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Young, upwardly mobile and professional – how to avoid the common pitfalls

Young, ambitious, upwardly mobile and professional – without giving in to the marketing definitions of yuppies and yumps and what have you – we still can admit that this is a socially defined association often stronger than cultural, racial, gender or geographic affiliations. Life stages are often so much more uniting than we give them credit for.

Today, we talk about the young, upwardly mobile professionals – specifically, the top ten mistakes that a young upwardly mobile professional is likely to make, and how not to fall into these traps.

1) Not realizing you are one
May be it is the instinctive desire not to admit that you are one of the most lucrative groups that greedy marketeers are after, but many of the young upwardly mobile professionals don’t even realise that they are part of this social phenomenon – in waiting to arrive, they sometimes forget that they are well onto their paths. This is not a article to find out where you fit in so you can buy the right clothes or socialize with the right people – but if you are a young mid career professional, who has made their mark in a field, but is raring to go a lot more – then it is important that you realize, perhaps not that you are a yuppie, but that you are a valued professional – who is young (which means you have plenty of time to scale many heights) and upwardly mobile (your trajectory is firmly pointing upwards, and you could keep it that way for a long time to come).

Realize your value, don’t underestimate your potential and make conscious choices to maximize what you can achieve.

2) Not investing / understanding your image
Image – something people don’t think about until it is too late. Do you have to be a CEO and hire an image consultant to have a good image? Laura Morgan Roberts of HBS writes:

People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace,” she says. “It is only wise to add your voice in framing others’ theories about who you are and what you can accomplish.

It is generally accepted that people judge you first by what they see, then by what they hear and eventually, by what we do. And most of us spend most of our working life doing things and a very small portion on presenting ourselves in the right light. There are many tips you can find for managing your image, there is one that I feel is most critical. Be proactive. Understand what your desired image, understand what your real image is and decide what you want to do about it. This is not rocket science, all it takes is a bit of time and creativity.

3) Inflexibility in goals
A lot of us have goals we have always wanted to achieve. Professionally and personally, we have dreams. And it is true that those who stick with the dreams are the most likely to achieve them. Yet, we live in changing times. And a mistake that several people make is refusing to let go of what they have always wanted to do, just because it is what they always wanted to do. It is ok to choose a new path, it is ok to redefine your priorities. When you are dead fixed on specific goals, you also run the risk that you may not see the other golden opportunities that pass you by.

Reevaluate your goals, and do not be afraid to change directions.

4) Relying on brand strength instead of quality
We talked about image. And now I am going to say that people often focus on brand strength instead of quality. Contradictory, you might say. But let me explain. Many a time, I have come across people who walk into a room and introduce themselves through a volley of impressive names – be it schools or previous employers. Yes, true, I am impressed, but I also like to see it backed up eventually by real quality of work. And I realize this is gross generalization, but people with the big brand names often forget that they need to work just as hard as everyone else to get the quality. So just don’t fall into the trap that just because you have a big name to support you and win you the great first impressions, you don’t work to deliver good quality products. Eventually, quality trumps brand. Always.

5) Not strategizing the career
Strategy – how often do we think about it. How many of us think where do you want to do forty years down the line and work backwards and come up with a plan ( I still say the plan has to be flexible). To succeed, you need an overall strategy, distilled to a plan. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Can you imagine a company growing without a vision and a mission? Would you like to work for a firm that has no real strategy? Why would you think you will achieve success if you are like a boat floating aimlessly on the water? Let’s get out that map, compass, and charter our course.

6) Forgetting about life, friends and family and most importantly, yourself
You are so busy making your big career that you forget all about the other aspects of your life – sounds familiar? In this day and age where broken families and burnouts are common casualties of a world that priorities career over everything, it falls to every individual’s responsibility to define his or her own boundaries. The best thing that has happened to me ever since I moved to Europe, even more than the many beautiful countries I get to visit – is that I have learned to work in order to live, and not live in order to work. Here is another thing I have learned – set your boundaries and respect them, and others will too.

A colleague once told me – imagine a stone being thrown into a the water. It forms ripples. The inner most ripple is strong and clear, and the farther the ripples are from the center they fade away. But the outer ripples always take the shape of the inner ripple. Now, imagine that the inner most ripple is yourself. The next one may be your spouse. The next one may be your family and friends. And the next your career. The order maybe whatever you choose. But let the innermost one be yourself. Because if you don’t get that one right, you are not going to the get the rest right either.

Take time out for yourself. To enjoy and to relax. And to be with your loved ones. And you will find that a fast paced career is much more sustainable.

Posted in Management on February 3, 2008

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  1. Young, upwardly mobile and professional - how to avoid the common … | Careers Resource Center linked to this post on February 4, 2008

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