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Career Development: 20 Tips for the Young
by Wally Bock

After watching careers for almost forty years, I've got a clear idea of what you should do to build yours. Here's some advice if you're starting out.

1. Seek and use feedback. Feedback will turbocharge your career and put you on the path to continuous improvement.

2. Get help. You can't know it all yourself. Get help from mentors, friends, peers, books, classes and role models.

3. Seek out challenges. That's how you grow.

4. At some point you will fail. It will be painful. Instead of sitting in the ashes of your life and shaking your fist at the sky, pick yourself up, learn from what happened and keep going. Ask my mother's favorite question for all challenges: "What good can we make of this?"

5. Build on your strengths and help others build on their strengths. Figure out what you do both well and joyfully. Do the same for your team. Spend your time on developing and using strengths. Make weaknesses irrelevant.

6. Admit your mistakes, graciously. Forgive the mistakes others make. Figure out how to move on and learn from experience.

7. Say "Thank you." Write thank-you notes. Send thank-you emails. People will remember you.

8. Learn to write lucid memoranda. You can't communicate if you can't write.

9. Learn to make good presentations. In today's world this is a requirement. Learn to marshal the research. Learn to tell relevant stories.

10. Help your boss and your employer look good. That's part of your job and it pays dividends over the course of a career.

11. Learn to keep your mouth shut when it's important. Don't discuss sensitive issues or your customer's business on your cell phone in a public place. Don't gossip. Keep sensitive documents secure.

12. Clarify expectations until they are crystalline. Make sure you understand what your boss wants from you. Make sure the people who work with you understand what you want.

13. Fight for the important stuff and give in gracefully otherwise. There are very few things in business or in life that are worth messing up a relationship for.

14. Develop habits and checklists that help you get the routine work done routinely and well. You will develop a reputation for reliability.

15. You don't know when an opportunity to stand out from the crowd will appear. Read and study and listen so that you're ready when a big opportunity comes your way. Create learning programs for yourself.

16. Ambition can be a driving force but it needn't be obvious and self-serving. It certainly needn't be aggressive. Let others become known for their ambition while you build a reputation for excellence.

17. Keep your promises. Nothing can destroy a career faster or more thoroughly than a reputation as untrustworthy.

18. Every day identify the most important thing you need to do. Then do it.

19. Work hard. Some people succeed without working hard, but some people win the lottery, too. Very few people achieve meaningful and lasting success without working hard.

20. When in doubt about what to do, act like the person you want to become.

Remember that careers are built from the things you do every day. You're more likely to succeed in the long run if you take every opportunity to develop yourself, your skills, your friends, and your relationships. Good luck.

Wally Bock helps organizations improve productivity and morale by selecting and developing great leaders at all levels. He coaches individual managers, and is a popular speaker at meetings and conferences in the US and elsewhere. This article first appeared in the Three Star Leadership Blog ( ). Check out Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit ( ).

Wally Bock may be contacted at or


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