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What Every 20-Something Gets Wrong About Success


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 by Stephanie Linnartz, EVP and global chief commercial officer for Marriott International.

If I were able to go back in time and talk to my 20-something self, I would have a simple piece of advice: Stay true to your values and remember that every day you walk in the door of your job, it’s the company name that’s on your sweatshirt (so to speak), not your name.

Too many young people starting out in their careers either worry constantly about getting ahead, or feel that they deserve praise and promotions just for showing up. What I tell them is that if you want to succeed, you need to forget about yourself and forget about advancement. Instead, keep your focus on the company you’re working for. What are the company’s goals? How can I help advance them? Having a true north that’s more about company outcomes and less about personal advancement is probably the single biggest mind shift 20-somethings need to undertake.

So what are some of the specific things young people can do to put themselves on a path to long-term success? Here are three that have stood me well during my career:

See also: Here’s How To Get People To Take You Seriously

Seek out mentors
The best way to be successful is to look for people who already are. Reach out and get to know them if possible. Many successful business people are eager to mentor the next generation of leaders. If a direct mentoring relationship isn’t possible, become a student of their operating style — how they juggle responsibilities, how they treat the people above and below them, and how they communicate goals, milestones, successes, and challenges.

Take on the more difficult assignments
Too many young people shy away from this advice out of fear of failure. But they’ve got it all wrong. You should always take on the toughest, most challenging tasks. When you do so and pull it off, you’re more likely to get recognized and promoted. And, if you aren’t able to pull it off despite your best effort, you likely won’t get tarnished for the failure. Leaders like seeing people step up and jump in, and the credit you get for the effort can be sufficient to put you on the right radars. The point, of course, is there simply is no reward without risk.

Don’t be afraid to manage conflict
This can be challenging for any leader, particularly so for women. My mentor told me earlier in my career as I began leading others: As long as you do what’s right for your team, and for the company, it will all work out. You need to recognize that not everyone will be happy with your decisions all the time, but they will respect a direct, honest, and decisive approach.