I did something huge today...
I quit my job.
My very well paying, 401k and benefits having big girl job.
For a better job (because mama didn't raise no fool!)
But still, I've been with the firm for years and it was a huge deal, but something I've known I needed to do for quite some time.
To that end, it got me to thinking about my "career" thus far, and things I have done and need to do as I lay the foundation for longevity in my field of choice.
And since I haven't done too shabby at the (very young) age of 25, I thought I'd assemble this list of things you SHOULD do for your career in your 20's. Hell, in your 30's, 40's, 50's... It's simply never too late:
1. Take The Time To Compose a Decent Resume: I feel this goes without saying, but I'm still young enough to know quite a few people who know nothing about a decent resume. This should be a one page document, quick and dirty. Efficient, minimal, but to the point is what's going to do the job. I've looked over my fair share of resumes and nothing will make me put it down quicker than being overloaded with information I don't need. Limit it to experience related to the job you're seeking, use bullet points instead of paragraphs and take time to familiarize yourself with the correct terminology for the job you're seeking. Spell cheek is your friend as well! And don't get bogged down in flourishes that make you look childish. No need for floral embellishments, we want to know you mean business ladies!
2. Take a Shot Even If You Don't Feel Completely Qualified: Don't confuse my meaning here - I am not applying for jobs as an accountant when clearly my strong suit is working in the legal field. But when I first got certified as a legal secretary way back when, I didn't think I had a shot in hell at getting as far as I have in the past six years, but I shook my fear and went for it, and it got my foot in the door. Don't be afraid to throw yourself out there if you want to make a career change. I went from auditing taxes to running a law office. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
3. Buy a Suit: This isn't your grandma's dress suit. I know far too many young women who want the salary and benefits but don't walk the walk. Invest in yourself and a career wardrobe. Start at discount stores like Ross if you have to. Even Forever 21 offers career separates now. No excuses, put your best pump forward, even after you land the gig. I live by the motto, "If you look good, you feel good; if you feel good, you work good."
4. Continue to Educate Yourself: Never ever underestimate the value of continued education. Knowledge is king in the business world. Not only should you continue to educate yourself in the conventional sense, but know your craft. If you're in accounting, stay abreast of new softwares; if you're an administrator or work in a support capacity, continue to educate yourself on office management softwares and new ideas. Being on the cutting edge is what will save you not only from burning out, but guarantee your spot at the table.
5. Learn to Say No: Ambition has its place, but so do boundaries. This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn. I'm a "can do" kind of girl, but again, doing too much can lead to burn out. Never delegating fosters resentment in the work place, which I know first hand. Learn when to say enough is enough for you. Remember to have a life after 5
6. Make Sure They Pay As They Weigh: I read a crazy statistic the other day that said women were almost three times likelier than men NOT to negotiate their salary. When I got my first job in the legal industry, I made the mistake of saying I just wanted to work, and ended up making a laughable per hour rate. BUT when I went on to my next position, a crazy thing happened. I asked for more than twice what I was making and got MORE than that. That's not saying every person should shoot for the moon, but it happens more often than you think. We don't ask for more money because we're grateful just to be gainfully employed, but as the saying goes, "Time is money." Don't let anyone waste yours.
7. Quit a Job When You Outgrow the Position: I struggle hard with leaving anything. People, places or things. I'm loyal to the core, to a fault, and it's bit me in the keister more times than I would like to admit. I stayed in my position because I thought, "who will do x, y, and z," if I'm gone? My office can be a little like Survivor Island and I didn't want to leave my coworkers to deal with the fall out, so I stayed. Until today. Don't be me! I've been "over it," for a while, and my lack of passion isn't serving anyone, least of all me. Know when it's time to pick up, walk out on a little faith and see what else is out there for you.
8. Speak Up For Yourself: Know when it's time to give the sass pot in your office what-for. Professionally, of course. I've had my share of professional throw downs and closed door chats with coworkers and bosses. I believe that all relationships require adjustments from time to time. You have to assess what works for you and what doesn't, from an honest place. It doesn't have to get ugly - it's not what you say, it's how you say it. But speak up for yourself, even if your voice shakes. Be assertive, be clear, and communicate.
9. Remain Focused: I work in Civil Litigation. In laymen's terms, that's personal injuries. Car accidents. Everyone is hurt and they need to get rich tomorrow. I get it. It can be a pain when a great deal of clients are less than congenial and have a cross between google lawyer and only client syndrome. BUT, there are those who we help put together the pieces of a catastrophic event in their lives, and those are the people I do this for. Those are the people who drive me to want to finish law school and advocate for them. Trust me, every job has its draw backs. Find out what it is you want to do and why, and then hold on to that reason for when the road gets rocky at work.
10. Be Awesome: When all else fails, remember what Dr. Seuss said - “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” (Listen, I'm a mom, I get my inspiration where I can!) But the point is this: There will be any amount of applicants for any job - hell, you can be in a job and people below you will still be waiting to take your job. Bring your best to the table. Do what YOU do best. I can leave the position I'm in now knowing that though some lucky young lady will take my spot, she probably won't be as sassy or give my boss as good of a run for his money as I did. My impression there will be lasting, I'm sure of that. I bring the best of me to what I do, and I make no apologies for that. Own your craft, hone your craft, and by all means, give 'em hell - and a little glitter if you have some!