Career Mentoring Advice
I am no career expert, nor am I some crazy-successful Millennial CEO or entrepreneur. I am not on the 30 under 30 list, nor is it likely I will be there next year. That said, as a part of my job, I manage our River blog and social media efforts, so I am constantly looking for articles and resources that have to do with Millennials, getting ahead in one’s career, and other HR, learning, talent, and performance related topics to either blog about or to share with our followers. I’ve gleaned a lot of advice and insights over time from the likes of Meghan M. Biro, Sheryl Sandburg, Ladan Nikravan, Ilya Pozin, Jack Welsh, and so on. I’ve boiled this down to four career tips for Millennials (and maybe even some of their older counterparts) that are a combination of ideas from experts, my personal experience, and my observations of others.
1. Keep up-to-date on your industry and role
A sales professor I had in college told me that if I wanted to have a successful career in sales that I needed to read something new about my industry every week. I am not in sales anymore, but I think that this advice transcends functional confines. A common thread that unites all Millennials is that (to varying degrees) we all lack experience. And while there is no substitute for experience, we can do everything in our power to be educated about what we do and the industry in which we operate. My career tip: Take home whatever you can find online, at work, or from your colleagues related to your industry, and study it. (Bonus points for sharing these job-specific and industry resources with others.) Commit yourself to becoming as much of an expert or as educated as possible on your industry. Others will respect you for it, and having a better grip on the industry in which you work will help you do your job better.
2. Learn one new thing everyday (bonus points if you learn more than one thing)
This is a common motivational tip, but hear me out—there’s some real weight to this. As Millennials, we don’t know nearly as much as our more tenured colleagues. This, of course, is (mostly) no fault of our own and is merely a function of age, but there is something we can do about it. My career tip: Take every opportunity possible to learn. This is where your colleagues come in really handy. Engage in social learning; ask them to help you understand what they do or how they would recommend that you do your own job better. Connect with someone more senior than you and ask him or her about the steps they’ve taken to get where they are or ask for advice for how you might move up the career ladder. Find peers who can coach you, and start to hone your own skills. And if your company has systems like River in place that enable social learning, USE THEM! Even if you have to use them during your lunch or in-between projects, use all the tools you can to expand the breadth and depth of your knowledge.
3. Offer to help your colleagues
Beyond being nice and helpful, offering to help your colleagues provides more advantages than may immediately meet the eye. Of course, by helping out your coworkers, you increase the chance that they will return the favor during your next moment of need. But going beyond this obvious advantage, offering to help others with projects, problems, and so on that fall out of your immediate domain shows to your superiors that you are willing to take the initiative to tackle new and unfamiliar things. My career tip: If your boss, peer, coworker, executive, and so on is swamped with a project, offer to assist them in completing a portion of it, even if it is just a small portion. Helping others demonstrates that you are willing to go beyond your immediate role, and your peers will come to respect you for your willingness to lend a hand. Lastly, by doing something that you wouldn’t typically, you are learning something new and potentially even developing new skills (see Tip 2).
4. Make your voice heard
It can be intimidating to speak up or voice an opinion, especially if you are fairly introverted and very shy around new people, like I am. I realize that no one wants to sound like a show-off, know-it-all, or risk saying the wrong thing, but what I’ve come to realize is that your colleagues, bosses, and executives alike appreciate your insight. What some Millennials don’t realize is that due to the different way in which we’ve experienced the world in comparison to other generations, we have a unique and valuable perspective on things. Whether your idea, opinion, or perspective is the right one for any given situation doesn’t really matter (although extra bonus points if it is). The value lies in potentially uncovering other problems, solutions, or situations as a result of thinking in a new way or seeing the situation through the eyes of a Millennial (you!). My career tip: Take the plunge! You could try it first with a small group or with a friendly audience, such as some colleagues you are collaborating with on a joint project. Once you start expressing your ideas and opinions, people will come to expect it from you. This makes it easier to take the plunge in front of larger groups or people you may not know very well.
What do you think? Could these tips help Millennials or people from other generations succeed in the workplace? Did I miss anything? Tweet at me using our Twitter handle, @RiverLearning; I would love to hear your insights, thoughts, and perspectives!