Planning your career as a young professional

Your career is as personal and unique as your life story. Chances are your chosen career will stretch over a lifetime and define many aspects of your life, so you want to make the most of it. In the beginning, when you’re still a young professional, it’s natural to worry about the future, to fret about where your career is headed and wonder whether the success you crave will materialise.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to you to plan and follow your career path. No matter how ambitious you are – whether you long to be a CEO some day or to start your own company – nothing worthwhile is accomplished by chance. Determination, hard work and calculation are essential ingredients to success. These tips may help set you on the right path as a young professional ...

Have a career plan

Where do you want your career to go, and what do you hope to achieve in the future? If you want to plan your optimum career, you need to spell out your aspirations instead of working purely for the monthly salary. A career plan is your road map to success, and the signposts are the goals you set and meet along the way.

Write down your career plan and refer to it often to make sure you are reaching your desired milestones. Which companies can help you reach those milestones? Include them in your plan, along with the steps you will need to take to be employed by those companies. You can also research the fastest-growing industries in South Africa, to see where you fit in and where you’d like to place yourself.

Learn as much as you can

Very few of us start off in our dream job. Rather than complaining or being miserable in your first job, treat it as an opportunity to learn as much you can, contribute positively and develop great relationships. Don’t be shy to let your employer know your career aspirations. If you work at becoming a valued member of the team, you’re more likely to be included in their staff development plans.

It may be tempting to start job-hopping for the chance to earn more, but sometimes it helps to stay in one job that offers you the chance to expand your range of skills. That makes you capable of taking on more responsibility, which opens up opportunities for promotion within your company, and the increased salary that comes with it.


Be sure to update your CV as you reach different milestones


Job-hopping every time you get a better salary offer, on the other hand, could result in you hitting a career ceiling, if your better-paying jobs don’t help you extend your skills. When you’ve been working long enough to get promoted purely on the grounds of experience, if you haven’t developed the skills you need in a more responsible role, you could discover that your career has been moving sideways, not upwards.

Find a mentor

As a young professional, your career path is easier to plan if you find a mentor – an experienced individual you look up to who has a successful career. A mentor can give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience. This relationship can be informal, but a mentor with your best interest at heart can be a valuable guide to help you navigate through your career and your personal life.

Use social media to brand yourself

As you grow in your career, don’t be afraid to build a personal brand. Social media is well positioned to help. Create a LinkedIn page and populate it with interesting information that showcases your skills or knowledge. Write interesting articles about your field or work and post them on LinkedIn. That’s how you can establish yourself as an expert. Use social media to network with other people in your industry.

A word of caution, though: when you’re active on social media, avoid posting in anger or in response to controversial opinions. A poor choice of words or an angry taunt can destroy your life in 3 seconds. If you’re going to build a brand on social media to advance your career, you need to maintain a positive image. An ugly online rant could alienate half your readers from your brand in an instant.

Polish your CV

Be sure to update your CV as you reach different milestones, so that it’s always up to date if you decide to apply for a new job. Since your CV is the first thing your prospective employer will know about you, make sure that it reflects the best you have to offer. Highlight the unique mix of skills that make you stand out from the others.

Create a new CV for every job you apply for. Research the job description and then structure your CV to show how you meet the requirements. Every application you make should be tailored to the role you’re applying for. Mention accolades as well as skills you’ve acquired outside the workplace – it will show your willingness to stretch yourself, which is an attribute that most employers find attractive. Make sure that your CV is the sum total of all the hard work you have put into developing your career path.

To find out more, download our career toolkit for Young Professionals.

Private Clients from Nedbank is designed to enable the aspirations of young professionals, among others. For more information from one of our consultants, request a call back.