I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds herself making apologies in job interviews or at work events for being a Millennial. It’s almost a reflex at this point. People make polite small talk and ask interesting (but loaded) pop cultural questions, all the while sizing you up and carefully gauging the many facets of your response. As someone whose social and professional circle is almost entirely made up of incredible humans at least 10-15 years older than myself, I am well aware of the not-so-uncommon perception of Millennials as, shall we say, difficult to work with. The good news is this: most of us aren’t. And it’s actually our duty to perform above the standard others expect from us.
“But how?” you might ask. Maybe you’ve shared in the frustration of being underestimated or generalized because of your demographic. Maybe you’re fed up with the status quo that seems to be against you. Or maybe, like me, you’ve worked with mold-breaking Millennials who exhibit impeccable work ethic, honest humility and groundbreaking creativity that makes them not only a pleasure to work with, but an invaluable asset. I’m happy to share that we are each capable of being the Millennial your office cannot work without with just a few minor tweaks to the process. These six simple steps can separate you from those your bosses and colleagues might grumble about, while elevating the overall structure and culture of your workplace.
- Work as if nothing is owed to you. Aside from dignity, respect, safety, human decency and minimum wage, the workforce does not owe you anything when you first enter it. If you’ve spent all of your formative years in high school and college earning an excellent education and sharpening your skill set, but haven’t actually had to work a job yet, you may still have to work from an internship or entry-level position up – and those jobs aren’t even as available or guaranteed by a degree as they were for our parents. My point is this: the best way to excel at a career is to have worked through and understand every aspect of its operation, from getting your hands dirty in the mail room to high-level corporate organization, and the only way to really learn those things is to work through them first. If you’re a Millennial who understands this process and is rooted in an eagerness to learn, improve and be grateful to be working toward your goal (no matter where you currently find yourself on the goal line), you’ll separate yourself from those who see certain jobs as beneath them. You’ll also be in a prime position to really accelerate and excel in your career.
- Your word is actually your bond. I say this because I’ve seen how technology, multi-tasking and the general brevity of life that is associated with the post-Millennium era have contributed to a quick-shift, no consequences mentality. We often see ourselves as adaptable and forward-thinking if we can find or act in a new way instantly, but sometimes keeping our word is an oversight in this process. It’s not cliché to believe your word is your bond and should be kept with great effort. If you act as though what you say has weight, what you promise ought to be delivered and people’s time and energy matters just as much as yours does, you’ll make a name for yourself as a considerate, commendable and trustworthy Millennial.
- Loyalty is cooler than jumping ship. Great opportunities arise at a moment’s notice, stock markets shift, politics incite grand reaction and sometimes work fizzles out for a moment. With a million options available on countless job boards, it’s easy to get spooked at the first sign of trouble and always be looking onward and upward. All of these factors might have contributed to the rapid decrease in turnaround time for Millennials in professional positions, but it’s hard to say definitively. Regardless, it’s important to remember that even the most remarkable, seemingly instant successes (Facebook, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb, etc.) were not born overnight. They each went through several iterations that now look and operate almost nothing like their original versions, and it takes some time for those changes to hit the market’s sweet spot. If you commit to a project and believe in its purpose, try sticking around a bit longer than your flight urge might compel you to. You may be surprised with the outcome. If you do decide to leave a job after a few months for something better or more suited to your lifestyle / interests, make sure to give the proper heads up to your team (at least two weeks official written notice), and keep the transition as dignified, respectful and positive as possible. Doing so will show that you appreciate the time your team invested in and trained you, and will ultimately soften the blow of them having to replace you.
- It’s okay to not have all the answers. This one’s easy. An unfortunate stereotype of Millennials is that we think we know everything, and sometimes assume we know more than our elders or superiors. Maybe it’s because we were born at a time where we likely cannot remember a life before the instant Google search, but information has been both our greatest asset and biggest weakness. No matter your age, training or life experience – every single human has an infinite amount left to learn. Humbling yourself and being willing to be coached / corrected will show your leadership that they can trust you to ask for help when needed, find the answer when you don’t know it and get the job done right. It’ll also make for more friendly interactions at the conference table (or Google Hangout).
- When in doubt, skip the selfie. It’s hard to deny that Millennials are addicted to our smart phones and the champions of the selfie. To be fair, all generations have since adopted these constant companions, but hey, it’s our reputation on the line. By easing up on the selfies, incessant social media posts and/or the use of your phone while in active social interactions (company dinners, networking mixers, meetings, DRIVING), you’ll show subtly, but clearly, that you are present and engaged with those in your company. You’ll learn more, connect more and grow more with those around you than you’d do behind the screen, and you’ll be more approachable than a person who is distracted by their devices.
- Be intelligently fearless. Yes, you can do anything. I’m not kidding. We live in a time where we have literally unlimited resources and opportunities available at our fingertips. Empires have been born out of basements, treasures have been made out of thin air, and industries have been disrupted with nothing more than connective technology. Everyday items and experiences have been commoditized successfully, and there is more runway than ever before to achieve your wildest dreams. Go after them. Fight for them. Give them your all. But remember that you cannot do anything alone, and you are not untouchable when it comes to taking risks for your dreams. Understand the possible consequences of every major professional decision, and be willing to accept them if you are willing to wager. Know that it is no one else’s responsibility to bail you out if things get rocky, and be empathetic with those who might be experiencing a low point. Kindness is king, and a generous gesture is never wasted. You might be surprised how a little goodwill and understanding can come back your way when you might need some inspiration or a helping hand.
Putting these six perspectives into practice can help you disprove assumptions, exceed expectations and work your friggin’ tail off to show that you care about and are invested in what you are working on. It’s exactly because Millennials have the (dare I say) “entitled” notion that we can actually achieve anything that should make us invaluable resources to our employers, when we pursue that aspiration with tenacity, creativity, coachability, passion, innovation, flexibility, resourcefulness and (as our fearless leader, Nicole, emphasizes) “intrapreneurship.” Be the employee you want to be surrounded by, think disruptively, but lead with humility, generosity and an enthusiasm to grow. You’ll see yourself become invaluable to your team, your brand and even your industry.
What about you? Are there any tips you’d lend to a fellow millennial hoping to stand out (in a good way) in the professional world? Let us know in the comments below and stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest news from NRPR Group by signing up for our bi-monthly newsletter, HUSTLE WITH A CONSCIENCE!