Teresa Hassara, president of Institutional Retirement at TIAA-CREF
Copyright: 2010 Matthew J. Wagner
By Teresa Hassara
December 17, 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 Teresa Hassara, president of Institutional Retirement at TIAA-CREF.

One of the most rewarding parts of my role leading large organizations is mentoring young professionals in the early stages of their careers. As I reflect on the many conversations I’ve had over the years, three pieces of advice come to mind that remain timeless.

In terms of your professional career, get your story straight. And I mean your story. You never know when someone is going to ask you who you are and what you do. Young professionals, especially women, often have trouble promoting themselves to others. They focus on their title and who they work for rather than explaining the contributions they make or the strengths they bring to their team.

Take the time to come up with a short description of the role you play in the success of your team. Connect what you do with the business priorities of the company or organization that you work for. Focus not on tasks,but on impact and be sure to include some recent examples to provide the proof points for your story. Then, practice delivering your story so it becomes second nature. With your story written, the next time you are riding in the elevator with the company President, or being introduced in a meeting, you’ll be sure to make a positive and memorable impression.

See also: Never Focus On This at Your First Job

But don’t let that story sit on the shelf forever. Update it regularly to reflect your growth and new achievements. Keep a journal of key accomplishments to include in your story and reiterate when it comes time for your performance review. Your career success will definitely benefit from reminding your manager of the role your contributions play in achieving key business goals.

This is another area where I see young women downplay their contributions. They think touting what they have achieved is bragging and tend to focus more on areas where they want to grow rather than how strong they already are. Or they generalize what they did to focus on the results of the team and use words like “supported” or “helped.” Being a team player is important, but don’t let it completely overshadow you as an individual. This is your chance to talk about what sets you apart from others, so make the most of the opportunity when it is presented to you.

Finally, as president of the retirement business for TIAA-CREF, it’s probably not surprising that my advice includes something on this topic. When it comes to success in life, I truly believe the most important thing is to take control of your financial well-being. Get help if financial planning isn’t your passion or expertise. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a retirement plan at work, start there. The earlier you get started and the better you understand how to provide for yourself and those you love, the freer you will be to pursue your passions.

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

This Important Skill Is Often Overlooked In Leaders by Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

The Secret to Finding Success In Your 20s by Ritu Anand, head of talent management at Tata Consultancy Services.

The Common Myth Young Professionals Need to Avoid by Yolanda Seals-Coffield, principal at PwC.

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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