For young professionals, it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race. America’s work ethic is deeply ingrained in our culture, and it’s generally accepted that, if you work hard and stay focused, you can achieve anything. It’s a great concept, but one that’s easy to take too far. Working hard and staying focused is important, but it should be balanced with time for yourself, time to plan your life, time with friends and family, and time to just breathe — even when you’re just starting out. Here are five tips to help you kickstart your career without losing sight of what truly matters.

Set Goals

In your professional and personal life, goals are important — particularly goals that are obtainable. Making a laundry list of things you wish to achieve is easy, but if you don’t write them down and post them somewhere as affirmations, they can easily fall off the radar. Start small and take it a step at a time. From mastering a software program to sticking to a 45-hour workweek to buying a franchise, your goals should focus on both your life and your career. In either area, once you reach one you are likely to strive to meet another. As an added bonus, the feeling of accomplishment when you reach a goal can translate into an overall better work life and personal life.

Get Your Finances in Order

Are you setting aside savings and taking advantage of your company’s match with a 401(k)?
Do you have an estate plan in case you die unexpectedly? Are you in a position to sell your business if you can no longer run it due to illness or injury? These are questions worth considering. If the answer to any of them is no, then you have some homework to do. It’s never too early to start saving, and by researching ways to save and invest your money, or by talking to a financial planner, you are paving the way for a better retirement.

And the unexpected does happen — always when you least expect it. This is why it’s imperative to have a plan for your finances and assets in case something bad does happen. Consider these the safety net pieces in the puzzle of life.

Take Some Risks

Having a safety net can make it easier to take risks, and taking risks is one of the best ways to advance in your career and personal life. Sure, it’s not always worth it. But you won’t know until you try. Maybe this is the year you switch careers to something that offers more flexibility and family time, like real estate. Or maybe it’s turning a hobby you love, like photography, into a full-time career.  Just taking a risk can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and you can at least say that you tried. If you fail, you’re likely to get back up again and try even harder the next time.

Invest in Professional Development

The world is a rapidly changing place. No matter what industry you are in, there is always newer, bigger, and better. The best way to keep up is by staying sharp and boosting your skill set. If you make yourself marketable and valuable, you are investing in your career for the long term. This means staying up to date on things like software, social media, or networking. Look for a mentor, or sign up for a class. All of this will pay off immeasurably.

Invest in Yourself

Do you take vacations? Do you avoid work on the weekend? Do you exercise regularly and eat healthy? If you said no to any of these, then it’s time for a change. It’s time to invest in yourself. Busy professionals are the worst offenders when it comes to disconnecting. The work ethic is strong, but the self care is lacking. By not taking time off for yourself, you will eventually burn out. Taking vacations and time away from work actually boosts productivity. Avoiding work when you’re at home means more time for you and your family. Exercising and eating healthy is an investment in your long-term health and wellness. Combined, all of these actions lead to less stress and a better work-life balance.

Juliemorris.org | j_morris@juliemorris.org

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