults act in the workplace?

Here are some workplace tips for young professionals to help them make a good impression in the office and become more successful.

How Can a Young Professional Be Successful?

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. To become a successful young professional, I recommend:

Follow these tips along with the early career advice mentioned above, and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of your labor when it comes to promotion later down the road.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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!

Related Post: Why Challenging Yourself at Work is So Important, too!

4. Work Hard Early in Your Career

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 and:

  • 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.

a pinnacle image for career advice for young professionals including graphics of young adults working together

What is the Best Career Advice for 20 year olds?

So to sum up, my best career advice for 20 year olds and young adults is that though you may be young, you do have something to offer and great potential. Companies can teach you skills, but a good attitude has to come from within.

Maintain a good attitude, and you will truly flourish.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to ignore the haters. I deal with coworkers who look down on me because of my youth and lack of experience.

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “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.” (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 purity. Then, the haters will have nothing to say except “Great work!”

So what, you’re a young professional? God isn’t finished with you yet!

More on Kara J Lovett Co. about Working:

So, what is the most valuable career advice you’ve received as a young professional?

Leave me a comment below!

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12 Comments

  1. Insightful post, Kara! I am going to share this with my son and daughter-in-law who are trying to navigate the business world as young professionals. Wise and practical advice!

  2. Great advice that I wish I had when I was starting out. I will definitely pass this along to the young professionals in my life.

  3. 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!

  4. 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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