How To Stand Out As A Young Professional

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing with you an interview I recently did with author and leadership expert Nathan Magnuson. He recently released his new book, Stand Out. It’s a book I can’t recommend enough and believe you will get a lot out of it.

Red piece standing out from the white pieces

Stand Out by Nathan Magnuson

In today’s interview, we discuss portions of the book. I think you’ll enjoy it.

How To Stand Out

An Interview With Author Nathan Magnuson On Stand Out

1. I love how you dedicated the book to Mark Miller. He’s an absolute beast in the leadership world. Can you share an example of how he has inspired you to lead better?

I met Mark Miller when I was a college senior doing a research project on how Chick-fil-A inspires others. He had recently published his first book The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. Taking the time to meet with our team was a big inspiration for me to pursue a career in leadership development and contribute as a thought leader as well.

2. The subtitle of the book is “Become a Young Professional who wins at work and life.” How would you define success? Will success look different for different people?

Absolutely – one of the major themes in the book is that we all need to define success for ourselves. A quote I share is that, “It’s easy to complain about what we don’t like but difficult to know what we really want.” Young professionals even leave for jobs where they don’t like something minor but fail to identify what success really means for them. Success looks different in various stages as well. Sometimes it means gaining entry into a certain field, other times it means honing new skills. Or it could mean getting a promotion or raise.

3. It seems the younger generation has had a problem with taking ownership of their life, their mistakes, and, even, their successes. What can we do to encourage young professionals to begin taking ownership?

I would agree the younger generation has gotten a bad rap for not taking ownership, but in my view it’s not always deserved. As a generation, Millennials have been able to bring many changes to the workforce that have made things better for everyone – and many are making incredible contributions, especially in the area of innovation. I especially admire how important of a value empathy is for the younger generation – it’ll help them lead well.

I think the biggest encouragement for young professionals to take ownership is showing them that their choices directly affect their outcomes. Change your choices, change your outcomes. That’s about as liberating as it gets!

4. In chapter 2, you talk about mindset and checking yourself before you wreck yourself. Have you ever wrecked yourself? If so, what did you learn from the experience? What can others learn from your wreck?

This was actually a really humbling chapter for me because, as convinced as I am that it’s our responsibility to have a good attitude, it’s something I have to work on every single day. I think I assumed it would be easier by now, but that’s not always the case. The best examples for me are just the everyday ones. Can I be disciplined enough in my thinking to let go of all the negative distractions and focus on the positives? I know it’s my choice.

5. There are 10 dream job myths you shared in Stand Out! Is one myth more damaging than another? How does this impact young professionals?

The #1 mistake a person can make when it comes to any dream (including a dream job) is to dream too small. Dream killers are all around us, whether a poor self-image, fear of failure, lack of motivation, or ignorance of what is available to us. There’s only one way to dream, and that’s HUGE! The trick is to have our high aspirations keep pace with realistic expectations – and also to make sure the dream is actually OUR dream.

6. In the Growth chapter, you tell us that personal development is a life-long journey. How do you make sure this journey never ends? What are some of the ways you’ve continued to develop?

I like how Mark Cuban said it: to be successful, you need to gain a knowledge advantage. The information is out there, it’s up to us to find and learn from it. I recently got a request to facilitate an intervention for an executive team. On the spot, I recalled two different books on teamwork I’d read over a decade ago that would fit the situation. That was my knowledge advantage at work. But I have to continue to grow today so I’ll have similar experiences a decade from now. I still consume content like books, blogs, and podcasts, but what’s even more powerful for me is spending time with people further down the road than I am and paying attention to their ideas, goals, and plans.

7. How do you gain clarity in who you are? How does this help you to Stand Out?

I think one of the most practical ways is to ask “what type of person succeeds at _____?” This is a question we need to be asking when we consider new jobs, participate in interviews, or think about the role we want to play at work or even in society. So many people are mixed up about what they are “supposed” to be doing that they’re unhappy because they are a round peg stuck in a square hole. Another question we should all consider is, “What is the one thing I want most to contribute?”

8. You also have a chapter on engagement. I’ve been involved with multiple companies that do not engage their employees. What is something a young professional could do to get their organization to become more engaging?

I think the easiest way is just to think about what makes a great day for you at work. Maybe it’s having lunch with co-workers or helping out with an event or being part of a team-building activity. If it’s something you’d find engaging, there are probably others who feel similarly. So take the initiative to make it happen. Set up an inclusive lunch group or invite an internal expert to give a short training event. We can all create a lot of engagement for ourselves and others if we take a little initiative.

9. What are you hoping a young professional will get out of reading Stand Out?

The biggest thing is for young professionals to think “I can” and to have the tools to move toward their vision for personal and professional success. It took me years just to figure out the questions I needed to ask myself to get on the right path. This book gives the questions, it’s up to the readers to answer them. 🙂

10. After reading Stand Out, what is the next step a young professional should take?

Well, the best thing to do would be to read Stand Out with a group and use the discussion questions together. You’ll learn more from discussing the questions together than anything the book has to say. 🙂 But since there are over 50 tips in the book, I suggest just picking 2 or 3 that make the most sense for where you are right now and set a quick, micro-goal to make progress in that area.

11. Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you would like to share with my readers?

You should ask me if I have a corporate training program called Stand Out that helps organizations engage, develop, and retain their young professional talent in an innovative and cost-effective manner. And the answer is yes. 🙂 Your readers can learn more here or contact me at [email protected]

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