In several blog posts, you’ve heard me extol the virtues of the Millennial workforce. In speaking to the employer side of the equation with what I hope are some very helpful tips for managers, you’ll find I’m a big believer in this young, smart, captivating group of people.
Now, for those of you who are actual Millennials, I’m wondering – have you given much thought to how you can stand out from the rest in the crowd? I’m not just referring to getting hired. I’m talking about what you can do to shine once you’re in the workforce.
Nobody gets the plum project assignments handed to them from Day 1. You have to prove you deserve it. As someone who both places and manages Millennials, let me offer five excellent ways to attract the right kind of attention that you can continually build upon.
Once you recognize these Golden Opportunities and seize them, you may find yourself with a role that exceeds your expectations.
Golden Opportunity #1: Show your independence and self-sufficiency Plenty of employers are reading publications expressing how Millennials have to be treated so delicately compared to other generations. So don’t be surprised if some of them are probably thinking, “Hmm. Exactly how much hand holding do I need to provide your typical Millennial?”
Here’s your first Golden Opportunity to shine: Display to them how you can be a solid contributor on your own once given the proper direction and mentoring.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with asking for guidance. After all, you need those kinds of specifics to ensure you’re doing the job right. Upon receiving the clarity you need, embrace the chance to take challenges off your employer’s plate. They may not love a sea of questions that they have to field from a project’s start to finish – that’s the sort of backtracking that eats up valuable time for them. A solid approach may be to take their instruction and regularly communicate your status. If they have a question based on that communication, you can use that moment to quickly ensure you’re on track or do some quick course correction.
As a result of working for a good portion of the project independently, they should hopefully entrust you with not only more tasks but also bigger tasks that increase your skill set and your visibility within the company.
Golden Opportunity #2: Fall in love with the work, not just the perks These days, it seems practically every young, hip company has a set of cool perks to offer their employees. The media writes about such perks all the time because they can be so unusual. I’m all for doing what it takes to preserve a happy culture, but here’s your next Golden Opportunity: Remember that it’s the quality of the work that matters most.
It’s easy to get distracted by the beauty of this or that fun perk. So look at great perks as a bonus, but not an expectation. Many Millennials may love the idea of paid fitness club memberships, a kegerator, free breakfast all day and concierge services for picking up dry cleaning. I agree, that all sounds very attractive – but I think you’ll be served by some perspective and prioritizing on what you value. Are you there for the work? Or are you there for the perks?
If perks come first, that’s not sustainable to your enjoyment. I’ve rarely heard long-term employees say, “The work is very ordinary and even tedious some days, but I put up with it for the perks.” Find motivation in the work itself. If you feel that energy, there’s something special that you can put into it. Every day. If cool perks come on top of that, that’s the cherry on top of the sundae.
Golden Opportunity #3: Find your own sense of work/life balance At times, I think Millennials make the mistake of seeking a “perfect” work/life balance in a new career. What I suggest instead of making a lot of demands on flexibility (which some employers really don’t want to hear), is that you find time for the things in life that provide you enjoyment in smaller windows of time.
The truth is, you’re not going to necessarily have the flexibility you want right away, but that doesn’t mean you have to picture your life as all work and no fun. In fact, even when we move up the corporate ladder, we tend to chase this idea of a 50/50 balanced life when, well, life doesn’t work out that precisely that way. Some weeks may demand a higher than usual workload. Others may even out more.
As long as there aren’t week-to-week wild extremes, learn to embrace this natural ebb and flow. It can show managers that you have the versatility to handle work at many different speeds when the situation calls for it.
Golden Opportunity #4: Help others win Some people have a misconception about Millennials that they’re driven but can’t see beyond their own career goals. So take the Golden Opportunity to show you can help others on your team succeed, from the minor items they need to get done by 5pm today to the project they’re tackling that’s a bit longer term. It positions you as a team player who isn’t simply waiting to receive work – you’re ready to do whatever it takes for the greater good of the company’s success. That attitude can go a long way and says a lot about your character. Never let them hear you say, “That’s not my job.” Not even once.
Golden Opportunity #5: Be open to many career paths It can be a bit self-limiting to believe you can only follow one path in order to get to where you want to go in the company. Business comes with so many variables, after all. Bosses change. Co-workers change. Product and service offerings change. Companies merge and get acquired. In the midst of all this potential change that could happen to you, you may find a new opportunity open up in a different department that you never thought you’d pursue. Embrace that exciting possibility. There’s a lot more to your story that’s yet to be told.
If you’re a Millennial, what have you learned in your first few years on the job that has helped you grow? If you were to advise the younger version of yourself (and by the way, this is a good question no matter what generation you belong to), what would you tell your younger self to do or not do in order to seize Golden Opportunities? We’re looking forward to your words of wisdom!