New Year -- newly improved you. Every January I update my mentoring advice for young professionals. Too many resolutions can be counterproductive -- but try these bite-sized ones on for size. I think they’ll fit!
1. Look up, buttercup! In 2017, we visited Africa with Mercy Ships, a nonprofit that delivers routine surgeries to the forgotten African poor. One day we traveled off-site from the ship and drove to Ouidah, the final place of the slave trade route before the slaves were transferred to the ship to be sent away. My assistant, Erin, was sitting in the car editing a video to send back to Fox News – headphones in, eyes glued to her laptop screen. I tapped her on the shoulder and suggested she put her work aside for a moment and just look around. I watched her eyes widen as she stared in awe at colorful signs, women selling fresh bread, and goats roaming anywhere they chose. “Look at that!” she exclaimed every 30 seconds.
She pulled me aside and thanked me later for insisting she take a screen break. “I can’t believe I almost missed all that!” she said.
You may not realize that you’re spending most of your time looking down at a screen. Try to catch yourself and spend some time looking up. You never know what you might be missing.
2. OK, seriously, stop worrying: You often hear me say to young adults, “don’t worry your young lives away.” I am a worrier and it’s the biggest waste of time. “Stop worrying” is the number one piece of advice I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self (along with PLEASE WEAR SUNSCREEN DANA). It is easy to get overwhelmed with the pressures of daily life: Is this job right for me? What do I want to do with my life? How can I pay my bills on this salary? What if I never get married? Am I in the right city? Should I go to graduate school?
While these concerns deserve careful thought and focus, they shouldn’t control your mind and cause you anxiety every day. Instead, trust your gut. Draft pro-con lists. Make decisions that you feel are right for you in this moment. But don’t try to plan out your entire life right now. Let yourself grow – trust me, you have time!
3. Don’t get a dog: You may consider this odd advice coming from me, but hear me out. I absolutely recommend getting a dog at the right time in your life – Henry and Jasper have filled my house with such joy – but getting one as a young adult can be tough. Take it from me – my boyfriend in college gave me a dog and it was a sweet gesture but the worst timing. I wasn’t able to take care of the dog in my dorm room and as a college student with a job I didn’t have the time to dedicate to my puppy that it needed and deserved. So, I had to give her away, after I’d already bonded with her. It was heartbreaking.
You are young. Your focus right now should be on growing your lives through your career, traveling, visiting friends, and being out in the world! The moment you get a dog you will feel guilty doing anything at night besides leaving work and going home to see your pet. Why do you think Peter and I order take-out almost every night?
4. Travel: Now is the time to travel and see the world. Once you add kids and family members to your life, in addition to growing your career, all of a sudden traveling becomes difficult if not impossible.
Seeing the world is important for growth and character development. It helps you discover more about yourself and who you are. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can take a road trip out West or volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. You may also have the opportunity to move to a different state or country for a job. Take it.
Whatever travel opportunities present themselves, whether through work or friends or family, go now. You’ll never regret it.
5. Send notes. Lots and lots of notes: As I discuss in my book, “And the Good News Is,” building a network of allies is the number one full-proof way to expand your career. But once you build this network, you must cultivate it. See a great article in the paper by a reporter you like? Email the reporter a compliment. Your former boss gets a new job? Send him or her a congratulatory note.
Whatever you do, always reach out. The digital era makes it easy to stay in touch, so make sure you use that to your advantage as much as you can. But don’t forget – never underestimate the value of a handwritten note!
- Besides those Big Five, try to make these a part of your 2018 goals:
- Perfect your “Poker Face.”
- Stop saying “like.”
- Don’t chew gum at work (or on a date).
- Sit up straight and focus on your posture.
- Take care of your health – mind, body, and soul.
- Stick up for others, even when they don’t know it.
- Be kind, spread happiness not hate (#BYETwitterTrolls).
- Read the news every day.
- Call your parents.