21st Century Career Advice You Definitely Need
Career advice is something we all need in our professional lives. Whether at the beginning, middle, or end, there will be something we don’t know that someone else does. In those moments, it’s good to have someplace to turn.
When you’re a college student or a soon-to-be/recent graduate, it’s even more imperative, especially since we live in a more challenging age than years past.
You’re entering a new phase of life where the stakes are higher. You (probably) have bills to pay. You’re competing against a lot more people than you were in high school when your main goal was to land a minimum wage job.
This is the big time, and it’s time to make big-time moves. Here’s some of the best career advice we’ve heard for making it in the new century.
1. Be Adaptable
In work life, people are going to move your cheese. It’s going to happen. You can do one of two things when that occurs. You can retreat into yourself. Take your ball and go home, so to speak. Or, you can figure a way to roll with the changes.
You can guess which of these two ensures your survival. Being able to adapt to new scenarios or skill sets or job duties will distinguish you from the complainers. And the better you adapt, the more likely you’ll be to move up the ladder of success, whether it’s in your current job or in a related career function.
2. Hone Your Leadership Skills
You have to be a leader in the current environment. That’s as true if you’re a 9-to-5-er as it is if you’re an entrepreneur. In the future, you’ll need to be able to lead people and projects if you’re going to provide any value throughout the workforce.
If you haven’t taken classes on organizational leadership, you really should. In the past, it’s been seen as something of a “cop-out” degree. And while you may not want to major in it for specialty’s sake, you can learn some invaluable soft skills by including them in your electives.
Other great ways to hone your leadership skills: take online courses or get a mentor. These focus on applicability, so you’re not wasting your time memorizing things you’ll never put to use.
3. Work on Your Critical Thinking Skills
Any exercises or coursework that you can take advantage of to engage your critical thinking skills will pay major dividends down the road. While most college courses are designed to bring this out of you, you also can work on it in your own time through means that are quite fun.
Just consider a book of Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Take up Chess. Play a game like Wooden Block or Words with Friends in your spare time. All of these pastimes allow you to get in repetitions at critical thinking when you’re not in a more intense environment.
Businesses of tomorrow will care more about this than anything else you might know.
4. Master the Art of Communication
Communication is about more than just popping off at the mouth or keyboard. Speaking is not the same thing as effective communication. Writing is not the same thing as effective communication. So just what are we talking about?
We’re talking about being able to manage and coordinate a consistent message. That’s important to businesses of the 21st Century. That’s why you’re seeing an increase in communications departments, especially across large organizations.
Business owners need to know the 200 or 1,000 employees they have aren’t putting out 200 or 1,000 contradictory messages. It’s about having credibility throughout an organization. If you’re the type of person who can hold that banner, you have a nice safeguard against downsizing.
5. Stay Productive
Find ways to be useful throughout your day. Don’t think you can busy-work your way to success or act like you’re working when you’re not. It may get you through a few hectic days, but it will ultimately reveal how useless you truly are.
The worst thing you can do for your career is to try and be invisible. Employees who are not making an impact in their careers will eventually lead their employers to ask the question: “What am I paying for?” If there’s no good answer to that question, there won’t be a job for very long.
So roll up your sleeves. Learn who the players are. Learn what isn’t being done right (or at all) within your organization and resolve to fix it.
6. Hold Yourself Accountable
Part of being productive and making an impact within your organization is holding yourself accountable. And the only way to do that is to set up some form of meaningful metric by which you can measure yourself. At 4Tests, we always look at social media numbers, traffic. Things like this tell us if we’re progressing or not across the platforms that we use.
Similarly, you should look at each project you’re assigned to (or take on yourself) and ask the question: “What will it take for this to be considered successful?” From there, figure out your starting point and begin devising a series of action steps to achieve the goal. But along the way, set up signposts where you can evaluate your progress.
7. Embrace Collaboration
Some people are nervous about collaborating because they feel safer, career-wise, keeping their expertise close to the vest. But that’s not what companies value. They realize that any growth achieved for the whole by just the individual is fleeting and destined to be eclipsed.
For an organization to consistently grow, it needs all hands on deck. And if you’re not willing to join the deck, then you’re just holding back everything and everyone you encounter.
Eventually, people — and more importantly, leaders — will get sick of your crap and leave you behind on their own. So be a collaborator. Have enough confidence in yourself to know that you’re not a one-trick pony. You can always take on and conquer new tasks and continually prove your worth.
8. Spark Your Creativity
“I’m not very creative.” Ever heard anyone admit this? That’s probably because they have a preconceived idea of what “creative” means. They don’t think of people who run major companies creative. They instead gravitate towards stereotypes of hipster art students who are so above it all.
But the company heads are just as, and likely more, creative as their paintbrush-wielding counterparts. They just channel it differently (towards products and services instead of easels and brushstrokes).
Find ways to spark your creativity every day. Schedule time by yourself where you can set down the action steps you need to be taking on a project and instead asking the question, “What if?” about different aspects of your work and life.
You’ll emerge renewed. And that will make you a better partner, employee, business owner, etc.
9. Open Up to New Cultures and Ideas
The US tried the whole “separate but equal” thing, and it did not work out well at all. We had one group oppressing the other, rewarding stupidity and ignorance. When we close ourselves off to new cultures and ideas, that tends to happen.
Now, that doesn’t mean every culture is right in the way that it lives. There are horrific things that happen to people in foreign countries just because of their gender or whom they love. Those notions of “culture” should be rejected wholeheartedly.
But culture and ideas that support the value of all people, that should be embraced and respected even if it is not always understood outright. We must learn to assimilate to one another and share our values in a peaceful and respectful manner. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will also help us handle the global marketplace effectively.
10. Gather, Study, and Use Information Wisely
Data and information is important. But as we’ve mentioned, companies care far less about how much of it you store in your head and a lot more about how you use it.
What inferences are you making? How are you taking those inferences and making wise decisions for the betterment of the company? Those are the types of scenarios your employers will care the most about in the world of the 21st Century.
11. Show Technology Who’s Boss
We live in a world where we depend on technology. That’s not changing any time soon. But you do need to learn how to limit its influence in your life. Pay attention to Screen Time Reports from your phone. Make sure you spend no more than 20-30 minutes per day on social media.
If you do have to use tech heavily, make sure you actually have to. And always delay its use, opting instead for offline work (i.e., research, planning, etc.) for as long as you can before taking up the phone or computer.
12. Focus on Disruption
Life is disruption. If you sit around complaining about it, convincing yourself that the sky is falling, then you’re going to be always unprepared for what comes next.
But if you’re the type of person who’s always looking for ways to disrupt the way things are done, then you’ll stay ahead of the competition and be of even greater value to your employers.
Take This Career Advice with You Into the New Millennium
By following this career advice, you’ll be better-equipped than most of your peers. In turn, you should always have an easy time finding a place to land no matter what unexpected developments that life throws your way. Now, what is some of the best career advice you’ve ever received? Share in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by FlexJobs]