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Career advice for Millennials: 10 ways to hack into the workplace

Millennials are facing an astonishing level of competition for every job. There are hundreds of you applying to every job. So, how to defy Oldster expectations and set yourself up with a career you can be proud of?
Human resource executives across America are freaking out. Why? Because by 2020, Millennials will comprise more than 40% of the employment force. What's so scary about that?

For one, most of you are not currently competent to do corporate entry-level work. For another, you've proven impervious to the regular training and mentoring programs that HR has always depended on to develop employees.

You question everything, ignore orders, don't play well with others, and yet you assume that you warrant complete transparency and regular promotions.

Also, and this is a minor complaint, but the fact that many of you still live with your parents, is, in a word, creepy to Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers who were kicked out at 18.

Ignore all of that—it's just paranoid hype, right? Oldsters shouldn't be so worried about you. You're the ones who should be worried. Why?

Millennials are facing an astonishing level of competition for every job. There are hundreds of you applying to every job. So, how to defy Oldster expectations and set yourself up with a career you can be proud of?

Here's a Top 10 List:

1.  Emphasize your generation's advantages

No one can deny you have superhuman multi-tasking skills, you swim in a digital ocean many Boomers only wet their toes in, and you're so savvy about marketing that you're practically impervious.

The ASTD Leadership Development for Millennials study found that you bring to the workplace technological acumen and openness to change and new applications.

Personality traits you bring to the table, according to a McKinsey study, include positive attitudes, optimism, gumption, curiosity, fearlessness, creativity, spark, drive, desire, and of course, your legendary confidence. Millennials have qualities any employer should want in an employee. You can be trained on the rest

2. Passion trumps earning

Follow your passion. This might be an oldie, but it’s a goodie! Anyone who loves their job can tell you it takes a lot of the stress and anxiety out of life. You may not get to start at the top, but do what you love and you can find jobs that will get you started, give you the opportunity to learn your passion from the business side, and then the sky is the limit.

3. Make use of your power-networking skills

No generation before yours comes close to the reach that you have, and the platform you’ve already built for yourself. Now it’s time to expand it, thoughtfully: if you appreciate someone’s work, be a fan. If you see that you know someone who knows someone you want to know, ask for an intro. Look at your Friends, Links, and Followers and see just who you can be helpful to, and who can be helpful to you.

4. Question

Never has a generation asked so many questions! The good news is that once you land the job, many of your bosses have learned the value of listening to your questions—it often makes them evaluate a process in ways they’d never thought of before, and opens the doors to more efficient and dynamic ways of doing business. Be mindful your questions are respectful so they don’t come across as a self-involved, under-developed kid who is not ready to work as part of a team.

5. Program the right formal education

"In both Britain and the United States many people with expensive liberal-arts degrees are finding it impossible to get decent jobs,” says The Economist article Generation Jobless.

“What matters is not just the number of years of education people get, but its content. This means expanding the study of science and technology and closing the gap between the world of education and the world of work—for example by upgrading vocational and technical education and by forging closer relations between companies and schools.”

Closing the gap between the world of education and the world of work includes practical vocational or technical training. If you have a generalized degree, supplement it with a very practical work or vocationally focused degree or certificate. There are great part-time programs available for working professionals.

6.  Self-educate all the time

Additionally, keep in mind that education is no longer linear—high school, college, work, grad school, more work. So many young professionals are creating individualized, experiential learning and development programs for themselves.

On the job, professionals of all levels are responsible for developing themselves and shouldn’t wait for a manager to deliver them a training class or similar formal learning program. In life, everyone can gain skills simply by engaging with the world, so don't forget to pursue hobbies too.

7. Recruit mentors

Get yourself several mentors to advise and council you. Who can be a mentor? Anyone who will talk to you about their career, and answers questions about yours. Facebook relationships, people you meet at social or cultural events, friends who know someone you admire, the people who surround you at work.

Mentors don’t have to be twenty years older than you—they can literally be the guy who has the next job you aspire to. And it doesn’t have to be a life-long relationship. Some mentoring is just a “meet and greet” where you buy them coffee and walk away with that one piece of advice that changes your world.

8.  Open the door to new communication methods

Get out of your communication comfort zone! Networking events are a great opportunity to practice in-person communication skills. If you're already on the job, look to see if your company stage seminars that help young professionals engage in face-to-face communication.

Regardless, this is something you can take into your own hands. Speak up when you meet someone you think can provide information, no matter where you are. At work, if you see a bunch of your peers gathered in a knot to talk, buzz over and see if it’s a conversation you can be a part of and contribute to. Or, if you see that someone isn’t busy, go ask that question you need an answer to—in person. You’ll learn more from a casual conversation that you ever would from a text.

9.  Throw out the career ladder

Millennials are only too happy to disregard the idea of a career ladder. There’s no such thing anymore as working for one company for twenty years and moving up in rank on a pre-determined schedule.

Your career is yours to steer, and that means variety, and that is what you crave. Moving laterally between departments within a company is a great way to widen your knowledge base, network and demonstrate loyalty to a company. Changing industries entirely is fine too, but aim to do it in a way that will allow you to make use of what you already know so that you can now acquire new skills.

10.  Lead with your ambition

Millennials have a reputation for not being ambitious—prove employers wrong. Prove yourself wrong.

If you’re excited about your job and ask to be involved in the projects that catch your eye, the bosses will notice. And they’ll reward you with respect, more responsibility, and more access to the aspects of the job you want to learn.

Better still, if you've got a dream job that only exists in your head, go create it. Being your own boss might be a scary challenge, but it might just be the perfect solution to satisfy your nagging ambition and vision.

By Jenny Dearborn. Jenny is Chief Learning Officer of SuccessFactors.

3 comments
RMSx32767
RMSx32767

"You question everything, ignore orders, don't play well with others, and yet you assume that you warrant complete transparency and regular promotions."

Isn't self esteem a great attribute to possess?

FSKambic
FSKambic

That's powerful! I love it! This is really a good checklist for success.

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