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5 Things to Remember When You're Working in Your 20s

Shopify API

Posted on April 21 2016

Working in your 20s can be weird. For many of us, we’re just starting out in our careers, we may be testing out different opportunities and trying to see what industry or role fits us best, and there are a lot of lessons to learn along the way. You can’t focus on everything all the time, and sometimes you’re just trying to pay rent and/or survive your 11-hour work day.

That being said, there are a few things that are worth understanding and trying to put into practice while you’re still in your 20s. So we’ve rounded up 5 things to remember while you’re working in your 20s – hopefully these tips and words of wisdom will serve you well. Let us know which your fav is – or what should be added to this list.

1. TRYING DOESN’T ALWAYS MATTER – BUT RESULTS DO

This is one of the key differences between college and your career. Many professors will reward effort – even if you didn’t nail a topic or do something absolutely perfectly, you probably still got credit for trying. Things can be more black and white in the working world. While effort and hard work are appreciated – at the end of the day your performance will often still be evaluated based on how many deals you closed, whether that design was delivered on time, or if followers increased by the target percentage. You should still value experiences for the knowledge you gain along the way, but you need to be thinking about your work in terms of results as well. Make sure you’re tracking your accomplishments (the more numbers you can back up a success story with, the better), and just remember that “But I tried really hard” might not mean much to your boss.

2. INVEST TIME IN BUILDING AND NURTURING YOUR NETWORK

Networking is kind of exhausting – and sometimes awkward. But the reality is that you need to start meeting folks early and often in your career. That doesn’t mean getting drinks with the same person every other week, but you might want to set aside a couple of breakfasts, coffee dates, or happy hours every month to grab quality time with people who you think are good to stay in touch with. Even dropping a thoughtful, non-generic email once every few months can make a difference. Keep a running list of your VIPs and hold yourself accountable to staying in touch with them. And don’t forget to connect with different people around the office too! Just because you don’t have overlapping work with that person in Ops doesn’t mean they’re not worth getting to know.

3. SIDE PROJECTS MATTER – AND CAN ADVANCE YOUR CAREER

It might sound strange, but the side projects and hobbies you invest in outside of work can have a big impact on your career. What you do for fun might end up tying back into a valuable new work skillset – for example, your manager might be impressed to hear you’re teaching yourself Photoshop on the weekends. Your passion projects might end up as part of your portfolio and wow potential employers. Even if you just whipped up a basic website for a friend, people are likely to be impressed by your initiative. And from a networking perspective, hobbies can help you connect with people, whether it’s discovering that you and that recruiter love the same band or that your company’s CEO likes talking tennis on Monday mornings.

4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN FUTURE

This one can be particularly true if you’re working at a company that lacks professional development programming or management structure (fyi that’s a lot of startups out there). Taking responsibility for your own future can mean a lot of things: It might mean initiating career conversations with your manager. You may need to be diligent about requesting regular performance feedback, asking for raises and promotions, and ensuring you get to tackle new challenges at work once you’ve proven yourself. It could also mean that you might have to figure out what skills and experiences to work on as you try to grow in your career. And finally, you may need to decide when you’re ready to leave your job for a new opportunity.

5. YOUR ATTITUDE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK

As much as being sucessful at your job requires developing necessary skills and delivering on your responsibilities, your attitude at the office can matter a whole lot, too. We spend 40+ hours a week with our coworkers, and thus personality and workplace demeanor can count for a lot. Depending on what industry you work in, having a negative attitude, being unfriendly or dramatic, or just whining a lot can all have a detrimental impact on your career. A pleasant demeanor doesn’t get you a raise, but it can be a factor in whether your colleagues vouch for you to potential employers in the future, write you letters of recommendation for graduate school, or just feel inclined to help you out when you’re swamped at work. So while you don’t need to be over-the-top friendly or super outgoing at work, stay positive and mature during the 9-5.

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