Being THE Young Professional
Part 1: How to make a name for yourself
I am one of hundreds of thousands of “young professionals” in Denver. Groundbreaking confession, I know.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of young professionals flocking to Denver on a daily basis, many of whom are moving here before they have jobs and hoping they can score one upon arrival. Denver is quickly branding itself as THE “Millenial City.” It is being mentioned in the same sentence as New York City, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Chicago, and Seattle when talking about millennials leaving college to go make their way in the world.
Denver is new, hip, cool, and very accepting of these new faces that seem to roll into town every single day.
A little about my background: I grew up in a town just north of Colorado Springs called Monument. Many of you probably know where it is now, but 15 years ago, that was a very different story. These days, it is more of Suburban Colorado Springs, but back when I was growing up I would call it “the overgrown truck stop.” We got a Walmart about 10 years ago which, I guess, makes us a big town by today’s standards. My parents were very involved in my schooling so all of the other parents were watching over me. I couldn’t cause trouble because word would get back to my parents one way or another. Harmless pranks to rattle the cage of a substitute teacher were out of the question, as my mom probably knew him or her (such a bummer).
It is difficult to just be a face in the crowd, or one of hundreds of thousands when you grew up in a small town. I remember the summer before middle school, high school, and college thinking to myself,
This year I get a chance to reinvent myself—which role should I play? Am I going to learn how to breakdance so I can drop some moves at homecoming? Is this the year I get a date with that stunner that I have been crushing on since middle school? Should I tell jokes in the mirror so I can play class clown?
While many of the tactics (unfortunately) have changed in adult life, we as young professionals want to know how we can make a name for ourselves—personally and professionally. Here are some of my observations from getting plugged into my career over the past few years.
I will start off by saying: GET OUT! It is the only way to meet people. I know it is tough to find the motivation to go back out after a long day at work, but you kind of have to wind yourself up. There are so many Meetups throughout the city that you could literally fill all the waking hours of the day with some sort of activity. There are young professionals groups, singles groups, 20s and 30s groups, groups for enthusiasts of different sports, watch parties for sports teams nationwide, brewery tours, whiskey and wine connoisseurs…it’s all out there.
Next, you should find places to frequent. I have MY coffee shop, MY bar, MY mechanic, MY deli, MY hairstylist, MY bike and snowboard shop, MY book store, and MY causes I volunteer for. I know it sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s like that old show Cheers: “where everybody knows your name” (I bet that song will be stuck in your head for most of the day).
It is always fun to see your hairstylist once every few weeks and be able to catch up, shoot the bull, and joke with him or her. Every time I have to get a new hairstylist, there’s so much initial awkwardness as you try to make small talk. Hair salons and barbershops provide a very intimate spot to just unwind. Women definitely have it right when it comes to gathering at the salon to gossip and all.
It’s also nice to walk into the local bar and have the waitress call you by first name, give you a big hug, and invite you to join the bar’s fantasy football league. Your friends will be very impressed. Yes, I have a bar that I frequent, too, even if only for a local hang-out-and-unwind venue.
This brings me to a point about having places that you frequent: Make sure you aren’t known for the wrong reasons. Do not be known as the notoriously bad tipper, the sloppy drunk, the guy who always wants to fight someone, the drink spiller, the guy with a bad attitude, etc. Being a “regular” anywhere comes with responsibility.
Make sure to tip well, be cognizant of busy hours, and help them better take care of their guests. This could be anything from interjecting when a salesman is with another guest saying, “I have that (product) and I love it,” to signaling the barback with a finger across the throat for “cut this person off, as they are swimming in liquor.” Be known as the guest that they always want to come back.
If you have a family or kids, include them in the age-appropriate things. Take your son or daughter to your coffee shop someday. Introduce them to your favorite barista, have them order their own hot cocoa, and take a seat in your favorite window spot. This will teach them how to create their own community within a larger community. No matter how big or small the town, it is good to be on a first-name basis.
As someone who is trying to make a name for myself, I follow the “five foot rule.” This means that I am the (presumably) annoying guy in the elevator or in line at Starbucks that talks to anybody within five feet of me.
I am as extremely sarcastic and dry as you could probably gather from my articles, so my remarks are usually somewhat sarcastic: a snide remark about the unbelievably long “venti soy mocha pumpkin peppermint no-whip latte” that the gal up front said all in one single breath, or the fact that I woke up on a Tuesday convinced it was Thursday and it’s going to make for a long week.
When talking to people, if you can make them laugh, you just burst through the wall that the person has built up.
With all of this, just create a fan club—a big group of people you think highly of and who think highly of you. It could be people with influence within your industry, or folks who have nothing to do with your industry. Be around good, wholesome people. I have a group of great people that are constantly rooting me on—crucial. Or when I run into people on the street and they say, “Oh, this person mentioned you and said you were so great.” Knowing that you’ve been name-dropped in a conversation kind of makes you feel like a celebrity for a day.
The reason why this article is very close to my heart is that this is the person I have tried to be since entering the professional world. I am trying to set myself up as THE person to know, locally.