ach successful person that you look up to started somewhere, which can be both comforting and intimidating. You have a blank slate to do what you’d like, but you also have pressure to build a solid foundation for the rest of your career. What’s good about this, though, is that you can fuel your mix of nerves and excitement into action. Below, we have highlighted some important tips to keep in the back of your mind as you explore this early phase of your career.  

What this article will cover:

  • The importance of taking breaks
  • Prioritizing your mental and physical health
  • Work-life balance
  • Networking and making connections
  • Making the workspace more personal
  • Dressing professionally
  • Managing your salary

Taking Time for Yourself

It’s very easy to get fully absorbed in your work, especially when you’re just starting out and want to prove yourself. However, this “hustle culture” mentality is not sustainable. A huge part of becoming successful is maintaining self care, even when you’re stressed. If you’ve been hunched over a desk for hours on end running on coffee alone, chances are that you will not be as productive as someone who has taken a walk, grabbed some food, or spoken to a loved one on the phone. No matter how small or insignificant these things might seem, getting your mind off work during a short break is a necessary reset. You’re human, not a machine.

Of course, you do not always have control over the breaks your employers give you. Having said that, make sure you do not brush off the breaks that you are given. Many times it is natural to want to continue working if you’re in the middle of something, but continuously delaying your break or working while you eat can result in burnout. Consider taking a break as a long-term investment, because your quality of work almost always depends on your state of mind.

Everyone deserves breaks, including you.

Outside of the office, make sure to draw the line between work and home. Regularly bringing work home leaves you with little to no escape. Every now and then something urgent comes up, but overall, no one’s life should become about just eating, sleeping, and working. So, make sure you’re actively doing things for yourself. The voice in your head might call you unproductive or lazy for doing something you enjoy, but overcoming this guilt is crucial to giving your brain the breaks it needs. So, yes, spend that hour in bed watching a movie, gossiping with your friends, or doodling while listening to music. Whatever silly activity helps you unwind, indulge in it. You’ll be better off for it, and so will the quality of your work.

End a busy day with some relaxation, not more work.

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance

This phrase is thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? Frankly, it urges you not to lose yourself in your ambition. Neglecting your friends, family, or significant other chips away at your relationships. Work is important, but losing focus of everything else in your life is not healthy. Having outlets—whether it is spending time with loved ones or participating in your hobbies—keeps your spirits up, even when work gets overwhelming. Being intentional with the effort you put in to grab lunch with friends, ask your mom how she’s doing, and plan dates for you and your partner makes all the difference. Recognizing that you’re a person outside of work might sound silly, but it’s important to establish those habits early on because it only gets busier from here. Making your loved ones feel cared for is huge, and it’s also very comforting to have a solid support system during one of the toughest times in your career.

Don’t forget that you’re a lot more than just your job.

It’s also important to challenge your mind and body outside of your career. If you can’t remember the last time you picked up a book or went to the gym, you likely need to set time aside for general self-improvement. Investing time in yourself helps you truly achieve a work-life balance. Thus, not only should you put effort into your relationships with others, but also your relationship with yourself. Practices such as journaling, meditating, or gardening can help you feel happy and secure in yourself, which is the key to accomplishing your goals. Think of it as a little flip on the golden rule: treat yourself how you treat others—with empathy, patience, and kindness.

Take care of your body, especially if you find yourself sitting at your desk most hours of the day.

Networking and Making Connections

Now that we’ve discussed the more personal side to becoming a successful professional, here comes some advice on how to establish yourself in your field. Firstly, platforms such as LinkedIn and Handshake are incredibly helpful tools for connecting with other people, whether it’s potential employers, mentors, or peers you can collaborate with. Sending a quick message to someone who has years of experience and asking to meet is a good way to gain valuable contacts as well as learn more about the field you’re trying to advance in. Reaching out to people you already know is also beneficial, such as former professors, former bosses, or your college’s alumni network. Getting yourself out there is big, regardless of the profession you’re interested in. Never be afraid to ask for help or advice—everyone has been in your position before, and many people will be eager to help.

Introduce yourself to that friend of a friend, you never know where it’ll take you.

Taking a Look at Your Workspace and Wardrobe

As an employee, you might have limited control over your work environment. However, having little reminders of the things you love—a picture with your family framed on your desk, bringing a small plant from home, or having a keychain from a fun trip on your keys—makes the space truly yours. This can serve as comfort and motivation to do your best work. Similarly, bringing your favorite coffee along to a meeting or packing a snack you love for your break are small rewards you can grant yourself to keep you going.

Make your workspace one that you genuinely love.

Additionally, dressing to impress is always a good rule of thumb. If you look good, you feel good. Aside from feeling confident in yourself, you will also make a good impression on those around you. No matter how out of place you might think you are, dressing well for the job is one of the best ways you can fake it ‘til you make it. How you present yourself has everything to do with how people view you, which is super important early on in your career. Along with dressing for the position, try to be on time and stay organized as much as possible to gain a good reputation. All these small details are not lost upon your supervisors, who are looking out for dedication and dependability.

Dress like you’re about to meet the president, and you just might one day.

Managing Your Salary

If this is your first time receiving a salary, it is important to start saving and budgeting. A simple rule to live by is the 80/20 method. For each paycheck you get, you should save twenty percent and use eighty percent for current wants and needs. If you have only ever had part time jobs or internships before your current position, this is a very basic guide on how to split up the money you make. With time, you can use your savings to repay student loans, put a down payment on a house, or take care of yourself in case of an emergency. You can immediately use the wants and needs portion of the paycheck for rent, groceries, clothes, and recreation. Some other basic saving skills include keeping records of your expenses and giving yourself a monthly budget.

Early is on time, and on time is late.

Those are our Pieces of Advice!

To recap, your brain is your most important tool to success, so treating it with care goes a long way. Nourishing your relationships, practicing self-love, and participating in your hobbies are important to creating a healthy, holistic life outside of your career. And, ironically enough, it is usually this time away from anything professional that fuels your best work. However, in your ambition, do not stress about being the perfect employee. The biggest gift of being a young professional is time. You do not need to have everything figured out, but you do need to have an open mind and good attitude so that you can learn from those around you. You will gain confidence in your abilities through experiences, good and bad, over the years. Take everything as a lesson and use it to further excel; we believe in you!

Jun 22, 2024