Even if you’re a millennial–the redheaded stepchild of the working world–you can achieve some measure of career success in 2016. To help you along the way, we reached out to Karen Chopra, a Washington-based Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor, for her advice. Here’s 15 tidbits she thinks DC’s young workforce should embrace to crush it in their careers this year.
1. Be a “presence” around the office.
“Cultivate that hard-to-define but always recognizable ‘presence.’ It starts with professional dress, good posture, good eye contact, and calm and confident speech patterns,” says Chopra. “People with professional presence get more opportunities—to brief superiors, to meet important clients, to speak to industry groups—regardless of their age.”
2. Ask more questions.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” says Chopra. “Thoughtful questions will garner you more respect than talking about what you (and everyone else) already knows.”
3. But not too many questions.
“Baby boomer parents raised this generation to think, question and examine everything,” says Chopra. “Overall, a good trait, but please don’t do that on the bosses time. Your boss wants the headlines; keep the details to yourself.”
4. Stop saying these things.
“‘I went to college for this?’ ‘I’m being wasted on this task.’ Any spoken abbreviations (OMG, LOL, IMHO). Anything that signals contempt for older people,’” says Chopra.
5. Follow the example of your older, calmer coworkers and don’t sweat the small stuff.
“More experienced employees tend to have better perspective,” says Chopra. “They know what constitutes a real crisis, and they don’t overreact to small setbacks.”
6. Make your boss’s priorities your own.
“The biggest trap people fall into is losing track of what the boss wants,” says Chopra. “We get wrapped up in what we think is important, or what a colleague has asked us to do, and are disappointed when the boss points out that her priority is still languishing. Doing what the boss wants is the key to professional success, from your first job to the boardroom.”
7. And refresh yourself on those priorities on daily basis.
“All of us should get in the habit of starting every day by tackling the two or three projects that must be finished that day—in other words, our highest priority items,” says Chopra. “If we do that, every day will be highly productive.”
8. Don’t sit at your desk all day.
“Get up and walk around multiple times a day,” says Chopra. “It’s good for you physically, and gives you a mental breather, but is also opens up the possibility for interactions with other people, which can lead to all sorts of unexpected and wonderful outcomes.”
9. Attend as few meetings as you can.
“Most meetings are a waste of time,” says Chopra. “So cancel as many meetings as you can, skip as many meetings as you dare, and use that time to get something done.”
10. Even if you have a job, don’t stop networking.
“Get to know a wide variety of people inside your organization,” says Chopra. “Join a professional association and attend some of their meetings. Send LinkedIn invitations to everyone you meet. Ask more senior people in your field for some time and ask their advice and guidance.”
11. In fact, start thinking about your next job now.
“Job security does not lie in holding onto the job you have now, it lies in knowing what job you’d target next,” says Chopra. “Once you realize that, you understand that getting out for lunch, coffee, conferences, and networking events is the key to success. Get out of the office on a regular basis.”
12. If you’ve been miserable for six months, move on.
“The first three months on any job is usually difficult, with a steep learning curve, so when people say they don’t like a job, I want to know how long they have been in it,” says Chopra. “Many people don’t like jobs they think they aren’t doing well, and as their competence increases, they find they like the job better. After six months or so, if you are really miserable, then feel free to move on, assuming this is the first time this has happened. If you left a string of jobs after six months because you didn’t like them, then that’s a red flag to employers.”
13. Demonstrate that you can handle a promotion.
“If you want a promotion, you have to show you are ready for it, which means you should be killing your current job: Your written work is on point and largely error free; you hit deadlines without needing reminders; you anticipate problems and bring your boss potential solutions; you are hitting high on any metrics established for your position; your performance reviews are good, your colleagues like and respect you. If this doesn’t describe your current work, then polish it up,” says Chopra.
14. If you fear the end is near, be prepared.
“If you fear a lay-off, then update your LinkedIn profile and resume, identify the job you want next, compile a list of target companies to research, and then network, network, network,” says Chopra. “You could have a new job before the pink slip hits.”
15. In general, exert more of these qualities.
“Openness and curiosity; a sense of perspective; initiative, generosity towards others, good judgement,” says Chopra.