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20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don't Get

Map Effort to Your Professional Gain – You’re going to be asked to do things you don’t like to do. Keep your eye on the prize. Connect what you’re doing today, with where you want to be tomorrow. That should be all the incentive you need. If you can’t map your future success to your current responsibilities, then it’s time to find a new opportunity.

Speak Up, Not Out – We’re raising a generation of sh-t talkers. In your workplace this is a cancer. If you have issues with management, culture or your role & responsibilities, SPEAK UP. Don’t take those complaints and trash-talk the company or co-workers on lunch breaks and anonymous chat boards. If you can effectively communicate what needs to be improved, you have the ability to shape your surroundings and professional destiny.

You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops – Adding “Proficient in Microsoft Office” at the bottom of your resume under Skills, is not going to cut it anymore. I immediately give preference to candidates who are ninjas in: Photoshop, HTML/CSS, iOS, WordPress, Adwords, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, Final Cut Pro – regardless of their job position. If you plan to stay gainfully employed, you better complement that humanities degree with some applicable technical chops.

Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter – It’s who you know more than what you know, that gets you ahead in business. Knowing a small group of folks very well, or a huge smattering of contacts superficially, just won’t cut it. Meet and stay connected to lots of folks, and invest your time developing as many of those relationships as possible. (TIP: Here is my Networking Advice)

You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek. You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be. Their free guidance and counsel will be the most priceless gift you can receive.  (TIP: “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Mentors”)

[More from Forbes: The 10 Happiest Cities For Young Professionals]

Pick an Idol & Act “As If” – You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does. I often coach my employees to pick the businessperson they most admire, and act “as if.” If you were (fill in the blank) how would he or she carry themselves, make decisions, organize his/her day, accomplish goals? You’ve got to fake it until you make it, so it’s better to fake it as the most accomplished person you could imagine.  (Shout out to Tony Robbins for the tip.)

Read More Books, Less Tweets/Texts – Your generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters:  all breadth and no depth. Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover. All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others. Make sure to read a book a month (fiction or non-fiction) and your career will blossom.

Spend 25% Less Than You Make – When your material needs meet or exceed your income, you’re sabotaging your ability to really make it big. Don’t shackle yourself with golden handcuffs (a fancy car or an expensive apartment). Be willing and able to take 20% less in the short term, if it could mean 200% more earning potential. You’re nothing more than penny wise and pound-foolish if you pass up an amazing new career opportunity to keep an extra little bit of income. No matter how much money you make, spend 25% less to support your life. It’s a guaranteed formula to be less stressed and to always have the flexibility to pursue your dreams.

Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It – Over time, your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business. It’s the invisible key that either opens or closes doors of professional opportunity. Especially in an age where everything is forever recorded and accessible, your reputation has to be guarded like the most sacred treasure.  It’s the one item that, once lost, you can never get back.

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