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Climbing the Ladder: Important Practices Young Professionals Should Implement

By Justin R. Brown
Business.com / Entrepreneurship / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

As a young professional, there are simple steps you can be taking to gain your coworkers' respect and advance in your career.

Whether you are on your first job or your third, as a young professional, shaping your skills is vitally important to getting ahead.

Factors such as looking and acting the part, continually educating yourself and understanding the importance of networking will aid in your success.

Below is a compilation of helpful tips to consider to making sure you get that first big promotion:

Related Article: Reality Bites: Tips For New Grads Breaking Into The Real World

Time Management

Learning to manage a workload is an art many only develop later in their careers. Successful Montreal product designer and marketer Étienne Garbugli shared his approach to workload management and scheduling in a 2013 SlideShare entitled, "26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20." Over nine million people viewed the presentation, and it became SlideShare’s most-liked presentation of 2013.

Below are some of the key takeaways from his presentation:

  • To win at something often means failing somewhere else
  • Redefine productivity to mean more about impact and less about the amount of work done
  • Start the day with the most important work
  • Maintain momentum:
    • Switch tasks if it takes longer than 20 minutes to get going.
    • Keep moving by splitting large projects into smaller tasks.
  • Surround yourself with focused and productive people
  • Manage your energy, not just your time

Another facet of time management is having a plan. From how you plan to climb the corporate ladder to the project due next week, having a short term and a long term plan is priceless. This will ensure your vision is always kept a focus and will help you take the small steps today to meet the big goals for tomorrow.


By the time they land a job, most young professionals are sick to death of hearing about the benefits of networking. While some energetic extroverts relish going out after work to meet up with others in hopes of building work relationships, most prefer going home and relaxing in front of the television or hanging out with friends.

Nonetheless, getting to the top requires working the crowd. Here’s a few pieces of advice to consider:

  • Broaden your networking horizons beyond college buddies and present-day colleagues: include former teachers, community leaders, people you volunteer with and business leaders
  • If a friend has a parent, aunt or cousin who works in the field you want to be in, contact them
  • Go to networking functions sponsored by different groups (perk: they often serve free food and drinks)
  • Always agree to a spur of the moment meet up that may broaden your network
  • Make people want you to be part of their network by presenting a friendly, dependable, and professional image
  • Always have business cards on hand
  • Follow-up on contacts made with a quick phone call or handwritten note
  • Use you social media skills and follow industry leaders on Twitter and other social media sites
  • Constantly update and maintain your network

Related Article: Guiding Lights: How to Create a Mentor Program for Your Organization

Earn a Reputation for Responsibility

“Under-promise and over-deliver.”

“Be a go-getter.”

“Exceed expectations.”

With so many terms bandied about describing what it means to prove your worth in the business world, surprisingly few apt definitions exist. Obviously, arriving on time each morning is responsible but consistently meeting deadlines is a huge indicator of reliability, as is acting professionally while in the office. Strive for a confident but approachable demeanor.

Never muddle responsibility with always playing it safe. Show your superiors you have innovative ideas and approaches worth their attention. Succeeding in business requires taking chances, including seeking out opportunities to expand your role within the office. Understand that you will fail sometimes. Learn from it and move on.

Learn Constantly

A college degree doesn’t mean your days of continual learning are over. Getting ahead requires consistently brushing up on developments in your industry and the business world in general. This comes from reading industry journals and attending training conferences as well as the world outside the office:

  • Read reputable newspapers
  • Listen to talk radio business and political news
  • Sign up for industry newsletters about relative conferences and webinars
  • Watch TV news
  • Visit online news sources

Keeping up with your industry and the world makes you a better employee. It also gives you something to talk about at all those networking functions. Additionally, should you meet the big bosses face-to-face, you will appear articulate and well read, often viewed as a rarity. PRDaily even suggests finding out the things viewed and read by bosses, including books, professional publications and websites.

Related Article: How to Lose a Millennial in 10 Days

Develop Your Soft Skills

Knowing the proper way to communicate a question, approach an individual, or present information to a wide range of people encompasses the “soft skill” many professionals lack. Well-placed questions directly relating to a discussion that lead to a new insight are usually welcomed, and gain positive buzz for you.

For many, however, properly pitching questions proves difficult. Never be a needy questioner. Establish yourself as self-sufficient, someone able to recognize a problem and who can then come up with a solution for it. Approaching a manager or boss with not only the issue but also a viable solution shows off your skills. It may also be a way to avoid office politics and gossip by heading off a problem before it gains too much momentum.

Look the Part

Individuality is a precious thing. However, expressing it in the workplace requires a careful touch.

Consider your wardrobe. Even a “business-casual” environment requires you to look good. Throw out jeans with holes in them (better yet, do not wear jeans to work). Invest in some quality pieces of clothing, and build out your wardrobe from there. Consider rethinking unusual makeup preferences. There is truth behind the “dress for success” saying.

Don’t just look the part, act the part. Be polite and professional despite personal feelings. Have some class and avoid questionable behavior at office events. Beyond that, clean up your social media presence, and keep it pristine. Do not give anyone an opportunity to malign your reputation.

One final point: keep in mind that many of the people in your office may not be as entranced by technology as you are. That means they may take a dim view of you texting during meetings, despite your ardent claims of super multitasking abilities. Put the phone away for use only during breaks or after work.

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