Early Career

Five Valuable Things I’ve Learned as a Young Professional

Staff Reports

About the Author: I’m Michelle. I grew up in Muskogee, Okla. and graduated from Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!) with a degree in Chemical Engineering in May of 2013. I interned with Williams during the summer of 2012 and started joined the company’s rotational  program in June of 2013.

I recently relocated back to Tulsa, Okla. from Moundville, W.Va. to complete my final rotation. As I prepared for this next journey in my career, it got me thinking about all the things I have learned over the previous two years. Here are five, in no particular order:

  1. Maintain a work-life balance.

It can be easy to get caught up in working long hours, but don’t forget to make time for your personal life. Find a hobby, join a gym, volunteer, travel, and spend plenty of time with family and friends. When my personal and professional life are in balance, I am a happier, more productive person – in and outside of work.

  1. Change is the only constant in life.

It’s going to happen. Something will change, and some or all of your completed work will have to be redone. Worrying or stressing, will only create a headache not value. So, just go with the flow and get your work done (well, redone), or incorporate the new process, or whatever the change may be.

  1. Get organized and stay organized.

It is so much easier to start day one with an organization plan for everything and update it as the years pass, than to think “Oh, I’ll just save it to my desktop and organize it later”. Trust me. This can be a nightmare to manage, even after a short time. Taking a little extra time to keep things organized up front will save you time later when you are searching for it.

  1. Networking is actually easy and can be fun.

I’m not sure why, but I always thought of networking as a dull process that I did not want to be a part of – especially networking events. I pictured an event similar to a career fair, where everyone awkwardly went from person to person, uncomfortably exchanging elevator speeches and business cards. My presumption, thank goodness, was wrong. Networking happens every day and you may not realize it. Meeting a new colleague in the office – networking. Reconnecting with a classmate from college – networking. Meeting new people through training courses, professional societies, or community outreach – networking. Bonus, it’s easy and fun. Of course, there are many networking events hosted by professional societies and interest groups all the time. I have attended a few and have been pleasantly surprised how fun and comfortable these events actually where. Really, you have nothing to lose – at -worst, you have a few extra business cards, but at best you have a new friend and/or business partner.

  1. Take control of your career and professional development.

Furthering your career and professional development does not happen without your effort. So, don’t be afraid to seek out learning opportunities. If there is a particular project/process/role within the company you are interested in learning more about, talk to your supervisor about opportunities related to it. You could attend a technical training course, sit in on a meeting, assist a colleague, or take on responsibilities pertaining to that topic. Doing so will give you an insight to your interest and could potentially be a stepping stone to your next position or promotion. Take your career where you want it to go by being a self-starter, asking questions, and pursuing learning opportunities.