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Some Thoughts on “35 Things to Do for Your Career by 35”

(Going to do a little shop talk for a moment…)

Time, in partnership with The Muse, recently published a piece titled, “35 Things to Do for Your Career by 35.” If you spend any time on LinkedIn or career-focused blogs, you’re inundated with lists like these, many of which seem to be of dubious origin, and which often seem to disagree with the last list that site published.

This time, though, the list is spot-on accurate. The activities – positioned as things they “recommend getting started on sooner rather than later […] because you’ll make your professional future – not to mention day-to-day life – a whole lot easier” – touch on many of the same critical skills and mindset areas that we uncovered when my team at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning undertook extensive research to develop our New Leader Program.

The New Leader Program is designed to support and develop individuals as they make the transition from being an individual contributor to a first-time manager, a transition that often take place in the last 20s or early 30s (the same timeframe that the article focuses on). Based on our research, conversations with clients and learners around the world, and years of experience working with frontline leaders in global organizations, we decided to build the New Leader Program around the following five areas:

1. Developing a Leadership Mindset
2. Develop Personal Adaptability
3. Accelerate Talent Development
4. Develop High Performing Teams
5. Drive Execution

We can map most of the “35 Things to Do for Your Career by 35” into the materials covered in these five areas (and some even fall into multiple areas, as this shows):

Developing a Leadership Mindset: Know Your Superpower; Know Your Weakness; Know Your Career Non-Negotiable; Get Over Imposter Syndrome;

Develop Personal Adaptability: Really Refine Your Elevator Pitch; Learn How to Delegate; Do Something You’re Really, Really Proud Of; Stretch Your Limits; Do Something That Really Scares You; Have a Brad Network of People You Can Trust; Have a Couple of Specific Career Advisors; Perfect Your LinkedIn Profile; Have a Portfolio of Your Best Work; Know How to Manage Up; Find a To-Do List System That Works For You; Know Your Energy Levels – And Use Them; Know How Much Sleep You Need – and Commit to Getting It; Know How to Manage Stress; Have a Career Emergency Plan; Pick Up a Side Project; Invest In Yourself; Know What You Don’t Want; Give Yourself Permission to Go After What You Do;

Accelerate Talent Development: Learn From Something You’re Not So Proud Of; Get Comfortable With Getting Feedback; Get Comfortable With Giving Feedback; Get Comfortable With Saying No; Have a Couple of Specific Career Advisors; Know How to Negotiate; Know How to Send a Killer Email; Stop Over-Apologizing; Invest In Yourself;

Develop High Performing Teams: Learn From Something You’re Not So Proud Of; Get Comfortable With Getting Feedback; Get Comfortable With Giving Feedback; Get Comfortable With Saying No; Have a Couple of Specific Career Advisors; Know How to Negotiate; Know How to Send a Killer Email; Stop Over-Apologizing; Invest In Yourself;

Drive Execution: Know How to Sell (Yourself or Something Else);

Not everything fit into our five topics, but those that didn’t are still great recommendations:

1. Scrub Your Online Presence: The last thing you want is a social media post taken out of context, or a photo from your college days, derailing your career. Want advice on how to avoid these problems? Check out Soumitra Dutta’s Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Yourself: What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?

2. Master Your Handshake: Your body language often says more about you than the words you speak. Body language expert Allan Pease gave a TEDx presentation on the importance of body language, and how to improve yours: “Body Language, The Power is in the Palm of Your Hands.”

3. Invest In Your Retirement: You might be focusing on your career now, but you also need to be spending time thinking about life after work. Investing now – even small amounts – will have a significant impact in 20-, 30-, or 40-years, when you’re ready to put your feet up and relax. Here’s Money Magazine’s “Ultimate Guide to Retirement.”

4. Invest In The World: Giving to charity has obvious benefits for the organization and those they support, but did you know that it has psychological benefits for the giver? A recent research paper from Harvard Business School found that those who gave back felt a level of greater happiness equivalent to getting a higher paycheck: “Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal.”

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