Getting Started

15 Career Tips for Twentysomethings to Build a Lasting Career

Written by Peter Jones

You may feel young and immortal, but you won’t be by the time you’re in your 30s and feeling over the hill. Taking a few important, but relatively easy steps now can really make a difference in setting you up for future success. Pay yourself forward.

Here are 15 career tips that will help pay serious dividends in a year—or two—or 20.

1. Master basic life skills

Now that you’re out of school and on your own, it’s the time to practice all those adulting skills no one ever really told you that you would need. Things like living within your means, putting money away for the future, dealing with rejection, staying patient and positive, eating your vegetables, and paying your bills. A little work now can do a lot of good later.

2. Ask yourself a daily question (or questions)

So many of the greats motivate themselves by asking inspirational questions on a daily basis. Things like: “what good thing can I do today?” or “what would you do if you thought you couldn’t fail?” In the words of Einstein, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” A little self-reflection is always as good thing—and will stand you in good stead if it becomes a habit when you really need it.

3. Stay healthy

Develop and stick to a fitness regimen while you’re still young and healthy. Don’t wait until you start to feel the aging process settle in. If you make it a habit and not an onerous project (slash gargantuan task), then you’ll never neglect yourself or fall into decrepitude and bad health. And you’ll save yourself a lot of time and struggle later.

4. Learn to cushion

When you’re heading to work, or to an interview, or even to meet friends for dinner, it’s very important to leave yourself a bit of wiggle room on your way. If you think it will take you 22 minuets to get somewhere, practice rounding up and giving yourself a half an hour just to be on the safe side. One day (or several!) this will save your bacon. If nothing else, you’ll never have to arrive sweating or out of breath again.

5. Go outside your comfort zone

Particularly when in social situations. Pushing your own limits just a little here and there will make you much more relaxed and socially adaptable later when your worst hermit habits kick in as you age.

6. Pick up a hobby

Better start now and pick one while you have the energy and wherewithal to pick a cool one. It will stand you in good stead in a decade or two when hobbies come in handy for helping to expand your social circle.

7. Take your time

Learning to spend quality time with yourself is an incredibly valuable skill. Take yourself to a movie. Go out to dinner alone and don’t spend the whole time noodling on your phone. The earlier you can develop ease with solitude, the better off you’ll be. Start small—even just a half an hour a day.

8. Get involved

Getting involved in meaningful causes is a great way to gain some perspective and keep your priorities straight. You’ll never be this young or strong again; and you’ll never have more free time. So get out there and help someone other than yourself. You’ll be very glad you did.

9. Save up

Youth is great, but old age is just around the corner. Money you put away for savings now will only grow. Even just $5 a month into a retirement account can make a world of difference when the fated day arrives. Try living frugally while you’re still young and vital so you can live comfortably and with security when you need those two things most.

10. Be informed

To be interesting you should also be interested. Keep track of current events and sporting milestones. Keep abreast of the most meaty and meaningful issues of your day. You’ll not only be a better conversationalist, you might just find a passion you didn’t realize you had.

11. Fail better

Success is a great goal, but failure is a very important stepping stone on the way there. Let yourself fall flat on your face a few times—this is how we learn. Then get up, dust off, and try again. The more you recover and overcome now, the more resilient you will know yourself to be when you start to feel more daunted by worldly circumstances.

12. Weekly review

Start the excellent habit of running through your week. Ask yourself what went well, what could have gone better, and what adjustments you should try to make in the coming week to keep improving. Little bits of work like this will make a big difference over the course of adulthood.

13. Read everything

This is the best life skill there is. For the cost of a library card, you can improve your vocabulary, learn about the world, become more fluent in a wide variety of subjects, and be able to better empathize with people who are entirely different than you. Reading exercises your mind and your heart—and both things make you a better person.

14. See the world

Don’t just try and make a pile of money to enjoy in your dotage. Travel while you have the energy and health and time without constraints. See the world. Develop a taste for new things. You’ll be a much more interesting old person—and you’ll experience a much more diverse world.

15. Shake it up

Routines are great, but every once in a while it’s good to shake things up a little. Just to prove to yourself you’re still in the driver’s seat. Make every day of your life memorable and meaningful and you’ll have very few regrets indeed.

About the author

Peter Jones