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
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:
Emphasize your generation’s
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
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
Jenny Dearborn. Jenny is Chief Learning Officer of SuccessFactors.