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    7 Career Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me In My Twenties

    Some friendly, experienced advice on how to make your career *work* for you.

    1. Use your network.

    Becky Barnicoat/ BuzzFeed

    You spend your first few years in any career building up a network – it can be people you've worked with, people you've interviewed with, or peers in your industry. According to the Harvard Business Review, there are actually three kinds of networking: operational, personal and strategic.

    "The first helped leaders manage current internal responsibilities, the second boosted their personal development, and the third opened their eyes to new business directions and the stakeholders they would need to enlist."

    I've used my network of former colleagues, professional contacts and industry peers for all three types of networking – as research for my book, guidance on new projects, and for general peer to peer coaching.

    Here's a friendly email template you can use:

    "Hi Jenny,

    My name is Ailbhe, and we follow each other on Twitter. I love your work on XYZ – I think the way you write about XYZ is so smart and great. I've written a book and would love to send you a copy – would that be ok?/ A former employee of mine has gone freelance and I'd love to put her in touch with you – would that be ok?/ I'm giving a speech at an event, and I know you have a lot of experience in this area – would I be able to buy you a coffee and ask you some questions?"

    If you're reaching out to someone by email, be sure to be clear about your expectations. It's not fair to send a general "can I pick your brains" email. When I've received these emails, it often entails more work on my end – I have to find out what the sender actually wants to discuss, and what they expect to get out of the conversation.

    Read more here: How Leaders Create and Use Networks

    2. The criteria on a job advert are flexible.

    Natalya Lobanova/ BuzzFeed

    I was 27 when I wrote my first job advert. As I was writing it, I realised that what I was creating was a wishlist. There were a handful of core requirements (ie, for a online writing job, you're going to want someone with experience writing for online audiences), but sometimes you're also looking for a candidate who is a good cultural fit. I've interviewed candidates who didn't fit all the requirements perfectly, who were a better fit for the role than candidates who could tick off all the listed abilities.

    If there's a company you like, and they're hiring for a role that seems interesting to you, you should apply! Think about how you can adapt the experience you have to the requirements they're listing. When I look at job applications now, I'm most impressed by candidates who walk me through how their experience applies to the role – rather than candidates who tell me their experience straightup.

    This advice from Business Insider is especially relevant – when writing a cover letter, add "something specific that cannot be inferred from your resume (i.e. work situation, special skills or the kind of job you're looking for)."

    Read more here: 12 Things You Should Never Do When Applying For A Job

    3. You can take a sick day even if you're not feeling physically sick.

    Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

    Some companies have different policies on sick leave, and mental health days – and if you're like me, you'll be tempted to work up until you physically can't. But it took me a long time to realise that a pre-emptive mental health day was worth it –rather than pushing through to burn out.

    If you have a supportive manager, you can have this conversation – and the mental health charity Mind have several brilliant online resources, including a Wellness Action Plan.

    If you don't feel like you have that relationship, you can always say you're feeling under the weather, and take the day to reset. When I've been in situations where I don't feel comfortable asking for a mental health day, I always think of Kelly Osbourne's advice (she was talking about how to bail on a party you don't want to go to): "Tell them you have diarrhea. Nobody can argue with that".

    4. Be open to feedback, and act upon it.

    Flo Perry/ BuzzFeed

    I've been lucky to have had some great managers in my time – and the best ones have been the ones who have given me consistent feedback: both positive and constructive.

    When I was younger, I took constructive feedback as a sign that I was fucking up my job. But as I spent longer in the workplace – and as I began to manage people myself – I realised that ongoing constructive feedback is just as important as positive feedback.

    It's sometimes difficult to hear that you're not doing something right, or you could improve your attitude towards XYZ problem – but I can guarantee that the person who raised the issue with you is rooting for you. The best feedback focuses on the behaviour, not the person.. And it is so satisfying when someone takes feedback on board and makes a change.

    Read more here: The Art And Science Of Giving And Receiving Criticism At Work

    5. Pay rises are a conversation.

    hallie bateman/ BuzzFeed

    If you work in certain industries, yearly pay rises are built into your contract. And if you watch certain movies, you'll believe that this is how a pay rise conversation goes:

    Boss: "Well done Maia – you've had a great year and we'd like to offer you a 2% raise"

    Employee: "I demand a 7% raise for XYZ reasons"

    Boss: "Ok, how about 5%"

    Your boss is anticipating you bringing up a pay rise at end-of-year reviews, and it's worth you taking some time to point out the ways that your role has changed over the past year. For example, if you began the year managing one person, and ended it managing three. Or if you've improved output by 40% due to a new process. Either way, it's perfectly OK for you to answer an unfavourable offer with "Thank you. Is there space for us to re-connect on this in six months time, during the next reviews cycle?" I'd recommend reading excellent blogs like Ask a Manager to find out how people approach these conversations in different industries.

    6. Friends at work are different from drinking buddies at work.

    Becky Barnicoat/ BuzzFeed

    I used to work long-term freelance shifts at a couple of media companies. It meant that I knew people well enough to go down the pub on a Friday night and whinge about the work week – but not well enough to talk to them about my day-to-day concerns. It meant that instead of resolving small issues, they either became general gripes, or large worries that I carried on my shoulders solo.

    Looking back, I'm sure my peers in the same situation felt similar to me. I wish I had opened up to them more– whether that was about my worry for the copy on a particular piece, or my aims to grow the brand's social media presence within a short timeframe.

    If you're not sure how to start making connections with peers at work, why not try a Facebook group first? There are plenty of closed groups for people in similar industries (for example, women in journalism etc) – you just need to message the moderator to ask to join.

    7. Don't wait til a point of crisis to talk about your career with your boss. Talk about it when it's going well too.

    Loryn Brantz / BuzzFeed

    The main takeaway I have about almost ten years in the workplace, both as a manager and as an employee, is that your career is a conversation. Consider it actively, not just when you're in crisis.

    I'm always thrilled when my team talk about their careers in an ongoing way – it means that as a manager, I can talk them through the company's aims, and how we can fit their goals within that. If you wait until a crisis point to have that conversation, then the options are more limited.

    The best career decisions I've made have been when I've thought about what I've wanted from a company, what I enjoy doing, and how I can continue to learn. When you're having a tough time at your job, your focus tends to be how to enjoy it again. When you're happy at your job, your focus tends to be how to continue to get the most out of it. I love this presentation by Jenny Blake, who talks about how to pivot within your existing role.

    What's the best career tip you've gotten? Let us know in the comments.

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