STUDENT LIFE / MAY. 12, 2015
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3 'Must Have' Experiences for Young Professionals


When young professionals enter the job market they’re easy to spot. With their bubbling tenacity, raw enthusiasm, and that whole “the world is your oyster” thing going on, they are practically oozing with vitality.

The thing that can set a great job candidate apart from a good one is life experience. Top employers are looking for employees who are not only talented but have substance to their character; they’re looking for young professionals who have that je ne sais quoi.

In the job seeking process, young professionals often revert to an inflated personality type with the belief that confidence will win them the job. This kind of bravado can come off as inexperienced or worse: arrogant. Top employers are looking for authentic individuals to join their organizations and coming off as too wet behind the ears won’t necessarily impress.

As a young professional, there are a multitude of areas to focus your energy on when it comes to building your career. From obtaining education to networking and volunteering, building up your character is just as important to preparing you for a successful career. The more you can show off your human traits, the more likely you are to stand apart from the rest of the job seekers and get the job.

Here are the top three experiences every young professional needs to have in their career to build character and get the job of their dreams: 

See also: 5 Ways to Encourage Young Entrepreneurs

1. An Ego Crushing

When I say ‘an ego crushing’, this means that you need take some raw feedback to heart. Whether that is getting yourself a coach, a mentor or even asking a peer you trust, eliciting brutally honest feedback is the key to being humble. Humility is a trait employers value because it’s honest and human; and you should value it, too.

Some of the best feedback is the criticism that stings. Often, when we feel angry or extremely defensive after receiving feedback, it’s because a nerve was struck. That’s the kind of feedback you want to pursue because it will help you grow.

2. A Rejection (Or Five!)

Rejection is key to staying humble and hungry. If we got every job we applied for, every apartment we wanted, and if our every idea was a perfect idea, then we’d be in our own version of ‘The Truman Show’ – and completely delusional.

Getting rejected allows you the opportunity to learn how to think differently. If everything went your way, then you would only know one way to do things. Doing things one way stifles creativity and collaboration.

When you or your idea is rejected, it’s an opportunity to analyze yourself and the situation at hand. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How was my approach?
  • Is there another way to solve this?
  • Were there any social cues I missed?
  • Was I too stuck on my idea?

Turn rejection into an opportunity to learn; after all, when someone says “no”, they often mean “tell me more.”

3. Fail Forward

Failure: most Millennials hate the word. Failure is life and life experience is what we’re after, so embrace failure with both feet in.

The key to failing successfully is to always fail forward. This means when you fail – whether it’s minor or catastrophic, find a way to move yourself forward from the experience. If you aren’t learning from it – what are you doing with it?

I like keeping a file in my Evernote filled with learning lessons. I keep track of all the times I mess up or things don’t go as anticipated to help me with tracking my progress. Also in this file is a list of accomplishments or ‘Ada Girl’ moments. Keeping on file your learning lessons and your proud moments comes in handy for interview prep, too.

See also: Top 10 Accoutrements of a Young (Single) Professional

Creating your edge against other job seekers is about tapping into your authenticity and showing off what makes you unique to prospective employers. Character and substance won’t necessarily be learned in school, so by highlighting these unique experiences, you’ll be sure to stand out. Great interviews come down to great conversations, so rely on your ability to speak to what you do and how you learn to stand apart from the pack.

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