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Jun 21, 201801:07 PMOpen Mic

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What a successful young professional looks like in 2018

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For decades, even centuries, we have striven for success. But as our society has changed, so has our definition of success. Even in the middle of the 20th century, “making it” professionally meant having a high-paying job and being a homeowner. However, in the last few decades we’ve sought personal fulfillment to a much greater degree, and as millennials we’re known for valuing flexibility in the workplace and employers who encourage our professional development.

So, how does that translate to being a young professional in today’s workplace? Specifically, what does it mean to be a successful young professional in 2018?

Traits of successful people

Regardless a person’s age, there are some habits, beliefs, and mindsets of successful people that are consistent across the board. These are four of the most common traits that successful people and young professionals have.

1. Growth-oriented

Most successful people and high achievers have a growth mindset, meaning that as people they believe they can fundamentally grow, change, and evolve over the course of their life. Their skills and abilities are not limited and defined based on who they are now, or who they were when they were born. This mindset paves the way for a person to be more successful because they feel empowered in their own life.

If you’re just keeping your head down at work, just doing your tasks and not engaging, this becomes habitual and you stop learning as much as you can be. Someone who is growth-oriented will be more likely to seek out new opportunities like picking up a new hobby, finding fulfilment in extracurriculars, participating in professional development organizations, or volunteering. By focusing on the immediate (the tasks at your job) and the periphery (how you can expand your skill set), you’ll show that you’re a dedicated, engaged employee.

2. Seek like-minded community

People who are successful rarely operate in a vacuum. When I interned with American Family Insurance, I noticed that many young professionals who were successful with the company attended networking events, volunteered, and surrounded themselves with like-minded, positive colleagues. Not only did being surrounded by this community give them the emotional support to keep moving forward, but they were inspired by the new ideas and perspectives that their colleagues offered.

3. Self-aware

Because we all make mistakes, it’s important that we learn from our errors in judgment or execution to be successful in the long term. Being self-aware is the first step to recognizing when we make mistakes, and it basically means that we’re conscious of our own character traits, feelings, motivations, and desires. It is the starting point for compassion, honest communication, and humble leadership.

Without self-awareness, we’ll keep making the same decisions over and over again, and we won’t be as tuned into our strengths and our weaknesses. For this reason, it’s important for us as young professionals to cultivate self-awareness. Though it may not be an instinctive habit, like anything, it gets easier with practice.

4. Confident

In today’s multigenerational workforce, millennial and Gen Z employees bring important, necessary, and unique skills sets to the workplace (like being comfortable with new tech), and it’s important that we feel comfortable sharing those skills with our team members and questioning outmoded ways of doing things, when necessary. Confidence is a common trait of successful people, because it encourages people to be more ambitious and be less indecisive, and gives them the courage and vision to try again even after they may fail.

One note: Don’t confuse confidence and arrogance. Confident people are comfortable with vulnerability and know where they excel and where they don’t, so they often still ask for guidance and advice and are respectful of their peers and colleagues.

For example, we encourage respectfully having a dialogue with a senior consultant about new trends you’ve seen in the industry, and it’s okay to pull out your phone and research a question they have or to verify an opinion they’ve shared. But confident people celebrate the successes of others and of their teams, so belaboring the point until your colleague finally admits you’re right is not okay.


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