10 things you should know by the time you’re 30

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While the first years of any new career usually involve a steep learning curve, Excel Recruitment’s Barry Whelan reckons that by the time you’ve blown out the candles on your 30th birthday cake, there are a number of key business learnings you should have already taken on board

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26 July 2016 | 0

Barry Whelan, managing director, Excel Recruitment, www.excelrecruitment.com

Barry Whelan, managing director, Excel Recruitment, www.excelrecruitment.com

Amongst a group of colleagues, we were talking recently about how candidates in their 40s handle situations in the office compared to people in their 30s and how maturity can sometimes make people react differently, especially under pressure.

During our first years in our careers, you can expect a big learning curve, not just learning how to do your job, but also about the broader issues of how to manage your career and work successfully in a work environment.

Here are some key learnings:

How to talk to your boss. It is normal to be intimidated by your boss when you’re starting out in your career, but you must not stay intimidated. Working with intimidation does not allow you to form relationships with your superiors and you will not gain credibility with decision makers. The more you act like a subordinate the more you will be seen as one.

How to negotiate your salary. You only get two opportunities to negotiate your salary, so you need to really use them. The first is when you get a job offer and the second is a promotion. You may think you need to outline an iron-clad business case, but in reality it’s best to decide a figure, be realistic and ask for it. For instance, “I was hoping you could go up to X amount. Is that possible?” or “Do you have any flexibility on the salary? I was hoping for Y”.

How to take criticism. Don’t cry! Being able to listen to feedback with an open mind and take direction from it is one of the most important learnings. If you naturally respond defensively or just shut down, you won’t learn from the criticism which at the end of the day will only improve you.

How to figure out the market rate for your work. Ask around and check with professionals, looking at similar positions on online job boards to see if salary ranges are listed and talking to recruiters in your field – always make sure that you’re factoring in your location, which can have a big impact on the numbers.

How to have a difficult conversation. Whether it’s asking a colleague to take a breath mint or telling your boss you quit or indeed letting an employee go, you’re going to have tough conversations over the course of your career. That doesn’t mean rude; you can be direct and kind at the same time, but you do need to assert yourself and get comfortable with difficult topics. It will make your life quite a bit less stressful.

How to run a meeting. If you lose control of your meetings, let conversation spiral in any direction and don’t start or finish on time, people will quickly begin dreading attending any meetings you’re running. Instead, always have an agenda, be clear about what outcomes you’re aiming for and be willing to redirect the conversation when needed.

How to stand up for yourself politely and professionally. Sometimes you have to push back against a superior. That means being assertive but not aggressive, calmly explaining the issue and being direct about what you need and while raising the concern, providing a solution to the problem alongside it.

What to do when you make a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes. When you do, how you handle it will often matter more than the mistake itself. The key is to take responsibility for what happened; don’t make excuses or be defensive. Be honest and let your boss know what happened and how you plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Accept what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. Early in your career, it’s pretty normal not to have a well-refined sense of where you shine and where you don’t. But if you’ve been working for most of your 20s, by the end of them you should know what skills you’re better at than others, what you’re much better at than others, what you want to work on improving in and what you should probably avoid altogether.

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