Don't be afraid to go after the job you really want. Credit: Ingram Publishing Don't be afraid to go after the job you really want.
Credit: Ingram Publishing

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds the opposite is true of young professionals today.

“Millennials are very hard workers and very idealistic,” says Traina, a blogger for HelloGiggles and author of the new book “The 20-Something Guide to Getting it Together.”

But, she adds, “I think a lot of early 20-somethings hit a rut [when it comes to figuring out their career paths] and I think part of it is not knowing what you want.”


Traina says young professionals feeling stuck in entry-level jobs should pay attention to these tips to get their careers on track.

No one is going to pluck you out of obscurity

When Traina first began working at a television production company in her early 20s, she spent almost all of her time at the office, working over 12 hours most days. “I was working really hard,” she recalls, “and I thought someone would basically say ‘We should reward this girl for just being there.’” Most workplaces don’t actually work that way.

You have the right to advocate for yourself

Traina finds that many entry-level employees are hesitant to speak up about their ambitions or future plans because they are worried about rubbing people the wrong way or wasting their time. “Take a little bit more control,” she says. “I don’t think 20-somethings should ever feel like they are annoying someone by asking for advice.”

Picture your next step

“It’s important to think to yourself, ‘What are the next options for me?’” Traina says. She advises asking yourself if you’d want the job your direct supervisor has, and why or why not. Some detective work may be required. Traina advises talking to friends and acquaintances about their jobs and taking classes and workshops as ways to discover the answer.

Don’t wallow in misery

It can be easy to constantly vent to friends and family about work frustrations. “But the more you complain, the more you want to complain,” believes Traina. She suggests using your downtime — which is precious — to really unplug from work and to enjoy spending time with those you care about.

Remember, your first job won’t be your dream job

“You aren’t going to be happy for the first couple of years in your career,” Traina reminds readers. Most entry-level jobs are primarily administrative. Acknowledge that this is the reality for most careers, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Volunteer to do tasks for the higher-ups to get noticed

“It was face time with important people at the company,” says Traina of why she would take on these tasks. “You are there as a sponge. While you are cleaning that filing cabinet, you are seeing the inner workings of the company.” Increasing your visibility at work and diversifying your skills is key.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

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