Some would consider your 20s to be ‘the make or break’ years, especially when it comes to your career. Others would argue you have a lifetime to make career moves and mistakes, and to embrace calmness. While your 20s don’t have to be a rat race, it helps to make the best use of your time, opportunities and connections, no matter what age or stage in life you are.
Here are 15 good professional habits every 20-something woman should have:
1. Make your social life, well, more private. Not every work colleague or future employer needs to know what you’ve been up to at the weekend. Some relationships are just best kept professional. The way to get around this and still enjoy social media is to set up or adjust your privacy settings on your Twitter, Instagram, etc. accounts so that only certain information is available to a certain group of people.
2. Keep a digital professional address book. Just so you don’t have to go searching through a ton of old emails for that Great Chick You Met At A Business Conference’s phone number. Doing this saves you a lot of time, and makes it way easier to find contact information when you need it. Also make a habit of constantly updating your address book every time you receive a new business card.
3. Build your LinkedIn network. The Lord knows I don’t play around with my LinkedIn. It’s a great little tidy profile of my ‘greatest hits’ so far – as it should be yours. As your professional network in the real world grows, don’t forget to build your online network as well. It’s a very useful way to find out what your colleagues and peers are up to, as well as a great tool to market yourself.
4. Update your C.V. every 6 months. The trouble with waiting any longer is that you’ll most likely have forgotten the details of that project you knocked out of the park, or that kick-ass work experience or the super awesome course you attended. It all becomes blurry after a while! So, whether you’re in search of a new job or happy right where you are, keep your C.V. refreshed.
5. Maintain relationships with old colleagues when you move on. Because you never know who could be useful to you in your career. A simple “Been a while! What’s new with you?” can go a LONG way.
6. Establish a solid online presence. Especially if you work in creative fields like writing or graphic design. A great way to do this is to creative a portfolio online that displays your best work, flaunts your skills and shows you off to the world.
7. Always send a ‘thank you’ or follow up e-mail after a meeting with a business contact. Because a little gratitude and good manners hardly goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
8. Understand your value. By your mid-20s, you’ve most likely had more than one job, so it’s important to assess your skill set and know your worth. This includes understanding when it’s time to stop ‘working for the experience’ as opposed to payment, the kinds of opportunities that are and aren’t worth your time, and what you don’t need to tolerate.
9. Compose award-winning emails. There’s nothing worse than an unprofessional email with lots of fluff, no specific point, and/or bad punctuation/grammar. Remember that a lot of the time, the person on the other side of the screen does not know who you are, so portray yourself in the best light. Commas don’t bite.
10. Find a mentor. Know someone on your desired career path with 10 to 20 years more experience? Do your best to get across to them, express interest in learning from their experiences and feed off their knowledge (like a leech). It’ll make all the difference.
11. Sorry, but you need to get the hang of networking. Both online and in the real world. Remember that networking is really about being authentic, building lasting relationships and seeing how you can also be of help to others. So keep your friends close and your networks closer.
12. Always be 10 minutes early. It honestly shows your organisational skills and overall reliability, so don’t take punctuality lightly.
13. Get organised. That means always having a notebook in your handbag, setting endless reminders on your phone, writing long lists and working from a neat and tidy desk. Whatever it takes to stay on top of things.
14. Have work-appropriate clothing. If your work requires you to dress formally. Remember that your outfit isn’t just your outfit; it’s a form of non-verbal communication – so wear what you mean.
15. Respond to e-mails within 24 hours. Sooner, if it affects the workflow process. If you’re swamped, a simple confirmation of receipt is always helpful. Going away on holiday? Leave an out-of-office auto response letting people know when you’ll be back in touch. It’s the little things.