Making the best use of the first 2 years of your professional career

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10 pieces of advice to ace the starting point of your career!

So LinkedIn reminded me that it was my two-year work anniversary at Rakuten this week.

Product Management at Rakuten was my first full-time job and also my first foray into a large organization. Over these 2 years, there have been a lot of realizations, mistakes, conversations, and successes, and it got me reflecting.

This month, many fresh grads will be starting new careers, so these are the 10 points of advice I would give them.

Caveat — A lot of it is specific to medium or large organizations, but the advice can be applied to all types of careers.

So here goes -

  • Things could be slow in large organizations, so don’t expect drastic changes. However regularly change something small. It will still have an exponential impact, as it starts becoming part of the regular processes.
  • Make your colleagues your friends. Try to know them personally if they are open to it, and be open about your own personal life as well when appropriate. Be unconditional with the help you provide anyone. Building good relationships will help you in the long term in some way or another.
  • Utilize your manager 1-on-1s to the fullest. Talk about your concerns, career plans, successes, and any ideas that you think might improve the team. Your success is your manager’s success, so be very clear about your thoughts so that they can help you best.
  • Always try to find side projects (work that isn’t directly assigned to you, but seems to be a gap within the company) to improve your skills or the organization from a higher level.
  • Take as many public speaking opportunities as you can. This improves visibility, especially when working virtually. This is the most important skill for your entire career as well as social life.
  • Find a community of like-minded people in your company. If there is none, be the one to start it. This allows you to network with people from different departments and backgrounds, and create more opportunities for yourself or your team.
  • Try to go deeper to find hidden value adds and perks that the company provides. You’d be surprised that they might fund conferences, certifications, online courses, etc. Also, understand what the stock options plans actually mean in the company and how do they vest. And if nothing exists, ask for it and find data to back it up.
  • If things start feeling too comfortable only after two years, it might be time to take on new responsibilities or change your department, or company altogether. As a young professional, this is the state you want to avoid if you want to grow.
  • Always document your best tasks and their impact to show to your manager during evaluation, to improve your resume, or to create engaging content for your personal brand.
  • Always have a 2-year and 5-year plan written down somewhere to keep you on the right path in the future! Whenever you feel lost, go back to it, and see if your values still align with your goals. If not, update it and realign yourself.

Good luck to all!