We all know the stress of entering the real world for the first time — and it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 28 years old. Everybody has to start somewhere. But when the stress piles up, it’s important to remember that even though it seems as if everybody around you is on the fast track to success, you are at the start of your own success.

There are plenty of routes you can take to start off your career. You may be graduating high school and entering straight into the workforce, getting certified in a trade skill, or graduating from higher education and are looking to get a job related to your degree. Whatever your first step may be, you can keep these tips in mind to stay on the path to being self-sufficient.

Learn how to handle your money – seriously.

With any job you get, you’re going to get paid. In your first few paychecks, you’re going to be excited — I mean, it is money, and it may be a lot more than you’ve ever gotten at once. Try to curb the enthusiasm and don’t make any big purchases. You need to learn the essentials of finance skills, otherwise, you may find yourself to be irresponsible with your money. Get used to paying your bills, putting money into savings, and paying off any current debts before you spend your income. Building good money habits will make you more responsible in the future.

Don’t ignore internships or apprenticeships.

The sound of a full-time job with benefits, being your own boss or being a certified professional sounds exciting. In reality, however, most people who are those things didn’t get there right away. Getting a paid internship can help you gain experience while getting paid, and it can put your foot into the door of a future career as well. If you feel like your options are limited with full-time work, don’t skimp on the internship listings in your city. Taking an apprenticeship is a good option too, especially for those who are going to be certified with a trade skill. Although you know the basics, it’s great to learn from a professional to refine your skills.

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation.

Making connections with people is key. Don’t be afraid to reach out to new people, whether it be for advice, career opportunities, or to answer a question. If you’re interested in working at a certain place but there aren’t any job openings listed, it never hurts to reach out to a point of contact to put yourself out there. They may end up offering you something anyway, which is one opportunity for you to consider that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Even if they can’t offer you a position, they may be able to answer any questions you may have, consider you for the future, or you can just familiarize yourself with them in case you come in contact again.

Refine your skills.

You’ll want to consolidate your skills into your resume, and refine your resume based on the jobs you are applying for. Figure out your strengths, list your experiences, and capitalize on how they may benefit your candidacy for a position based on the description of the job. Cover letters are just as important as well. Learning how to explain your experience and apply that to a potential situation in a job opportunity is key in showing an employer that you have relevant experience for the job and for situations.

Make yourself professional, even if you don’t feel professional.

You can’t act professional without being professional. There are a lot of ways you can approach being “professional,” since it is a pretty vague tip. Limit and filter what you post on social media and maintain a professional presence among your friends, families, and coworkers. It doesn’t matter if your profile is on private — potential employers can still see what you post.

Knowing how to dress, act, and speak professionally can also help you look more distinguished and experienced as an adult. While you don’t have to have a full wardrobe of professional clothes, you can at least learn the basics and types of professional dress.

Setting yourself up for success is just the first step into actually doing so. It takes time, and everybody is on their own path, so don’t freak out if you aren’t seeing results right away. If you’re searching for a job or finishing school, consider the preparation and journey to be your full-time job until you actually get a full-time job. Good luck!