Professional Development

10 Career Lessons You Should Learn in Your 20s

Written by Peter Jones

Every hiring manager is looking for something different—a unique combination of experience and skills. But there are also a few universal skills and values you should always work to keep sharp.

Everyone, no matter what place on the job hierarchy, should check in once in a while to dig deep and ask yourself if you’re working at the top of your personal game.

Here are 10 of the top lessons working in the current landscape should teach you. Learn them now, and use them to keep your skills sharp and updated.

1. Networking Matters

You may hate social media—and hate small talk even more—but social networks are proven to be a crucial factor in professional success. Put some time and effort into broadening yours. Stand by the proverbial water cooler, even if you hate it. And cultivate as wide and diverse a network as you can.

2. Keep Learning

The second you decide you’re done learning, or know enough, is probably the second you become obsolete in your industry and in today’s economy. Don’t be left behind. Be the old dog that learns new tricks, acquires new skills, reads up on all the current trends. Even if it weren’t important for success, your life will still be richer for it.

3. Failure is Productive

Don’t give up next time you fail. Think of each failure as an opportunity, or a beginning. What can you learn or improve for next time. What can you try differently? Build up the dusting-yourself-off muscle.

4. Teamwork is Dreamwork

Most potential bosses are going to want you to demonstrate that you can be a team player. Make sure to build the ability to manage others, to delegate, and to build positive working relationships with your colleagues that help you all do your best work and achieve your loftiest goals.

5. Organization is Key

You won’t get very far if your desk is buried under a pile of messy papers and your time management skills are nonexistent. Start working on prioritizing, systematizing, and setting yourself up to get things done in a timely and tidy fashion. Demonstrate that you can meet deadlines without sacrificing the quality of your work.

6. Practice Awareness/Acumen

This is something you can beef up anytime, and might just prove invaluable. Learn what makes a company or industry tick, what works and doesn’t. What are the newest trends, the deepest seated problems? If you can show that you really get what a company is trying to do and achieve, then you’re halfway to getting hired.

7. Cultivate Integrity

Don’t be petty or dishonest. Be fair and responsible in all of your dealings and activities. This is seen as a sign of maturity, self-confidence, and trustworthiness and that’s worth a lot in the hiring process.

8. Problem Solve

You’ll need this skill throughout your life, not just on the job. But do find a way to demonstrate to hirers that you can attack a problem, find a solution, and get it done. Prove that you can go the extra distance, every time.

9. Be Aware

Diversity is a hugely important issue in the workplace. You should be as sensitive as possible and as aware as possible of other people and other cultures—and be prepared to demonstrate this in your job search. No excuses for ignorance or intolerance.

10. Be Open to Trying New Things

Make sure you have a willingness to try things different ways, to work alone or on a team, to work remotely, work in an office, to work on multiple things at once. Adaptability is a valuable skill that will serve you both on the job and in your life.

About the author

Peter Jones