Turning 30 can be a daunting prospect, one that often acts as a catalyst for a lot of self-reflection. You may start questioning your wealth, your relationships and your inexplicable failure to make it as a professional dancer.
Have you travelled enough? Are you happy in your job? Should you be more daring with your hairstyle? There are just so many questions.
To make the transition easier, we’ve compiled a list of career lessons you need to get to grips with before hitting the big 3-0.
Whether it’s doing a bit of grunt work in your first job out of college or pipping a colleague to the post for that promotion, always do your best to be humble and keep your ego in check. We’re all guilty of getting carried away with our own brilliance from time to time but there’s no need to rub everyone’s faces in it. Let them figure it out for themselves, (even if it takes them a lot longer than it would you). Modesty is the best policy!
Determine your own ambition
It’s human nature to look to our friends, colleagues, former classmates, partners or family to measure our professional success. This is a dangerous and unfulfilling habit. While it’s completely normal to compare your career trajectory to those close to you, another person’s success should not determine your own. It’s not a marker of your own worth and it certainly shouldn’t be a marker of your happiness. You need to accept that there’ll always be someone with a bigger salary, grander title and more glam holiday package than yours. There’ll also always be someone looking at your life through the same green tinged lens. Accepting this is one of the most important career lessons of your 20s.
Leave on a high
Even if you’ve outgrown your role, lost faith in the company, or work for an absolute tyrant always leave your job with the integrity and professionalism in which you entered it. It might be tempting to storm out in a blaze of glory telling Karen what you really think of her weekend anecdotes, diet advice and unremarkable grandchildren but it’s best not to burn any bridges.
You never know when an act of indulgent petulance may come back to bite you, however satisfying it might be at the time. Always work your full notice period, provide a thorough handover and don’t poison the well to the colleagues you leave behind. Be gracious as you depart. Thank your managers for the opportunities you were given while in your role and wish your coworkers well. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give constructive feedback, just make sure it’s in the right setting i.e. an exit interview and not the bar.
Trust your gut
Learning to trust your gut is applicable in both your professional and personal life. At work, it’s important to take onboard feedback and advice, and to value the experience of your more senior coworkers. But, it’s also important to make your own decisions. It might seem like a daunting prospect initially but learning to respectfully decline the advice of others and trust your own instincts is an important development in your career growth. Realising that you’re ultimately accountable for your own decisions (and having the confidence to back yourself in making them) will lead to a happier and more satisfying working life.
Don’t make it personal
We spend so much of our time at work and put so much of ourselves into it, that when things don’t go our way it can be difficult to not take it personally. Getting negative feedback, failing to secure a payrise or being disappointed with the results of a project can feel like a personal attack. However this is very rarely the case. It’s important to be able to separate professional critique or failures from personal ones and not beat yourself up over mistakes.
Being open about struggles is not a weakness
It’s natural to try to downplay our shortcomings, particularly when you’re new to a role but it won’t help you to address them or improve upon them. Whether you’re challenged by a new element of your role or a strained relationship with a colleague, it’s not a failure to admit you’re struggling. Being open about your issues means your coworkers and boss have a better understanding of your position and are more likely to empathise, they may even be able to help you out.
Saying no isn’t always a bad thing
In the early stages of our career, we can really struggle to say no. We’re often so afraid it will be interpreted as a sign of weakness, laziness or bad attitude that we fail to recognise the damage we’re doing by being a ‘yes man’. By never pushing back on managers or coworkers, we can seriously undermine our performance, devalue our time and cause undue stress.
Stacking your workload often leads to delayed deadlines or compromises in the quality of work produced. It can also cause unnecessary workplace friction as you grow more irritated with your unreasonable workload. Learning to say no in a way that is polite, succinct and reasonable will save you a world of future pain.