On Achieving Success as a Twenty-Something

People say not to work for the paycheck, and that money does not equal success. But I would argue that, in some ways, your income does represent how far you have come and what you have achieved. If you are self-employed, or part of a start-up, then perhaps not so much. However, I am someone who, day in and day out, goes into an office job where every single day I am actively trying to move forward and upward in my career.

The question becomes, how exactly do us twenty-somethings achieve success?

None of us have any real idea of what we are doing, or exactly how we will achieve the long-term goals that we set for ourselves. I have a lot of conversations with fellow twenty-somethings about what we are doing with our life. We talk about work, and hobbies, and relationships, and then we return to talking about work again- what we do, what and who we are responsible for, and about how crucial we are. We associate relevancy with professional worth.

I think the fact that we communicate our perceived importance so readily is often mistaken for arrogance-us Millennials are the generation that is known for acting entitled to everything, and that we just expect success to fall into our laps. I think a more accurate interpretation of our attitude is that we are all just trying to be somebody, somebody of worth, and to instill our mark on the world- to leave it better than we found it. This is something I struggle with quite often. What am I contributing that is unique, original and worthwhile? How can I do better?

The company I work for is dependent on many departments working together in order to facilitate the achievement of common goals, in which everyone has an interest, and effective communication is imperative to this process. I assume this to be true for most companies, because communication is crucial in every business, but I believe that mine is unique in how many checks-and-balances we have. The efficiency of my processes, and of the company at large, is dependent on my understanding of how everything works as a cohesive unit.This has meant investing a lot of extra time, and work, into understanding things that don’t at first seem pertinent to my immediate duties.

One of the hardest things that I have had to learn how to do in my current job is to be an effective contributor, rather than a front runner. I naturally prefer to take charge and assume a leadership role, but it has proven to be much more beneficial to my team for me to adopt a divide and conquer mentality. My role is not to lead (although that may be a byproduct in some instances) or to come up with the new ideas (even though that may be a naturally occurring part of the process). My ultimate role is to execute, while functioning as a part of a team, the tasks set in front of me. At the end of the day it does not matter who did the task, all that matters is that it got done. We are all in it together. I have to be mindful of putting aside my desire for personal recognition, and to focus on my contribution to the whole.

How do you most effectively communicate? I always prefer face-to-face interactions over an email or phone call, but it is sometimes difficult to get others to interrupt what they have going on for a conversation that could theoretically happen over email. However, this presents the problem of a message being lost in translation. Tone is important, and it is difficult to effectively impart tone in an email. People may mistake your assertiveness for curtness, or your urgency for pestering. It is possible to communicate with strength without seeming overpowering, but it is not possible to always please everyone with your communication style.

In the workplace, you have to learn to choose your battles and to do the best you can to have your message heard by your target audience. It is important to play to your strengths, and to use these strengths in order to cultivate your professional goals. I have identified one of my strengths as the ability to build internal relationships through the use of emotional intelligence- knowing when and how to approach someone and how to go about establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. In addition to playing to your strengths, it’s also important to not let your weaknesses become your blind spots. You can prevent this by acknowledging the areas that you need to work on, and allow them room to grow. We will all make mistakes, it is what we learn from these mistakes that will help us to develop both personally and professionally.

While we are on the topic of professional development, pumping out spreadsheets and updating databases isn’t glorious, but it is a necessary role for my position. I don’t love it, some days I can barley tolerate it, but it isn’t something I will have to do for the rest of my life. Accepting that some roles are crucial to our job, but that we don’t enjoy them, is a necessary evil of paying your dues. The good news is that the hard work will pay off. As long as you are willing to say yes to any project thrown your way, no matter how tedious or time-consuming, someone will notice. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but eventually your dedication and effort will become apparent to those higher up than you. Tenacity and drive are two qualities that will get you noticed, and eventually promoted.

Just remember- it’s a marathon, not a sprint.




*Top photo is via Pinterest.


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Dreamer. Adventurer. Proponent of well-being. Full of grit and faith.

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