Since starting my first ‘real world‘ job a year ago, I‘ve learned how to wake up to my 7am alarm, how to leave a professional sounding voicemail, and how to walk comfortably all day in heels. But I‘ve also messed up two expense reports and I‘ve awkwardly tripped down the hallway wearing such heels more times than I care to admit.
For me, it has been a year of trial-and-error in this whole idea of being a ‘professional‘ (a term I use lightly, because what could I possibly be “pro” at as a 23 year old). But there are some important lessons I learned that I think can help you get through the first few years as a full-fledged, functional adult (although that seems like a very lofty goal at this point to any twenty-something). Check out my five Life Hacks for the Professional Millennial:
1. You need a lot of business clothes and don‘t you ever pay full price for them. Walking into an office of beige pumps and tailored blouses will definitely make you step up your fashion game. But that doesn‘t mean that you should spend your entire first paycheck at Macy‘s or J. Crew to fit into the work culture. With a little online digging or a bit of time at Buffalo Exchange, you can find work-acceptable clothes without the steep price tag. Your bank account will thank you, and honestly no one will know the difference when you are sitting in your staff meeting.
2. Use social media for work. Ok, maybe you shouldn‘t Facebook stalk your ex while on the clock. But using the power of social media in your career is actually highly encouraged. Twitter doesn‘t have to be just about voicing frustrations about your commute to the office (#ATLTraffic). Social media is a great way to connect with professionals and companies you admire. Plus, you never know what opportunities are out there once you connect. Some smaller companies post job openings and insight into networking opportunities in your area. Or you might be able to connect with people who are in your ‘dream‘ career. People love talking about their work, so reach out and see where it takes you.
3. Make at least one older friend at your office.They know the way to the secret back room where they hold the good coffee. They also know a lot of people, so spend some time learning how they got to where the are now.
4. Make at least one friend your own age. You need a partner-in-crime who understands the struggle of Friday morning meetings after a Thursday girl‘s night out. In fact, I‘ve found that it is the most essential of partnerships in surviving cubicle life.
5. Do something ‘outside the box‘. You probably aren‘t looking to stay in your entry level job forever. Your first position is a stepping stone, and as you look for ways to build your resume and skill sets, it isn‘t enough just to impress your boss. People want to hire engaging, interesting people; so volunteer, play a sport you‘ve never played, take improv classes. If you are feeling adventurous, try to develop an app (emphasis on try – you really don‘t have to succeed), or write poetry in your spare time. During your next interview you can talk about innovation, creativity and your ‘can-do‘ attitude. And that sounds a lot more impressive than “I can use Excel really well.”