The 20-Something Guide to Becoming a Young Professional

Perhaps the most anxiety-inducing event of my young life was my college graduation.  

As May 2016 loomed closer and closer, I felt a knot tightening in my stomach. I was proud of my college experience – from studying abroad to interning, I thought I had done a lot of things “right.” The rulebook told me so.

However, I kept telling myself that my first job would set the tone for the rest of my career, and I was worried about making the wrong choice.

Cue the brilliant and ever-witty Merritt. We met for coffee, and she helped me fine-tune my resume. She offered meaningful encouragement and advice, and I left with a renewed sense of purpose. (And then I took a backpacking trip to Europe for 30 days to hide from responsibility just a little while longer).

I had taken Merritt’s Fundraising and Communication Trends course in my last semester at Rockhurst, and there I found the perfect intersection of two of my passions – writing and marketing. I hoped to emulate Merritt’s career. So when a position with M&C opened up a few months later, it felt like the nonprofit gods were smiling down on me.

I feel very fortunate to be where I am today. Thanks to powerhouse mentors and a beautiful combination of responsibility and support, I’ve learned important lessons that are applicable to young professionals in any field. So at the risk of sounding like an over-confident millennial, here are a few things young professionals in pursuit of the right job ought to seek out.

  1. Continuing education/professional development opportunities. I’ve heard professors, colleagues and friends and family repeat this adage: there should never be a point in your career when you stop learning. Attending workshops, joining professional organizations and earning certifications help you to have a more fulfilling and well-rounded experience … and finding an employer who encourages these activities will help you to be more satisfied at work.
  2. Responsibility and support. I mentioned this earlier, but I can’t stress it enough. Being able to contribute to your organization in meaningful ways while knowing your team has your back if don’t know where to go next is extremely helpful. No one wants to work for a micro-manager, but lack of engagement is equally frustrating. A collaborative and encouraging environment is the dream.
  3. Projects that broaden your horizons. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. That said, as a fresh college graduate I had little experience writing for certain platforms. Learning about these new areas helped me add skills to my own toolbox, while making me more valuable to my company. Look for a place that will help you grow, while allowing you to showcase the areas where you already shine.

M&C is a proud sponsor of YNPNkc, which provides diverse opportunities for networking around Kansas City, and partners with Nonprofit Connect to offer professional development programming for young professionals in the nonprofit sector.