Top 7 Ways to Make Your Career a Grown Up
Adulthood is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter if you know how to roast a chicken or how many towels to buy, as long as you know where to look for the answers.
Ready to join the ranks of capable, wealthy adults but not sure what to do? Part of being an adult is learning as you go, so congratulations on taking the first step in taking care of your own business. A starting point – your career. What could be more mature than keeping a job and actively growing in it?
According to a Deloitte study, the average American with a full-time job spends just over nine hours a day on work or work-related activities. When you think about one’s career, a lot of time is spent in an office, so you might as well enjoy it.
In addition to spending most of your waking hours at work, it can also be your main source of money and can have various other effects on how you live now and in the future. So taking the time to find a rewarding career pays off in the long run.
Stay motivated, and here are seven ways to help get your career right as an adult:
- Identify your personal board
Having a trusted community can help you succeed both personally and professionally. We’ve all been in those moments when we just need to get an idea from someone or seek advice from a trusted colleague.
Building a network of people you can trust can help you advance in your career. Personal committees can provide you with guidance and constructive feedback as you evaluate professional decisions, opportunities or challenges. Consider looking for these characteristics when forming your “board of directors”:
Mentors: Thought partners and role models who help you clarify your goals
Contact person: We have a wide network of people and are happy to make a thoughtful introduction for you
Subject matter experts: Industry individuals with deep knowledge in the areas you want to learn more about
Career Coach: An independent consultant who asks insightful questions to help you reflect and find the best answers. SoFi members receive free 1:1 coaching.
Certified Financial Advisor: Someone who provides personalized advice based on your unique financial situation and goals. SoFi members have free access to certified financial planners.
Close friends: trusted people with whom you can have candid discussions about personal and professional challenges
Bonus Points – Sponsors: Your biggest cheerleader and professional you admire who can create opportunities for you
- Cultivate a relationship with your boss
Most people quit their bosses, not their jobs. If you have the opportunity, be specific about the company you choose to work for, and try to find as many managers as possible that you can respect, work with, and learn from.
Ideally, your manager will be your strong advocate and will challenge you to improve while still supporting you. Keep in touch with former managers you have a good relationship with – you never know when that connection will come in handy.
- Choose your battles wisely
Uneasy about the temperature in your office? It’s okay, even great, to speak up about cultural issues when they arise, and you can use them as an opportunity to advocate for a more inclusive environment.
But you might want to think twice before engaging in a personality battle with the person controlling the thermostat. These types of intra-office squabbles can simmer and distract you from the important work you’re trying to do.
- Set boundaries
Everyone can have a personal life. Yes, you need to get work done and keep culturally appropriate hours, but it’s also possible to actually live outside of work. The sooner you can establish a work-life balance, the better.
You can use your calendar strategically to set aside time you want to spend outdoors, whether it’s a morning gym class or an evening dinner with friends. It’s important to take breaks every so often so you can return to work refreshed.
- Advocate for yourself
Yes, that means you need to learn how to negotiate. In the workplace (and often in life), you are your number one advocate. Are you paid fairly compared to your peers? Don’t just take what you find on the internet as gospel (at least not as much as your salary!) – reach out and talk to your colleagues.
When the time comes for a raise, be ready with the going rate for the person in your role as well as specific statistics and information to your manager that explain your value to the company.
Ideally, you’ll do your research and talk to three men and three women to get different perspectives on the value of your skill set in your particular market. SoFi has a free online tool to help you start your research.
- Invest in yourself
Are you paying yourself first? At the very least, you can set up an emergency fund to cover your expenses for three to six months. Next on your list of financial goals? Maybe saving for retirement.
Think you can’t afford to have someone help you review your financial goals? SoFi members have free access to certified financial planners to help them get their money right. Investing in yourself also means taking the time to learn new skills that can benefit you now or in a future position where you can earn more.
- Be proactive about your career path
If you don’t set your goals from the start, you won’t achieve them. A good place to start is to think about your personal and professional goals for the next one to two years. Looking for a promotion? Perhaps you can start a conversation with your manager now and let them know you have this goal in mind to work toward.
Ask what you need to do and on what timeframe to move forward. It’s also great to focus on your long-term goals so that every incremental change you make moves you in the direction you want.
More career-related questions?
If you have more career-related questions, SoFi can help. SoFi members have access to career counseling to help you unlock your full potential, at no extra cost.
You’ll be able to work one-on-one with an experienced career coach who can help you determine what success looks like for you and even help you define financial independence.