8 Necessities for Young Professionals

With the holidays upon us, you might be thinking of gifts for the people in your life. Maybe you’ve got a young person who is just starting their career, or maybe you are a young professional wondering if you’re missing anything you should have that can help you along the way. We’ve made a list of 8 things we believe should be in every young professional’s kit. The first 4 are tangible items that could be given, but the last three are things that your young professional will have to come up with on their own. In future posts, we’ll address these further, but for now, let’s look at why we think these 8 things are must-haves for any professional.


1. Business Cards:

After decades of cost-cutting and callcenterization (did we just coin that word?) in the corporate world many entry level jobs where young professionals are starting their careers don’t have a company provided business card. Tony never had a card during his 2 years in claims nor did Carly during her 3+ years as a top selling agent at Nationwide Sales Solutions. While we are big advocates that as a matter of engagement and retention companies should give business cards to ALL employees, the reality today is different so let’s make this very clear, you MUST have a business card.

Even if your company doesn’t give you one, that’s no excuse, you need to go out and get your own in order to network properly. Vista Print can set you up with your own personal cards for cheap. If you really want to shine get something more distinctive from Moo.com. Bonus points if you get one of your design-oriented or artsy friends to design it for you. One big advantage of having your own card is that you can be a LOT more creative that with your corporate card, Tony’s personal card was bright red, had his picture and designations on the front and a QR code which would scan his contact info into your phone address book and got a lot of attention. He was actually kind of sad to have to give up using that one when he got his first official business card as a Nationwide Agribusiness Underwriter. In short, be memorable and don’t look foolish, always have business cards.

One word of warning, once you do get business cards from your employer don’t hand out both to people you meet, it looks arrogant. Unsurprisingly, Tony learned this lesson the hard way.


2. A Professional Photo:

Your LinkedIn profile is your living resume and much more, and it has to have a photo, profiles without photos are not memorable and feel impersonal. In the US photos should never to be used as part of the resume or cover letter (another rule Tony learned the hard way), but they must be a part of your LinkedIn profile.

Many companies want your photo in their email system or intranet directory for ease of recognition between coworkers, especially those in geographically distant offices. You need a photo that shows you in a professional light. It doesn’t have to be an expensive studio shot, but at least dress professionally, stand in front of a non-distracting background, look straight at the camera, and smile. To many people who have never met you, this is your first impression so make it a good one! Cartoons, team logos, and pictures of your kids or pets don’t give a professional impression. Finally if at all possible we recommend you wear a suit, think of it like an interview, regardless of what job you have right now, you are a professional!

Always remember that LinkedIn (and Yammer or whatever other in-house social network your company might use) is not Facebook, keep your photo professional. Click here for a great article with more details on how to take a great professional photo.

Make sure your photo looks like this:

Not like this (blurred to protect the guilty):


3. A Kindle:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry S. Truman.

[tweet_dis inject=”#Career”]#Leaders are readers so we recommend you develop a love of reading.[/tweet_dis] We both love our Kindles. Carly’s is always in her purse, and Tony’s is always in his backpack. As you may have noticed, we are voracious readers. While we both also listen to audiobooks, most of our reading is done on the Kindle. We love that books are a usually less expensive than books printed on dead-trees and they’re much more ecofriendly. Sometimes you can get a brand new release for $9.99 the very same day the hardcopy is published for $27.99, and months before the paperback comes out. The Kindle also has the awesome advantage of allowing you to virtually carry hundreds of your favorite books in less than a weight of a single paperback. One final piece of advice: the Kindle Fire is a great budget tablet but it is not a true Kindle. The best device to read on is a black and white Kindle, which also happens to be the cheapest, anything that has a backlit screen feels much less like paper and will tire your eyes much more quickly.


4. A Durable Water Bottle:

Being hydrated is important to your health. You’ll sleep better, be more energetic, and focus more easily if you’re hydrated. While you’re running around all day at work, it’s easy to forget to drink water. We recommend purchasing a bottle that you like to help you remember to stay hydrated. Nalgene and Sigg started the trend, but there are so many fun options now, and bringing your own bottle is less expensive, and much better for the environment. Most bottled water is nothing more than glorified tap water, marked up a ridiculous amount and cheap plastic takes centuries to degrade.


5. A Great Elevator Speech:

Similar to a business card, an “elevator speech” is important for networking. Basically, it’s your quick introduction of yourself that allows you to share who you are and what you’ve done. If you’re currently working on an important project that is relevant to the person you’re speaking with, this is the time to share that information as well. You’ll want to practice a few different versions of this, so you are prepared next time you meet someone. Your elevator speech should be so well crafted that it impresses and so well practiced that you can do it in your sleep. Check out this article from MindTools about how to craft a great elevator speech.


6. A Single Page Resume

When you graduated college you might have struggled on how to fill up a resume with meaningful information but after 3-5 years in the workforce chances are you’ve done a bunch and are getting tempted about letting your resume grow to 2 or more pages. Let us be the ones to tell you in no uncertain terms, your resume has to be a single page. Only people who have been in the workforce for 20 years and have a truly extraordinary amount of relevant experience potentially have an excuse for a multi-page resume. Remember, you want your resume to highlight the big successes in your career, especially those related to the position you’re applying for, not just read as a history of every single thing you have done. For instance, if you’ve been in the industry for a couple years, but you’re still listing the part-time barista job you held your freshman year of college, it’s time to drop that off. Cut the fat relentlessly and get it down to a single page, no excuses. You can still reference experiences that are not directly on your resume when you get the interview. We highly recommend you take some time to listen to Career ToolsResume, 2014 Resume Update and Career Management Document podcasts. If you listen to those few casts you’ll know all you’ll ever need to know about resumes.


7. A 5 Year Plan:

Coming up with a good strategic 5 year plan for your career is important and remember to remain flexible. We’ll write much more about how to do this in the future because this deserves its own article. For now just know that you’ll want to think about steps that you’ll pursue to develop yourself along with positions that you want to take on. Make sure that you’re choosing developmental goals that fit with the position you want to be in at the end of the next five years.


8. A Big Hairy Audacious Dream:

Everyone should have a big hairy audacious dream. Tony’s for example is to become CEO of Nationwide or another major carrier, although it is always being revised. He understands it might never happens, and that in the best case scenario it’s a 30-year plan, but if he uses it as his North Star he will develop himself in the best possible way he can. Whether you share this dream publicly or not is up to you. There is research in support of sharing (Tony style) and research in support of keeping quiet (Carly style). Either way, a big, crazy, end goal is certainly something that will help keep you motivated on tough days. In this case, the goal could be directly related to your career, such as, I want to be CEO one day (like Tony), or it could be unrelated, such as, I want to visit every country in the world at least once (like Tony’s girlfriend Renee). If you have an audacious dream and work towards it a bit each year, you’ll be able to measure your successes and use this passion to move yourself forward.


About Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage InsNerds.com. She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.

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