Mike's Young Professional Survival Guide

In launching this site, our focus has been, first and foremost, on building a community. In bringing together the stories of other young leaders, professionals, and aspiring world changers, we hope to establish a network of visionaries to guide our readers in tackling the challenges presented in their own life's stories. Like any good group of friends or colleagues, no group is truly beneficial without "voice of reason". Never one to simply back the status quo, and always open to the possibilities and alternatives waiting in the wings, the voice of reason isn't typically concerned with taking the easy route. Instead, they are constantly driving the team towards betterment. This week, our Co-Founders are excited to welcome a trusted voice of reason from their own lives. Throughout their student careers at Marist and beyond, this next MSL guest could always be trusted for sound, sage advice. Now, we're excited to share his outlook with all of you. This week, we're proud to bring you Michael Rudden's Young Professional Survival Guide!

©2016 Michael Rudden


In my few years since graduating from college, I’ve had to learn a few tough lessons in my career. I’ve found that no matter what your experience in college or even an internship is, there are things that can catch you off guard and feeling unprepared. I have worked at two large enterprise companies, and although my current situation is great, there have been a lot of times as a young professional when I’ve felt out-of-place or off-base.

If I had to pick a few key things that helped me find my way so far, but aren’t too specific to my path through life, they’re these:

  1. Always be learning

  2. Know what you don’t know

  3. Receive feedback gracefully, and understand it

  4. Recognize when something is a good or bad fit

  5. Step outside of your comfort zone

All of these points I’m calling out are personal challenges that I’ve found help you grow as a person, widen the breadth of your knowledge and experiences, and help you gain the respect of others.

Always be learning

A passion for always learning is an important one to develop – being a good learner is not something people are necessarily born with or will acquire organically as they go through life. I think the key to continuing to learn things is to figure out the best way for you to learn. For some people, this is reading a book. For others, it’s having something taught to you. I learn the best when I combine one of those with hands-on learning. Never be afraid to ask questions, but it’s okay to stay quiet and be a sponge when someone is showing or teaching you something. Get yourself a Twitter account just to follow people and leaders in your field. Subscribe to a bunch of blogs related to your career using an RSS reader and check new posts every morning. However you can, keep learning new things!

Know what you don’t know

Knowing what you don’t know is about not being ignorant or arrogant when you aren’t sure of something. Nobody likes someone who stumbles their way through things and delays projects because they didn’t take the time to ask for help or look for resources. When someone asks you something, don’t fudge it if you don’t know it! In interviews, you could spin this to say that you don’t know the answer to X question, but here is how you would find the answer and understand it (by this I mean tell them how you would find it and understand it). Admitting you don’t know something and then learning it is a great way to earn the respect of your colleagues.

If you don’t know what you don’t know, you won’t know what to learn, which will hurt you on my first point above!

Receive feedback gracefully, and understand it

When someone gives you feedback, either solicited or unsolicited, thank them for it. You might have gotten a nice compliment, or some recognition for something you’ve accomplished. You also might have gotten some constructive criticism on something you can improve on or do better. Either way, that person is doing you a favor by explaining it to you. Try to recognize what you can as actionable, or as reinforcement, so you can become more successful. Feedback from a manager might sound vague or unhelpful, but if you figure out what they actually mean you’ll find it’s really constructive.

Along these lines, take some time to figure out your goals in your current position in life and beyond. If you have a good mentor type relationship with someone at work, like a manager or more senior colleague, ask them for feedback on how to get there from where you are now. Take notes, and work on it.


Everything can always be better.

Recognize when something is a good or bad fit

Sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan them. Sometimes things work out really well. Either way, you should be able to describe your experiences in a positive way, to show that you’ve learned from them.

It’s totally okay to be in your first job out of college and feel like it’s not a good fit. It’s okay if an internship teaches you what you don’t want to do for a living. That doesn’t mean that your job or team is bad, or that you’re stupid, it just means that sometimes things just don’t work out. Recognizing that and learning from it can help you figure out how to put yourself in positive situations.

Find personal growth opportunities in these inflection points! Then you know something you like or don’t like.

Step outside of your comfort zone

This is a huge challenge for everyone. How can you move on to bigger and better things if you get too comfortable where you are? This doesn’t just mean moving across the country or changing career fields. You can step outside your comfort zone in your current job by taking on new responsibilities or getting involved with a project you don’t know a lot about. This is a great way to stay excited and keep up the high energy – if you’re always learning and getting to apply your knowledge to new things, you’ll never be bored!


Everybody takes different paths through life, and that’s okay. The most important thing you can do is be honest with yourself, and work to improve yourself via recognizing your strengths and weaknesses.

When I was an intern I got some great advice, which was that “everyone can always be a better communicator”. Never stop trying to be better at communicating, and you’ll go far on that alone.

-Michael Rudden

This post remains the original work, thoughts & expressions of the author.