How to Be Your Best Professional Self, This Year & Beyond
By Katie Farrell
Over the past year, workplace culture went from conference room meetings to Zoom calls and from coffee in the office to coffee in your kitchen. Working remotely is now all the rage, and it just might be here to stay. Many businesses have gone on hiring freezes or closed their doors altogether, and everyone working from home is simply trying to figure it all out. So, how can you set yourself up to be your best professional self this year, especially after a year of many challenges?
Some people think that you have to follow a strict set of guidelines and rules to get a job and be professionally successful. However, as a (somewhat) recent college grad and someone who had a plan that fell through, I disagree. There’s no one-size-fits-all to job hunting and creating a life that makes you happy and fulfilled.
No matter what someone else thinks you should be doing with your degree or career, here are three key ways to set yourself up to have your best professional year yet.
1. FIND WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE AND MEANS TO YOU
There’s a reason I don’t think everyone can follow the exact same method to find a job and create success for themselves — success looks and feels different for everyone! Some people want a 9-to-5 job with a city view, others want a family, and some of us just want a job to pay the bills. The first step to creating a year of professional (and even personal) success starts with figuring out what success means to you.
If you don’t know what success means to you or how to figure it out, that’s okay! It’s typically not something you’d think about on a day-to-day basis. One way to begin figuring it out is by thinking about the things that you value. What do you want to spend your time doing?
“Being intentional each day and blocking out distractions will keep you focused, and ultimately allow you to define success on your own terms,” says Tara Ackaway, CEO & Founder of Social Wise Communications. “Your happiness should be a priority and will greatly contribute to your overall success, whether it be personally or professionally.”
You may find that, for you, professional success doesn’t matter as much as personal success — and if so, that’s totally fine! Sit down and write down your personal goals and values so that you’re able to rock out this year. And, if you want to really dig deep into your professional success and how to make those dreams come true, it’s time to put your values into action and get to work.
2. PLAN ACCORDINGLY AND BE PREPARED TO SET YOURSELF APART
Getting a job is no easy feat. Even before the pandemic, getting a job meant sending in application after application and creating a ton of resumes that were specific to each job you were applying for. But then COVID-19 happened. And, suddenly, it became more difficult than ever to navigate the job market. So, what do you need to do in order to land that job of your dreams when everyone else in your field is probably trying to get that same job?
The biggest piece of advice that I’ve seen from seasoned professionals during this time is to be adaptable. Your future employers want to see that you’re able to “go with the flow” and adapt to change.
“It would serve young professionals well to demonstrate a willingness and ability to adapt to change,” Jill Sammak, a Leadership and Career Coach, tells Her Campus. “The pandemic delivered an unwelcome truth: The world can be a very unpredictable place, and the trait that arms us best to respond to an uncertain future is flexibility.”
Sammak, who owns Jill Sammak Coaching and Consulting, LLC, adds, “While the pandemic has created a highly competitive job market, it also provides an opportunity for candidates to set themselves apart.”
There are several ways you can set yourself apart in this job market. One of the most popular suggestions that I’ve seen is to take some online courses to fill in the gaps on your resume. This may be a little time consuming, but it’s a time investment that’s going to be beneficial long-term.
“Technology skills are particularly important to have right now regardless of the field you are in or looking to pivot into,” says Paul French, a recruiter and founder of Intrinsic Search. “From coding to digital marketing, sales to customer support, picking up a new skill will give you a competitive edge and bargaining power in the marketplace.”
French also suggests working on your personal branding. If you want to go into social media management or something similar, having a strong social media presence (that’s appropriate, of course) can make the difference between you and the other applicants.
If (and when) you do snag an interview, always make sure to prepare! One of the best ways to stand out from your competition is to show that you’ve researched the company and are excited about what the company does. Ask them questions about the specific role. Use words from the job posting. Every detail can help you potentially land your dream job.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE, MISTAKES, OR BEING TOLD “NO”
Ana Benites, a 2019 graduate from Queens University of Charlotte, says that not being afraid of failure or being told “no” is one of the best pieces of advice she’s ever gotten.
“It’s so easy to get discouraged during the job search,” Ana tells Her Campus. “You have to push through [each] ‘no’ [and remind] yourself that no one has ever learned anything by getting everything right the first time.” When preparing to be your best professional self this year, don’t be afraid, embarrassed, or ashamed if you “fail” at something — every moment, including the difficult ones, can be a learning opportunity.
Kate Tudoreanu, a career coach, says to also manage your expectations. “The goals you set might not be accomplished perfectly,” she tells Her Campus. “But part of the process is knowing failure isn’t the end. You can always learn something from the experience and use it to do even better the next time.”
The bottom line is, you can’t expect to nail every interview and snag every job — success doesn’t happen overnight. However, you also can’t let every rejection bring you down and keep you from trying again.
If you’re hesitant to put yourself out there, remember, many people send cold emails in hopes of landing internships, jobs, and informational interviews. And, despite the absolute fear that settled in the pit of my stomach each time I consider this, I eventually tried it for myself. I sent a few cold emails to marketing companies in my area to see if anyone was looking for a summer intern. Many of the emails were ignored, but there was one company that responded, and I got an internship with them! You never know what opportunity is coming, so don’t be afraid to be told “no” — you might be one step closer to a “yes.”
Liz Wessel, the CEO and Co-Founder of WayUp, tells Her Campus, “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big believer in cold-emailing. I got one summer internship by cold emailing an alumnus from my school. It’s important to be bold!”
With these tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming your best professional self this year. Remember, no one can define your success but you! Go for that job you think you have no chance of getting. Send that cold email or LinkedIn message to the professional you admire, and ask to connect. And, above all else, remember to believe in yourself and be kind when things don’t go according to plan. You’re always learning new things, and maybe success is knowing that mistakes happen when you actually take a chance on yourself.
Make this be the year that you take a chance on yourself and your version of success.