At the ripe old age of 32, I’m the old-timer of Generation Y—who my younger Millennial colleagues jokingly refer to as their “Fairy God-Millennial.” I’ve lived an incredibly full and rewarding life already—hubby, kids and career with some epic wins and epic fails. I’ve been strapped for cash, sleep deprived, promoted, transferred, relocated and laid off. I’ve taken jobs just for the paycheck and taken leaps of faith to do what I love. This ability to flex, flow and deeply experience life is uniquely Millennial.
We are experimental, creative and innately driven towards filling our life with meaning—not just dollar signs and the traditional 9-to-5. These strengths are also our flaws, and without guidance and careful self-control, older generations (including bosses and hiring managers) will continue to see us as the stereotypical self-absorbed, flaky and selfie-obsessed generation.
As a proud member and wizened elderly statesman of Generation Y, here are nine career tips from your Fairy God-Millennial:
1. You probably don’t deserve it. Be grateful.
Sure, you’ve worked hard to graduate from a great college and land some amazing internships. But so has the next guy. Be humble and work harder than everyone else. Say thank you.
2. Always (no seriously) be over-prepared.
I’m shocked at how many Millennials show up to interviews without researching the company, meetings without notes and corporate events without accounting for traffic delays. Prepare and over-prepare—always. Once you’ve earned a few stripes, you’ll be more prepared to occasionally wing it or rely upon a storied past if you fall flat.
3. Show up with the right thing to say.
If you can’t say something smart and interesting, don’t say anything at all. Filler words and nonsensical ramblings grate on the nerves of our bosses, colleagues and stakeholders. Show up to every meeting with a rough script of thoughts and ideas to contribute.
4. Don’t get it? Ask.
No one expects you to know everything. But they do expect you to learn. Google everything, subscribe to trade pubs (that’s short for publications—write that down) for your industry and cozy up to your company’s experts. Don’t rely on email or IM—our generation’s technological crutch. Get out of your chair, and interact face-to-face.
5. Get involved. Volunteer for everything.
Learn how to live and work in a spirit of volunteerism. Refill the coffee creamer. Replace the paper in the printer. Help a colleague carry boxes to their car. Hold the elevator. Join the welcome committee and food drive.
6. Find a mentor. Immediately.
Mistakes are awesome. No, seriously. The trick to making mistakes that help you grow—not get fired—is having someone higher up in the organization who has your back. Find a mentor to help you learn from your slip-ups and cover for you with the organization when the going gets tough. It’s amazing how often long-in-the-tooth employees forget that you’re still learning and will make a few mistakes, so having a mentor to gently remind them is an absolute must.
7. Don’t just wait for feedback—ask for it.
Think you messed something up? Can’t figure out what to do next? Is your idea off base or just creative enough to break through? Don’t wait for a formal review or that email calling you out. Proactively engage the right people and solicit their feedback. Just be prepared that it won’t all be positive. Internalize and take positive action from there.
8. Don’t blur the lines.
Avoid the lure of office gossip. Don’t babysit your boss’ kids. Share the right personal stories—not the really personal ones. Millennials are work-life collaborators, checking emails on weekends and Facebook at the office. But too much of a blend puts you on HR’s radar, so just be very careful how much personal blurs into your office life and how much office blurs into your personal life.
9. Walk away.
The 20s are tough. It’s hard to keep emotions in check, and you will never overcome the stigma of an office cry-fest, angry email or shouting match. When confronted with strong emotions at work, excuse yourself. Seriously, walk away. Go sit in your car or take a walk around the block. Come back calm and collected.
Put it together and what do you got? A start to a rewarding career.
Check out PGi’s Millennial Career Guide for even more Fairy God-Millennial advice.
Need help with your unique situation? Comment here or reach out to me @BlakelyAgs on Twitter.