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5 Tips for Starting a Successful Career

In my last post, I highlighted a few lessons I have learned over the past several months since making the leap from college life into the working world. Here are the remaining five:

Find a mentor. Finding a mentor(s) is crucial for the development of individuals in the early stages of their careers. The right mentors—whether they be bosses, family, friends, pastors, etc.—act as guides and help push one farther along in his or her adult journey than he or she could have achieved alone. They teach, lead by example, offer invaluable career advice and life lessons, and most importantly, help their mentees reach their goals.

Be bold. Be comfortable in your willingness to fail and do something different. Assuming the role of a nonconformist is certainly not the path of least resistance, but it can be the most rewarding. Stay true to your vision despite backlash, and calculate each micro step that will enable it to materialize. This takes creativity, persistence, and initiative, and no one can or will make it happen but you. As entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn said, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

It’s okay to not know everything. Take advantage of being the new guy or gal at a first job. You are not going to know everything, and you will make mistakes. While daunting, it’s okay—it means you are learning and are being challenged. Turn your weaknesses in knowledge and lack of experience into strengths by being honest and by asking questions. If you are humble and show your curiosity for learning, those wiser and with additional years of experience will be more willing to teach, help, and support you.

Find your narrative. Millennials are often thought of as selfish. As 20-something-year-olds, this makes sense since we are trying to forge our own ways. But at the same time, young adults need to build a narrative by getting involved in local communities in a way that is synergistic with their passions or skills. By doing so, we move beyond ourselves by participating in a bigger story. As Christians, we are called to serve and engage within the community by seeking the common good. It is easy to make one’s career an idol, but volunteering or participating in something outside of work helps balance this tension and provides perspective on life.

Collaborate and network. A former boss used to repeat the phrase: “Faster alone, further together.” Aligning interests with others typically allows one to accomplish more and expand his or her reach. In addition, always grow your network and leverage your contacts because that is how you get your foot in the door of a firm down the road.

In sum, differentiate yourself and keep long-term goals in perspective. My grandfather always used to say, even if you do a little more than the next guy, you’ll look like a superstar. Above all, believe in yourself because many won’t: channel Jay Gatsby and always look toward the “green light.”