Ten Career Milestones To Hit Before Age Thirty

Dear Liz,

I graduated from college in May.

I’m working in my first “real” job. The job is going okay so far, but I don’t see any opportunities for upward advancement.

Watch on Forbes:

 I’m not ready to be promoted anyway but if I were, I’d be frustrated.

My boss is around 35 and she isn’t going anywhere. She wants to keep her job until retirement — I know because she told us that. I can’t get promoted unless she gets promoted, or leaves.

I want to start making career goals and hitting them because I am very ambitious.

Can you help me set appropriate career goals for a 22-year-old who wants to achieve great things? For instance, what should I plan to accomplish before I turn thirty?

Thanks Liz! You are my virtual mentor.



Subscribe To The Forbes Careers Newsletter
Sign up here to get top career advice delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Dear Constantine,

Congratulations on your graduation and your job!

It’s understandable that you would get frustrated when you do not see any opportunities for advancement at your current job, but I encourage you not to worry about that right now.

You are still learning your role. When you are ready to move up, things may have shifted at your job. If they haven’t, you have many options apart from waiting around for your manager to move on and give you room to advance.

The working world has fundamentally  changed and it isn’t about to change back. Advancement up the corporate ladder is a 20th-century mark of success. In the 21st century, success looks different. You don’t have to get promoted to grow professionally nowadays.

You grow when you learn something important about yourself. You grow when you step into unfamiliar territory and face the fear that you might fail — and come out okay on the other side of that fear.

You grow when you mentor someone else. You grow when you speak your truth at work, especially when it feels scary to do that.

Here are ten career milestones to reach before your thirtieth birthday. You can work on this list of milestones instead of worrying about traditional career advancement at your current job.

When your gut tells you you’re ready for a new and bigger assignment, many other firms will be happy to hire you! You might even work for yourself at some point.

None of us knows what the future will bring. As long as you keep learning, experimenting and pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone, your muscles will keep growing!

Ten Career Milestones To Reach Before Age Thirty

1. Propose a big, disruptive new idea to your boss and if they say no, don’t give up. Simply retreat, reformulate your sales pitch and try again. Keep selling your idea until your boss sees the wisdom in it and gives you a green light to proceed. Claim that triumph on your resume!

2. Speak up at a meeting when the air is thick with tension and everybody knows it — but no one will name the elephant in the room. Be the brave person who says “Another thing we should talk about is X.” You will shift the energy in your department for the better. Feel the fear and speak up anyway!

3. Tell your boss “No, I can’t [work this weekend, fly to Hong Kong tomorrow, etc.] — that won’t work for me.” Set boundaries with your boss. If you don’t set boundaries, you will become a door mat and get trampled on!

4. Plan and execute a stealth job search — a job search you conduct while you’re working at your current job.

5. Change your LinkedIn headline to your own brand, instead of your current job title. Put a human voice in your entire LinkedIn profile.

6. Ask for and receive a pay raise beyond whatever your company is giving out for an annual increase. Make the case that your performance and/or the scope of your role warrant a salary review. Gather data from Salary and Payscale, industry-specific salary surveys and any other sources you can find. Create a report for your boss that lays out your contributions to the company’s success. If it takes several conversations with your boss to make your pay increase happen, all the better. Don’t give up if your boss initially says “I wish I could help you, but I can’t.”

7. Coach a friend through his or her job search process. The learning you’ll get by helping someone else pick a career direction, brand themselves, reach out to hiring managers, interview and negotiate a job offer will help you do all those things yourself!

8. Join a professional association and take on a volunteer role in it. Step into leadership in your volunteer capacity if your employer doesn’t have a leadership role available for you right away (or even if they do). Managing volunteers is a better way to learn true leadership skills than supervising paid employees  — because volunteers will disappear if you don’t treat them right!

9. Introduce yourself to the highest-ranking executive in your organization. Let them know what you do for the company and offer your services if they ever need help from your department. Follow up with a brief, polite email message. These days we have to cultivate our own mentors and guides!

10. Stop and reflect on your journey as often as you can — at least once per quarter, and once per month if possible. Get a journal and write in it. Ask yourself “Am I on my path? Am I learning and growing in my job, my volunteer activities, my networking and my life in general?” Check in with your trusty gut often.

The brass ring in this new millennium is not a fancy job title — it’s the power you build inside yourself by taking risks.

You’ll accomplish everything you want to accomplish in your life and career as long as you remember that the scariest things we can do and say are the things that teach us the most.