Cara Swetsky is a recent graduate and communications coordinator at a large university. In this article, Cara discusses how millennials can intelligently navigate the modern workplace.
Have you heard? Being a millennial is the absolute worst.
And, well... it’s kind of true (and it’s also kind of not). Being a millennial in today’s workplace can be tough. You may be hitting a wall when it comes to interviews, competing with more experienced co-workers, and facing my least favorite question to answer: “How old are you again?”
As more and more millennials enter the swimming pool of this whole “real world” gig, it’s important to remember that being young isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s probably one the best of things, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
Being a millennial is portrayed as unsavory - a black mark on your record. Even Google will tell you when you start typing “Millennials are…” The three most searched terms are: lazy, the worst, and entitled.
Ouch, say I, a twenty-something.
And on the flip-side, there are tons of articles telling employers what millennials want and need in their careers. The list usually go something like this: Millennials want to be challenged, mentored, empowered, trusted, involved, appreciated, and valued.
Much better, say millennials everywhere.
But the argument you’ll see a lot of the time is that these are thing all employees seek, young and old, which is also very accurate. In reality, while both millennials and baby boomers make a good point, there are recognizable differences between the two age groups when it comes to working together in a shared work space.
If you’re a newbie to the working world, you could very well be the youngest in your office, like myself. So to keep your rep around the office up, use these millennial-pros to your advantage:
Use your tech-savvy to your benefit
While it may sometimes feel like an overwhelming responsibility to help a colleague send an important corporate Tweet, and while you may be frustrated that your manager just doesn’t know how many people are receiving her “reply all,” this is really a chance to shine. You hold a skill that everyone wishes they had.
For the millennial generation, use of modern technology is second nature. We grew up with computers, smartphones, and all sorts of gadgets, while older generations have had to re-learn and adapt to them. Use this knowledge to help others around the office that didn’t have the privilege of growing up with a computer or social media and help them make their work lives that much easier. They might just start to think differently about those millennials.
Bring your new ideas to the table
Everyone in the company has been doing things the same way for years, but you know a better way of proceeding? Speak up. Companies hire young blood for a good reason - they bring new ways of working and thinking to shake up their own stale and possibly outdated habits. You may know of options that others don’t even know are available to them.
It could be as simple as using Google Drive to make collaborating on spreadsheets and documents more intuitive, make project management easier and more transparent using a tool like Trello, or set your team up for a Slack account for workplace chat so that you can better communicate and keep track of your work. All of these ideas and more can help make teamwork a more natural part of your workplace. And even if they don’t go with your ideas, they at least know you’re paying attention and putting yourself out there to benefit the team.
Use your open mind to excel
As a millennial, you’re more likely to be open to diverse mindsets and less likely to be saddled with preconceived notions. Living in a world of diversity, variety, and constant change is an unmatched skillset that you possess in your youth. Let your forward-thinking philosophies and exposed mind lead the way and you’ll be bound to come up with and discover different concepts in the work place that suit the needs of all your colleagues.
Keep working for what you want
These days, jobs aren’t handed out with the flash of a diploma. Millennials have to build their resumes, whether by becoming involved in clubs or communities, taking internships, starting their own blogs anr websites, or taking a class to learn a new skill. If you’re a millennial who has worked to build your career, show that drive to others who are concerned when leadership hires a new batch of millennials. They’ll see that a lot of hard work went into your new young colleagues getting hired, and it will ease their minds about the value they can bring to the team.
You’re young and you see a world full of money, but it’s important to recognize that raises, promotions, and advancements don’t just fall into your lap. Take it from Mark Cuban himself, “Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it away from you.” Apply this philosophy to your work to stay motivated when you’re facing a tough deadline, or when you want to add a bit of extra spice to your latest project with one of your grand ideas. Keep up this mentality and know that you are already well on your way.
Don’t wish away your youth
Remember when you were thirteen, sitting in your room, freshly grounded for disobeying mom or dad and thinking, “Boy, I can’t wait to grow up”? And now that you’ve grown and the bills are coming in, you find yourself thinking, “I wish I was little again.” The same goes for your professional career. It can be hard to stay patient while making a name for yourself and sitting around waiting to be handed the big bucks. But the quicker you begin to appreciate that these are your years of freedom, where you can learn, grow, and experience the world, the sooner you’ll be the CEO thinking back on your early years.
Allow room for growth
This one’s self-explanatory. You’re not always going to be right, and that’s okay. You’re not supposed to be. Take risks and make mistakes. Take every obstacle thrown and think about how to break it down rather than go around it. Take the opportunity to learn from others around you, no matter their age, and focus on expanding your skillset regardless of the fact that you’re no longer a student.