How to Be Wildly Successful at Work (for Real)

These 10 practical steps for young people who are starting new jobs (and anyone) add up to Adulting 101

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With graduation season upon us, another wave of young adults will be entering (or is already entering) the workforce, many of them for the very first time.

Some are finishing up high school and others, college. For others, it’s simply time to go to work due to other life factors.

As an employer, I watch as this fresh wave of energy and talent comes through my doors every spring and summer.

Unfortunately, many young people realize they’re not fully prepared for life in the “real world.” Trigonometry, chemistry and French are all wonderful subjects, but those subjects are only used by .0001 percent of the population after graduation.

Most schools do not provide classes for the more practical life skills needed as an adult.

Related: 21 Great Pieces of Advice for Today’s College Graduates

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This dilemma is what drove my co-author and me to write “Adulting 101.” We’ve consistently noticed a wide discrepancy between concepts learned in school and what is actually needed to succeed as an adult.

As we all know, the first step to get any job is usually completing an interview. There are many resources out there about how to do this well, including the tips and tricks found in in our book. But once the job is theirs, many people don’t know what to do next.

Here are 10 ideas to help young adults be wildly successful in their workplace.

1.) Know and lead yourself first. Develop great habits and routines out of the gate. Make sure that you know yourself well through personality tests, reading and reflecting.

2.) Remember to smile, make eye contact, and speak with enthusiasm, regardless of the job. These three elements showcase tremendous self-confidence and set you apart from your peers.

3.) Get with the people you want to be like. There are always those in the workplace with bad attitudes — you need to run away from them. Since you become a lot like the five people you spend the most time with, find the ones who have a positive attitude and love what they do.

4.) Remember that your first job is not your final job. Ambition and a drive to succeed are wonderful, but they don’t guarantee you a promotion in your first six months. Know that it takes time to grow and learn in your role. There is no rush to do something different.

Related: Caveats on Career Advice for Kids

5.) Serve those around you. Be humble and genuinely care for those around you. This kind of emotional intelligence is vital to successful leadership. Every person has a story. You should take the time to learn them.

6.) Work really, really hard. Have grit and perseverance when the job seems challenging. You learn more through adversity than success.

7.) Request feedback! Ask your leaders how you can do better in your role. Don’t become defensive when you aren’t doing something quite right, or quite the way your managers expected. No one is perfect, and you can learn how to make yourself a more valuable member of the team.

8.) Take initiative. Do not sit on the sidelines and wait for someone to tell you to do something. It’s better to be the person on the team who tried and failed than the person who didn’t try anything at all.

9.) Ask your boss how you can help him or her specifically with their role. Your job is to help deflect stress away from your boss or supervisor as much as possible — not add to it. If you see a problem, solve it.

10.) Write handwritten notes. Everyone is bombarded by emails, texts and phone calls. Take a couple of minutes and send a short note of encouragement or appreciation to someone in your workplace.

These are just a few suggestions for how to launch into (or to continue in) the workforce successfully.

A little bit of intentionality can go a long way.

The workforce is where you’ll spend most of your waking hours. Unfortunately, we’re not always shown how to be successful in this arena. Perhaps it’s time to refocus our efforts.

Josh Burnette is a husband, dad, business owner, and co-author of the new book “Adulting 101,” from which the practical points above are drawn. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from James Madison University in 2009, and after graduating, returned to work at Chick-fil-A — where he had worked when he was very young — to combine his love of business and working with young people. He’s the owner and operator of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas, and employs over 100 people.

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