For many people, their twenties can be a rich time for personal self-discovery—a period when you’re more willing to take risks and maybe even make mistakes along the way.
But they can also be some of the most formative years for another important facet of life: your career.
When you graduate, you may have an idea of what you want to be when you “grow up,” but you may not have an idea of just how to get there. And while hindsight is 20/20, you don’t want to leave everything to chance—especially if it affects your future earning power.
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So we tapped a plethora of career experts and coaches to get their opinions on the top dos—and don’ts—for the younger generation of career builders. From networking to job-hunting and then wowing your boss once you land the gig, here are 30 savvy moves you should make at each stage of your career before you hit 30.
Top Networking Moves for 20-Somethings
1. Attend as many events as possible. “There’s an unstated expectation that you come to networking events to support people. As a result, there are many people who are more than willing to help perfect strangers find a job, exchange contacts or give meaningful advice,” says Michael Price, author of “What Next? The Millennial’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the Real World.” “But the key is to meet those people face-to-face.” In other words, get off social media and start making real, human connections because no one can tell how charming you are over email.
2. Set networking goals. “Before attending any event, you should have a clear purpose of why you’re going,” says Ricardo Trigueiro, director of international marketing for image and brand development firm CHUVA group. “Is it to meet as many people as possible to build your contact list? Or is it to meet a particular person?” Then make sure to accomplish your goal before the event is over.
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3. Order business cards. It may seem old school, but it’s still simpler to hand people a card as opposed to hovering over them as they input your info into a cell phone. Plus, you can’t hand your résumé to everyone you meet, but you can leave a card behind without seeming overbearing, adds Kathy Condon, author of “Face-to-Face Networking: It’s All About Communication.” Exchanging cards with an important contact will then allow you to follow up with a résumé later.
If you don’t have an existing business card, you can create a simple one for yourself that includes your name, address, phone number and email, along with links to any relevant business sites, like a LinkedIn account or a personal website that displays your work or portfolio. A stack of cards won’t cost much, either. Online print shops, like Vistaprint and Moo, offer options in the $10 to $25 range.
4. Use a contacts manager app. The new people you meet can easily get lost amid the hundreds of contacts you log into your email address book and various social networking accounts. But using apps like Rapportive or Connect6º PeopleDiscovery can help you note identifying details—e.g., the C.E.O. that loves Coldplay—to jog your memory, and give you something to chat about the next time you meet.