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How to Be Taken More Seriously at Work in Your 20s

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When you’re first starting out in your career, you may struggle with the feeling that you’re not being taken seriously. Even though you’re a competent professional ready to take on challenges, your coworkers might think that because you’re fresh out of school you lack experience and maturity. If you want to be taken seriously at work, you have to invest time and effort in forming a good impression and building trust.

How to be taken more seriously at work as a recent graduate

You don’t want to be stuck at the bottom of the org chart forever, do you? Position yourself for success by following these pieces of advice for recent graduates:

Always be prepared to provide value

Take the time to understand the context of meetings and work-related events before going into them. When you’re first starting out in your career, this is especially applicable because you’re often pulled in multiple directions and brought into things at the last minute. But no matter what, make sure you know who will be in attendance and what the meeting will be about before it begins.

People notice and appreciate when you know what’s going on because it shows you are paying attention and understand the greater context as it relates to your job and company.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re keeping up with current events. Having a pulse on what’s happening in the world and your industry makes it easy for you to contribute to conversations as much as possible.

Dress for success by paying attention to your environment

Dressing the part doesn’t mean you have to wear a full suit and tie every day, especially if you’re in a more casual work environment. Dress codes vary dramatically across industries and companies. For recent graduates, there’s some truth to the adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” but don’t overdo it. Pay attention to the best-dressed people at your company and take cues from them to look polished and put together.

Pro Tip: Not only will people take you more seriously, but research suggests that dressing more formally can make you feel and appear more powerful.

Take initiative and exceed what’s expected of you

Do everything you can to break out of your comfort zone and take initiative. It’s expected that you can check all the boxes of your job description, but it’s unexpected and appreciated when you go above and beyond. Offering solutions to problems, speaking up in meetings to provide new ideas, and taking risks by experimenting with different approaches are just a couple of ways to demonstrate that you’re a self-starter.

Pro Tip: After you feel comfortable in your current role, you can start looking at the tasks required in the position that’s one level above yours. Showing that you would be able to take on a more demanding role will position and prepare you for career advancement.

Read more in our article: Why You’re Not Getting Promoted (and What to Do About It).

Speak with confidence and conviction

Speaking confidently is easier said than done. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, speak quickly, and flub your words in meetings. When speaking, try to remain calm, avoid using common filler words like “um” and “like.” Practice speaking without inflection (that’s when your tone rises at the end of statements) as this can make you sound unsure of what you’re saying.

Pro Tip: Practice makes perfect. Consider running through presentations in the mirror beforehand or attending a local Toastmasters meeting to get more practice in public speaking.

Learn to write professional, concise emails

This is a common one for recent graduates. School taught you to write a certain way—full of fancy vocabulary words, long sentences, and research citations. Do your best to break this habit and learn how to write simply and concisely.

This will be worth it in the long run because research shows that readers perceive writers who write more simply as more intelligent.

Pro Tip: Not sure where to start? Look at how you’re currently writing emails and reports and try to cut out any unnecessary filler words wherever you can.

Be on time by being five minutes early

This point cannot be stressed enough: always be on time. Showing up to meetings and events on time shows others that you know the value of time and that you respect their time. Showing up late is perceived as rude and impolite. Consider arriving at work or joining meetings 5 to 10 minutes earlier.

Pro Tip: Research shows that employees who get into the office earlier are perceived as more conscientious and receive higher performance ratings overall.

Create boundaries around your professional relationships

It’s easy to blur the lines between your professional and personal life. Before you know it, a happy hour or two can turn into partying with your coworkers on the weekends. While tempting, this can harm your professional image in the long run so make sure you proceed with caution.

Pro Tip: While it’s important to get to know your coworkers and maintain a fun and friendly environment, you want to make sure you create and maintain limits around your professional relationships.

View every opportunity as a learning experience

You’re not going to know everything and that’s okay. To grow, you need to recognize your limitations and actively work to fill your knowledge gaps. Your openness to learning, plus your honesty and humility will help communicate your value to your coworkers and boss.

Pro Tip: Make sure you’re constantly assessing your areas for improvement and setting achievable goals to get to the next level in your career.

Go to business school and earn an MBA or business master’s degree

Finally, consider going to business school. Investing in yourself and your future with an MBA or business master’s degree demonstrates to employers that you are management material worthy of being taken seriously. A graduate business degree offers you fresh ideas, differentiates you from others, qualifies you for higher-level positions, and gives you credibility in your industry and the business world overall. Going to business school will give you the credibility boost you’re looking for now and accelerate your career advancement in the long run.

Learn more about the different types of graduate business school programs, what an MBA is, and why an MBA is a smart choice for the uncertainty of the COVID-19 era.

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Calling all optimists logo black and yellowThis article was written in partnership with Calling All Optimists, a career resource to help professionals find their next career step. Learn more and sign up here.