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book excerpt

The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World

Adapted from, with permission of the publisher, from The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World ©2013 Aaron McDaniel. Published by Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.


The Successful Young Professional is a STAR – Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive, and Resourceful. She is a hip and independent woman who is determined to make the most out of her career. She lives in the city, recently completed her first marathon, and tutors kids in an after-school program. She dresses and acts professionally and always looks "put together."

She recognizes that she doesn't know it all and is willing to take the lead in making her career exactly what she wants it to be. She sets goals, utilizes mentors, and attacks opportunity. She realizes that taking calculated risks is important and is always conscious about what she does. She is also a lifelong learner, continuously looking for learning opportunities.


The opposite of the STAR is the DOPE. The DOPE is someone who Disses Opportunity, Potential, and Earnings. He is a smart guy who knows what it takes to be successful; for some reason, though, he chooses not to put in the extra effort to get there. He never goes an hour without checking Facebook and often wastes time. Maybe it's laziness. Maybe it's a lack of passion. Despite some moments of genius, he is generally inconsistent.

The DOPE doesn't learn from his mistakes and tends to make the same ones over and over. He is unfocused, apathetic, and, at times, unprofessional. The DOPE misses out on opportunities and is passed over when promotions and bonuses are available.

The 25 attributes of the STAR are discussed through the metaphor of building a house.

In the process of building a house there is an underlying foundation, an interior structure, and the exterior façade. Each is important, and the building isn't complete without all the parts. Thus, the 25 attributes are broken into these three distinct sections: Foundation, Frame, and Exterior.

Laying the Foundation: It's What's at the Core that Counts addresses how the STAR is:

1. Un-entitled

2. Patient

3. Flexible

4. A fast learner

5. A team player

6. A person who follows through

7. A person with perspective

8. Proud of the work she does

9. Self-aware

Think of these characteristics as the basis on which your early career is built. If you do not lay the right foundation, then problems will surface later in your career before reaching the level of accomplishment of which you are truly capable.

Putting Up the Frame: It's Not Only What You Do, But How You Do It, offers attributes that are analogous to the frame of the house, focusing not on what you do at work but how you do it. Attributes detailed in Part III include a person who:

10. Is customer-focused

11. Acts "as if "

12. Makes decisions

13. Shows creativity

14. Is resourceful

15. Sells

16. Takes action

17. Multitasks

These attributes are important even when no one is watching, and they are rooted in your own self-discipline.

Finally, Finishing the Exterior, discusses outward attributes that are generally apparent to bosses, peers, and co-workers. These are attributes on which young professionals are judged. Having a strong mix of these characteristics will increase the likelihood of career success. The attributes include a person who:

18. Communicates effectively

19. Has a positive attitude

20. Networks

21. Demonstrates professionalism

22. Has integrity

23. Is coachable

24. Gives back

25. Gets results

These attributes centere on reputation and the perception others have of you, also known as your personal brand. Keep in mind that you may be able to fool others in the short term, but gaining lasting success and solidifying your reputation only come when you base your career on a strong foundation.

Whether you are building with brick, stone, or Legos, there are certain principles of building that are universal: plan properly, use the right tools, build with quality materials, and monitor your progress.

When entering the work world your slate is clean; your plot is empty. You have a few raw materials and some of the tools you need to start building, but often do not have a blueprint for success. The characteristics in the chapters to follow will become the tools you use, the jobs you take on will be your raw materials, and the structure you begin to build will ultimately become your career. After revealing the details of each of these attributes, you will build your own career blueprint and put it into action.

In going through the 25 traits, remember to judge yourself on a spectrum. For example, it should not be a "yes, I can multitask" or "no, I can't multitask" diagnosis. Instead, realize that your skill level for each exists at a varying degree. The STAR would not score 100 per cent on all 25 attributes; the STAR builds exceptional strengths in a few key areas and avoids being a DOPE in the rest.

As you read, keep in mind that you are the architect of your own career. You are the key driver of your success. No matter your age, your experience level, or how far you are into your career, the 25 attributes covered throughout the book will get you where you want to go.

Grab your hard hat and tool belt; let's start building.