5 Ways to Enrich Your Career in Your 20s

From TED talks on making meaningful decisions in your 20s to studies on the earnings growth potential of young professionals, it’s hard to miss reports and articles on millennials’ approach to their careers and workplace culture. Instead of letting studies define what you can accomplish during your first decade in the workforce, take ownership of your career development. Start by carrying out the following five suggestions for enriching your career in your 20s:

Participate in online and in-person learning opportunities: There are so many opportunities for people to learn beyond college, both online and in-person. By pursuing and completing continuous learning opportunities, you show employers your commitment to self-development and bring added value to the company as a whole. In addition to developing skills, in-person opportunities can connect you with other future leaders in the community. For online learning, there are a wide variety of options, from free courses to pay-by-the-month subscription sites. Both options have their advantages, and you may find that one or a combination of both fit your professional needs best.

Expand your worldview: By finding opportunities to delve deeper into your industry and get to know the world beyond what you normally encounter you will challenge assumptions and reinforce defining values. Attend conferences, join a related professional society and request informational interviews with leaders in your industry (inside or outside of your company). Go beyond your industry and subscribe to publications that explore topics you don’t yet understand. Some recommendations include The Economist, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Atlantic and local news outlets.

Find a mentor: We’ve written about how important it is to have a professional support system in place, and a mentor is another element of that supportive group. Some of the most prominent people in business credit their success to mentors who recognized their potential and took the time to foster their career. Mentors may have faced some of the career challenges you’re currently experiencing, and can coach you through difficult decisions and even provide support during times of personal struggle.

Seek out the changemakers: You probably already know who these individuals are at your company – so how do you connect with them? Building a relationship can start with identifying their upcoming projects and figuring out how you can pitch in. Find changemakers outside of your company, too – from business leaders committed to the growth of the community to peers influencing civic engagement, changemakers exist throughout St. Louis’ landscape.

Consistently evaluate your short and long-term goals: It’s easy to get stuck in an uninspiring job or push off graduate school. Change is hard at any age, but it’s better to be nimble and adjust to new experiences now, whether than waiting until you’re in a less flexible life stage. Plus, proactively working towards goals can create character-building challenges that you may not encounter taking a simpler path.

If you haven’t already, develop an outline for your professional goals and divide them into each season of your life. I’ve found that it’s easier to accomplish more (like taking on a freelance project or studying for the GMAT) during the winter when there tends to be less commitments. Keep your usual schedule in mind as you map out your goals and remember that you always have the freedom to change directions or adjust the timeline.

How have you challenged yourself in your career? Let us know by sharing on our Facebook page or sending us a tweet.

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.