Can you believe there is only one month left in this decade? What have you accomplished over the past ten years? I know I’ve had quite a few adventures since completing college in Stillwater, Oklahoma and have found myself making a life in the Rocky Mountain states. When I started looking back, it reminded me of some lessons learned along the way and thought I’d pass a few along in the form of some career advice for those young professionals wondering what’ll come in the next decade.

Career Advice for Young Professionals

I am lucky enough to have an opportunity to speak in many states across the country, and every chance I get to speak to young professionals or college groups, there are always three lessons I’ve learned that I share with the group.

These are things I wish someone had told me a decade (or a little more) ago before I set out on this journey.

career advice young professional

Broaden Your Experiences

While I’ve been in the cattle business my entire life, I knew I need to gain experience in other sectors of the industry. My neighbors raised their cattle differently than my family did. The same goes for raising cattle in different regions of the country.

So I took the opportunity to broaden my experiences by pursuing an internship every summer during college to do something different. I worked in different cattle farms/ranches, both small and large, commercial and for natural beef programs. I worked in large cattle feed yards, in the lush southeast, and high up in the Rocky Mountains.

Pursuing these opportunities has given me the chance to experience our industry on several different levels and can allow me to speak from first-hand, more well-rounded experience. It also taught me a few things I didn’t want to do for a career.

Network Purposefully

This goes from your college years and well beyond, into our young professional lives. I’ve had countless unassuming conversations with people at industry meetings and brief interactions in the workplace. And there have been so many times where word has come back that I was talking to a CEO or high-ranking officer of large organizations.

It’s a small world. You never know who you’re going to make an impression on. Make sure it’s a good one.

When you’re at a meeting, doing your daily business in town, or at an industry convention, purposefully network your way around the room. This was a hard lesson for an introvert. Give a firm handshake. Look the other person in the eye. Repeat their name when they introduce themselves. When you get a business card, take note of a subject of your conversation, and follow up with a Thank You email mentioning that unique topic you discussed.

I’ve met several potential employers at industry meetings. If you see someone you look up to, or someone you are intrigued by, speaking at a meeting, follow up that conversation with an introduction. Take note of something they said, walk up and introduce yourself. Mention that you really appreciated that nugget of information they shared during the earlier presentation.

Communicate Your Passion

People are attracted to others who are passionate. Share that passion and do so enthusiastically. It’s not bragging. It’s letting the world know what you are driven by and want to pursue in life.

I began doing this purposefully in 2008 when I started a blog by sharing my papers from college classes and documenting my love for ranching in the mountains of Wyoming. I built a brand and a reputation for myself as someone who is passionate and proud to be part of the agriculture community. Then, I shared this on social networks, in conversations, during presentations at local meetings and through a column with an international news outlet.

I engaged in those conversations surrounding agriculture advocacy and my reputation preceded me at industry meetings. That opened the doors to meet industry leaders. Eventually, those people would hire me for the job where I am proud to be today.

What Career Advice Can You Share?

I asked a simple question on Twitter this morning as these thoughts were swirling through my mind. Apparently it resonated with people as I received more than 100 responses in the first few hours.

So I want to know… If you had to pick one piece of advice that has significantly helped you in your career, what would it be?

Give your response in the comments below or join in the conversation on this Twitter thread. There are some awesome thoughts in this Twitter conversation, some that are comical, and several that are real-world lessons.

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