The Career Advice You Need In Your 20s and 30s

The Career Advice You Need In Your 20s and 30s

Top Tips from the Jack Welch Management Institute for Career-Driven Millennials

Know that thing called a mid-life crisis? What about a mid-career crisis? What about an “I’m only a few years into my career, I shouldn’t be having a career crisis yet” crisis?

Welcome to the roller coaster of your life and your career—a constant fluctuation of good days and bad days, high days and low days.

Millennials, if you are new to an organization, early in your career or just in need of some straightforward, professional guidance, questioning what’s next is completely valid. The more you challenge yourself early on, the more authentic you’ll become down the road.

So what career tips would Jack Welch, one of the world’s most respected and celebrated business leaders of all time, have for twenty- and thirty-somethings?

“It’s never too late to answer the question, ‘What should I be doing with my life?"

Tip #1: Find Where Your Passion and Skills Intersect

Your “area of destiny,” is a phrase Jack first heard from Pastor Terry Smith of The Life Christian Church of West Orange, New Jersey. It refers to the rich territory at the intersection of what you are uniquely good at (the things you do best) and what you love to do. At the middle of your passions, interests, and opportunities is your sweet spot—this is where you should be building your profession.

What you can do today:

Focus first on identifying gaps and needs. Engage yourself and others in the career-planning process. Once you have a picture of what your ideal future looks like, you can move from vision to high-level plan (high-level because no one gets it perfect the first time).

Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years? Start there and work backward. How will you get there?

Venn Diagram, Your Area of Destiny

Tip #2: Over Deliver

Over deliver. It sounds simple, but it’s the key to everything. To excel in the role you currently occupy (and in future roles), you must constantly ask yourself whether you’re delivering above-average value. It’s your responsibility to make your boss look great. Take the assignments others won’t take. Show your initiative. Make your boss smarter about your industry, your customers, and your competitors.

What you can do today:

Take the time to understand what your employer, and your boss, really needs from you. Then don’t just do it. Do it better. Drive the organization forward.

Do you have a clear line of sight into how your job benefits the organization, advancing its mission and executing on key strategic initiatives?

Feedback from anyone is good. Synthesize it, decide whether you want to act on it or not, but make a conscious decision not to blow it away.

Tip #3: Feedback—They’re Only Words Until You Act On Them

Do you make feedback a top priority? You absolutely should.

We can’t always see ourselves objectively. That’s why we’ve got to seek honest, regular feedback and mentorship from friends, peers, and colleagues. Your progress and your understanding of yourself depends on it. In your career, how you manage your own performance is largely up to you—your boss may not have the awareness and skill to provide you with ongoing, meaningful feedback—so you’ve got to be proactive.

What you can do today:

Make a plan to get candid feedback and mentorship today. Brainstorm potential mentors. Find out when your latest performance review was. Formally or informally, ask for 360 feedback (good and bad), so you can get better at your craft. It’ll help you build self-confidence. And a winning career.

What’s the best way to react to a career setback? Well, look at the facts. Do a self-evaluation. Did they make a reasonable decision? If they did, put your head down, over deliver, and take on the position of 'I'll get the next one.'

Tip #4: Don’t Fear Failure. Embrace it Head-On.

Tip number four is to face career setbacks head-on. Things will go wrong (unexpected termination, bad bosses, dead-end jobs, economic downturns); of that, you can be certain. But failure is a natural part of the process. Failure is how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found success. Failure reveals your character. If handled with grace and candor it’s what separates you from others and what, ultimately, guides you to success.

What you can do today:

Prepare a contingency plan for how you’d respond if certain events were to unfold in your life. How will you approach specific setbacks, like finding yourself in a professional rut?

Setbacks are a natural part of life—how do you handle them when they come on? Think about a setback in which things didn’t go the way you planned. How did you deal with it? What immediate actions did you take, what does that say about your character?

Tip #5: Leadership Is Leading Others

If you see yourself one day moving into a management or leadership role, start preparing for it now. Not later. When you lead, you realize the skills you need to succeed in your own role aren’t the same as the skills you need to help others succeed in theirs. Today, it’s about shared leadership, and “the most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.” As a manager, it’s not about you anymore—it’s about them.

What you can do today:

Think like a prospective boss interviewing you for a managerial position or leadership role. Does your resume stack up against others’? What skills do you already have? Which ones are you missing? Perform a skills and experience gap analysis. When you identify your gaps, you can make a game plan for addressing them.

Too many people are closed. They’ve got their way of living. They’ve got their way of doing. They’re not open to learning….The greatest gift you can have in life is curiosity. Being curious opens up all the opportunities for you to set priorities around.

Tip #6: Never Stop Learning

Do you find yourself frequently asking, “What’s next?” Good. Keep asking.

Never stop reinventing yourself. Career goals should constantly be reviewed and modified so you can ensure they’re aligned with where you want to go. When they’re not is when you take action. Don’t be satisfied with “good enough.” Ask yourself how you can keep developing or closing your skill gaps—your potential may even surprise you. A rewarding career, which you design yourself, challenges you: it takes you from one opportunity to the next.

What you can do today:

Take a course in something you’ve always been interested in. Join a professional group in your community. Take on a project to develop new skills and talents. You must always be learning to feel “alive.”


“Leadership is not a singular destination but a marathon journey that progresses through many stages until you reach your peak.”
—Bill George, Discover Your True North

When you think of authenticity as your center, your foundation, and you don’t let any organization wring it out of you, your career takes care of itself. Great performance will be recognized. If you deliver great performance and you’re constantly challenging yourself to grow, you’ll find your way. Keep asking questions. Because here’s the thing: it’s your career. What are you going to do with it?

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