Photograph Katie Martynova via Getty Images
By Ritu Anand
December 14, 2015

The MPW Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What should every 20-something do to set themselves up for success? is written by Ritu Anand, head of talent management at Tata Consultancy Services.

When I graduated thirty years ago, my peers and I had no clue what we would do or become. We took life and what it had to offer as it came. We were excited to have our education in hand and trusted that — along with hard work — something good would come of it professionally. However, with the advent of the digital world, things have changed. I have gradually seen each new generation becoming more focussed in what they want to accomplish. In India, we saw this change happen quite starkly in the 1990s, when we were at the cusp of a digital revolution. Young people became more decisive about the careers they wanted to pursue, following their passions into previously unheard-of fields. Professional options multiplied as parental wishes took a back-seat.

Take for example my 20-year-old niece. In her mind, she has the course of her life completely figured out: what college she will attend, the courses she will take, and what she will do for a living. Here’s what I want my niece and all the 20-year olds like her to know as they step into the corporate world.

See also: The Common Myth Young Professionals Need to Avoid

First and foremost, have an open mind. Accept and absorb your experiences and missteps as life-long lessons. At the same time, understand the evolution of your workplace. Many workplace policies and systems were put into place by veterans who came before you. This will help you manage some of the inevitable workplace conflicts and challenges.

Additionally, find a balance between being optimistic and realistic. For example, dream big but also be prepared to work hard. Ask for what you want with certainty and courage, but be willing to accept criticism with humility and confidence. More specifically, women need to be prepared to deal with gender inequalities, prejudices, and unconscious biases. Approach these situations with confidence and determination; deal with them swiftly and tactfully. Encourage your male counterparts to foster a workplace based on equality, respect, and sensitivity.

The workplace is depending on rising generations to bridge our past and shape our future. So the best piece of advice I could give any young professional is to be prepared for the challenges and opportunities that await you, but more importantly be willing to adjust your career path accordingly.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What should every 20-something do to set themselves up for success?

How Millennials Can Succeed at Their First Job by Lynn Perkins, CEO of UrbanSitter.

How to Overcome Challenges of a Career Change by Lisa Lambert, vice president of Intel Capital.

What every 20-something should know about their first job by Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte.


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