25 professional must-knows before turning 25

By Jenny Fukumoto

Last month, I turned 25. Since becoming gainfully employed, I’ve made a lot of professional mistakes—and learned a few things, along the way. Here are 25 of them—let me know if you agree, or what you would add to this list!

By 25, you should know how to:

1.      Take rejection with poise.

By the age of 25, you should’ve had to face some sort of professional rejection—my favorite was having my resume handed back to me after a job interview.

2.      Do your own bitch work.

Empathy is an important trait for all managers. Knowing what it’s like to do the grunt work makes you appreciate those who have to do it after you. Assuming that you are not above anything will help you soar in your career.

3.      Craft an appropriate LinkedIn connection invite request.

I don’t mind getting LinkedIn connection requests from random people, but it irritates me when they don’t have a tailored message and just use the standard LinkedIn invite line. Here’s an idea of something that could work: “Hi Jenny, I noticed we both work in the Chicago marketing scene and wanted to connect with you. Maybe I buy you a cup of coffee/tea in the near future, to learn more about what you do?”

4.      Ask for a raise.

When you’re worth more than you’re making, you need to know how to ask for more. After being out of school for three years, learn how to broach the topic. Not sure how to do that? Read this.

5.      Delegate work.

Delegation is an underrated action. By 25, you should know when it’s appropriate to delegate and how to do it. For example, if someone asks me to perform a task that is certainly within my power, but I don’t have the time for it, I look for the colleague it makes most sense to perform that task regularly, and ask them to do it.

6.      Know which battles to pick at work.

Not every battle is worth fighting – you should know which are worth your time and energy. Getting upset with the way someone sends incessant emails takes a backseat to someone who fails to communicate important pieces of information.

7.      When to unplug.

Once you answer that work email at 11 p.m., you set a precedent that you’re available 24/7. Unless it’s an emergency, try not to check your work email (or mark it unread and deal with it when you get to the office).

8.      Put in your 2 weeks’ notice.

If you’re lucky enough to have loved your first job out of college and are still there by 25, bravo! But you should know how to tactfully put in your two weeks’ notice, if you make a career move. This requires a written resignation. Here’s a great guide on doing the dirty deed.

9.      Tactfully give your business card at a networking event.

No one likes the business card ninja who swoops in, throws his or her card at you and leaves you stunned. First, have a conversation with someone. Find out stuff you have in common. And then, offer your card, as a way to stay in touch.

10.  Not get sloppy at a networking event.

An open bar doesn’t give you permission to act like you did at college frat parties. Have a few drinks to loosen up, but keep it professional.

11.  Prioritize your time.

For example, tackle your bigger work issues toward the beginning of the day and save your smaller, less important tasks for the end of the day when you’re winding down. Remember: there’s always tomorrow.

12.  Set professional goals.

You want accomplishments on your resume, not just finished tasks. Setting yearly professional goals will set you on track to advance your career. Meeting mentors in your industry through networking events and LinkedIn will help you realize what goals you need to prioritize.

13.  Send an SOS.

Chances are you’ve felt overwhelmed by your work load, at least once in your career. Knowing when and how to send a help signal to your manager and or co-workers is essential to preventing burnout!

14.  Conduct an interview.

Knowing how to interview someone is an important skill. Not only does it teach you how to ask the right questions, it teaches you what skillset and personality you value in yourself and your potential co-workers.

15.  Communicate!

Communication, when done well, sets you apart from other young professionals. Good communication is a strong asset, so learn it while you’re in the beginning stages of your career. For example, when emailing out project specs, I copy as many people as I think will benefit from the discussion. Looping someone in during the later stages of development could mean painful—and unnecessary—back-peddling.

16.  Handle being caught venting about co-workers.

It happens to the best of us. Your co-worker commits a major faux-pas, and you need to vent about it to another co-worker. You get caught. Knowing how to turn it into a dialogue with constructive criticism—or knowing how to avoid it all together—is very important.

17.  Not sweat the small stuff (you’re not curing cancer!)

Unless, of course, you are curing cancer. Then disregard. Ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” If not, don’t sweat it. Acknowledge your mistake and learn from it.

18.  401(k) – you should at least be thinking about it

The numbers don’t lie – someone who starts saving before the age of 25 accrues more with interest than someone who starts saving at 30.Not sure how much to invest? This is a great guide.

19.  Be a team player.

No one likes a selfish co-worker. Learn this healthy habit early in your career to get ahead of those who didn’t. You can operate under the “CYA” (cover your ass) mentality, just make sure it doesn’t turn into a “TUB” (throw under the bus) one.

20.  Talk to the CEO of your company.

Get sweaty palms talking to authority figures? Nix those nerves now!

21.  Lead a meeting.

You’ll need to learn how eventually, why not get it out of the way pre-25? Have a meeting agenda and make sure you open up for discussion as much as you can, so you’re not the only one talking. Also, you can take it one step further by following up with action items and decisions made during the meeting.

22.  Ask for time off without feeling guilty.

You earn your time off, so it’s important to take it with a clean conscience. If you’re planning on having a “TREAT YO SELF” day, you could look into local brewery tours, daytime trapeze classes, or some simple retail therapy.

23.  Put together a visual report.

Putting information into a strong visual report speaks volumes more than just throwing the numbers onto a spreadsheet and clicking send. About 60 percent of people are visual learners, so it’s important to make your information pop with charts and graphs.

24.  Give your elevator pitch.

Since I work for a small company, the question I get asked the most is, “What’s Ragan?” It took some practice, but I finally got my company’s elevator pitch down a few months after joining the team. Not sure what yours is? Listen to what your co-workers say.

25.  Be a mentor.

By the time you’re three years out of college, you will have had at least one younger person ask you for various career advice. Understanding the impact you have as a mentor is powerful, and the relationships you have with mentees can be some of the most rewarding ones you’ll have in your mid-20s.

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10 networking tactics that most people screw up

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David Spark

We all network, but we don’t all do it effectively. In fact, most of us are really bad at it. That’s very odd, as almost all of us are out there schmoozing and connecting with people.

I have become better at networking over the years. What I’m truly surprised by are all the commonsense elements of networking that are completely lost on people. Here are 10 things that most people should be doing—or doing better.

1. Press the flesh.

The core to networking is meeting people face to face. Except for rare occasions, such as long-distance online romances, all the friends and business colleagues that we trust we’ve met in person. If you think you can be an effective networker solely by engaging in social media, you’re sorely wrong. You have to get out and press the flesh.

2. Stop staring at your phone.

The worst offenders are people working a booth at a trade show. Nothing screams, “I don’t want to talk with you, and I’m too scared to talk with anyone,” more than staring at your phone. You’re blowing an amazing opportunity every time you stare at your phone at an event where you could make a true connection with someone walking by. Stop doing it.

3. Always have business cards.

This should be as basic as remembering to bring your driver’s license, credit cards, and money in your wallet. Make sure you always have business cards, especially if you’re attending a conference or trade show. Bring more than you think you’ll need. I am always stunned when I go to a conference and someone doesn’t have business cards. How do you expect someone to follow up with you? You can’t, because they won’t. But that’s often not an issue given the next technique.

4. Always follow up.

This is the core of all networking: following up. If you don’t do it, you might as well never have met the person. I would estimate that one out of 20 people I hand my business card to follows up. Collecting business cards without following up is a wasted engagement. It only takes days for the person to completely forget meeting you. If you follow up with some level of context of your meeting it increases the value and impact of the meeting. To remember that meeting, take notes on the business card.

When you do follow up, be specific about your follow up. Don’t just say, “Nice to have met you,” or, “We should meet for coffee sometime,” because that now puts the onus on the other person to set up the meeting and discuss its purpose. That’s quite a burden. If you want that to happen, you need to set the place, time, and purpose of the discussion.

5. Add to your address book/CRM program.

If you’re going to follow up with someone, you must capture them in your contact manager or, better, in your customer relationship management (CRM) program, whose main function is to help you manage connections and follow up with those connections.

6. Respond when someone follows up.

Similar to the above, I’m always astonished when I send a follow-up email to someone I just met the day before and they don’t even respond. I would say that at best one out of four people respond to a personal follow-up email. The lack of response is a slap in the face. It would be the equivalent of walking away from a conversation midsentence. We never do that, because it’s rude. It’s also rude if you don’t respond to a follow-up email.

7. Listen.

Yes, it’s good to be directed about what you’re doing and have focus, but you’ll be a far more effective networker and make better connections if you simply listen to others. If someone else isn’t as much a talker as you are, then ask questions. Pull them out of their shell; that will let you to listen to them. Networking is not an opportunity for you to spout out marketing copy that you hope someone else will absorb. Your job is to listen and create a relationship first.

8. Get people to like you.

This should be your top priority. Any objective or goal you may have can be extremely simplified if you just get people to like you. If people don’t know you, don’t trust you, or, worse, don’t like you, then making a true connection or selling them anything will be an uphill battle.

9. Follow on social media.

Social media affords us the ability to maintain connections with hundreds if not thousands of people through ambient intimacy. That’s the ability to know and converse with someone through a general open social conversation, most notably through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The only way you can continue this social conversation is to follow people in all these social spaces. Offer your links to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and ask for theirs in return.

10. Follow up—again.

Though you can’t keep following up with everyone, the point of networking is to maintain those relationships. Social media will probably be the most effective and efficient way to do this. That means you need to actually respond to people’s Facebook posts, Tweets, and LinkedIn questions. But once again, if you want to make true relationships you need to go back to step 1 and press the flesh.

Conclusion: Networking takes work, but it pays off.

Networking is hard work, and though I admit that I make mistakes with some of the above techniques, I have adhered to them as solidly as possible for six years. The payoff for me has been tremendous. It will pay off for you as well. And if you do it right, it’s actually a lot of fun. What’s not to like about schmoozing and meeting new people?

This article was originally a report published by Spark Media Solutions’ David Spark (@dspark) for Intertainment Media‘s Ingaged Blog, makers and distributors of the KNCTR and Ortsbo. 

3 tips for millennial networking

Lauren Yanow

Recently, Ragan Communications held an event at The Playground Theater for a night of free drinks, comedy, and networking. Some of the networking going on was more comical than the show—and the show was pretty funny.

After looking through the guest list, I found that most of the people in attendance were interns from various companies throughout Chicago. It’s great that fellow interns and millennials are taking advantage of networking opportunities, but just because there’s free booze—millennials shouldn’t treat networking like a big party.

Here are three things to keep in mind, the next time you accept an invite to network:

Be prepared

I talked with many people throughout the night. But when it was time to exchange information, many weren’t prepared to do that. Make business cards.  If you don’t want to spend the money on having them professionally made, at least run by Target and pick up a box to print them on your computer.

Watch what you drink

Note to fellow networkers: It’s not a good idea to talk about how many free drinks you had at the event and how you plan to go to the bars afterwards. Whether you are talking to someone who works for the company hosting the event or just another professional in attendance, you should always remain professional. Sorry, guys— this isn’t a frat party.

Introduce yourself

I love meeting people on Twitter and networking with them using LinkedIn, but walking into a room with dozens of professionals is a bit intimidating. The best thing you can do is just walk right up to someone and introduce yourself. Especially if it is someone you are eager to meet. Many people at the event expressed interest in meeting our CEO (@MarkRaganCEO), but very few worked up the nerve to walk up to him and say hello. Networking is about being fearless—or at the very least, saying hi.

What other advice would you give to millennials attending networking events?

10 ways to know when a millennial becomes an adult

Jessica Levco

We know you’re old enough to be considered an adult.

But when you start to compare your lifestyle to other people in your PR or communications office, do you ever feel like you’re faking it?

A lot of your co-workers are married, pop out babies, talk about their mortgage, worry about retirement, and spend their weekends at Little League practice.

And even though you’re only a few years younger than them, you sometimes feel like you’re in College 2.0. You’re still renting an apartment, staying out until 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and just recently mastered the art of boiling water (for your Ramen Noodles).

But even though you haven’t hit the traditional milestones that signify adulthood, you might be starting down that path—whether you like it or not.

Here are 10 ways to know if you’re becoming an adult in the PR or communications field.

Finding a steady job—and something that you like. A lot of your friends might be stuck in a dead-end job or working on something they are passion-less about. This feeling of aimlessness will make them feel more childlike. Don’t fall into the trap. If you’re already thinking that you don’t enjoy your workday, it’s your responsibility to make the change.

Moving to a new city. Speaking of changes, this is one of the most adult moves you can ever make. Especially if you’re doing it solo. Just the act of figuring out how to take apart your dresser drawer will make you feel like a competent 40-year-old.

Being financially responsible. Don’t ignore your HR manager when it’s time to sign up you’re your company’s 401K plan. Take $100 out of your pay check each month and put it into your savings account. When you get older, you’ll thank your younger self for being so prudent.

Being financially irresponsible, too. Remember: It’s OK to enjoy your money. If you want to order filet mignon every once in a while, we won’t tell.

Not asking for permission. Unless you’re defaming your company or selling insider information, try to see what you can do without constantly asking for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from your boss. As a millennial, you’re young, fresh, and eager—see how much you can get away with. (Example: We started Ragan’s Millennial Mafia before we told our CEO what we were up to.)

Going to networking events alone. This is one of the greatest, boldest things you can do for your career. If you tag around with co-workers, you’ll only end up talking to them. If you go by yourself, you’ll be forced to talk to people you normally might not get the chance to meet.

Being careful using social media. You know you’re growing up when you de-tag pictures of yourself from doing keg stands, playing beer pong or holding up a ‘Stop’ sign you stole. But be careful: Office holiday pictures can be just as scandalous.

Choosing your own vacation. For most of your life, you’ve taken trips with your friends or with your family, but adulthood is the chance to do something for yourself. Study a new language.  Save your money. Pick a place. Go. See what happens next.

Updating your wardrobe. You know you’re on the verge of adulthood when you get rid of all those Abercrombie sweaters you wore in high school. Look through some fashion magazines and figure out your own style to wear in the office.

Making a commitment to something for longer than a year. Mine was a three-year subscription to The New Yorker. I probably won’t be living in the same apartment complex three years from now, but there’s something gratifying about making a long-term commitment to something that I enjoy. Plus, I saved $30.

LinkedIn for millennials: 4 tips for creating a presence

By Jenny Fukumoto

LinkedIn isn’t “Facebook for old people.” A recent survey says that LinkedIn is one of the best tools for millennials to search for their next job.

Are you ready to take your profile to the next level?
Jonny, a fellow millennial co-worker, asked me to explain to him—in 30 seconds or less—how a young professional can build a LinkedIn presence.

I accepted the challenge.

Whoa! Did you get all that? Now that I have more than 30 seconds, let’s go into more detail.
 
Make sure you have a profile picture. Skip the one of you chugging a beer on Friday night.  Your picture should look professional. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to  shell out hundreds of dollars on glamour shots, but your picture should show your face clearly. This will make you more approachable and recognizable when you’re building your list of connections.
Fill in as much information as you can. Your job search will benefit from having information in all the fields, especially if you’re searching for a job. Recruiters in your field can search for your specific skills, so keywords (such as industry skills or computer programs you’re proficient with) can help you nab your dream job.
Join as many relevant groups as you can. This is the easiest way to network with your professional peers. You’ll also get emails (as frequently as you wish) updating you on discussion threads and job listings within that group.
Be proactive. First, connect with friends and professors you know from school, internships, and extracurricular activities. But it’s also completely appropriate to request to connect with someone you haven’t met yet, but would like to know better. Just make sure you write a  quick, professional note explaining why you want to connect. This could be a great way to meet your next mentor.
Do you have any LinkedIn job success stories to share? We’d love to hear them!

Networking 101: 5 tips for millennials

By Jessica Levco

Networking can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. But don’t fear—the Millennial Mafia is here to help!

Recently, Ragan Communications and The Playground Theatre joined together for a night of networking, improv and booze. We thought we’d share a few tips from what we learned.

Don’t mingle with other millennials. Save your conversations about Rebecca Black and your iPad 2 for a Friday night with your old college buddies. Now is the time to branch out of your generational comfort zone and talk to people who’ve been in the biz longer than you have. Hey, you might just learn something.

Have a drink, but don’t turn into a Lindsay Lohan. It’s perfectly acceptable to introduce yourself to people with a glass of Chardonnay in your hand. But save your hard-core drinking for the after-after party. Nobody likes a sloppy networker.

Start a conversation. Avoid this opening line: “Hi, my name is so-and-so and I work for ABC company and do XYZ.” That’s a rookie move. Allow the conversation to develop naturally. For starters, why not ask, “How did you hear about tonight’s event?”

Know what you do. When someone asks you what you do, be prepared. Say at least two to three sentences about your job responsibilities. Give the listener the highlights—nobody really likes talking about work, anyway.

Follow up. Assuming you followed rule No. 2, you should be sober enough to compose a quick email or a DM to the people you met. Everybody likes to be remembered.

Ragan and The Playground will be teaming up again for another night like this in the near future. We hope you’ll join us—and remember, bring your business card.

PS: Have you seen Episode 2 from the Millennial Mafia? In this one, we teach Boomer Bill an Internet safety lesson. Some describe it as “homo-erotic.” We describe it as “funny.”