I’ve read a lot of articles lately about what Boomer and Gen X executives need to do to manage the Millennial (folks born in the 1980s to early 2000s) labor force, or how to avoid the headache of hiring them. But there seems to be very little in the way of mentorship for this much-maligned generation.
And some of the advice that is mysteriously kept secret from them is valuable to anyone navigating the corporate business world, regardless of age.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m sharing some wisdom that’s specifically relevant to the corporate world. Those eager beavers who choose the entrepreneurship route have a somewhat different set of challenges so let’s stick with office politics in the world of cubicles and indebtedness to stock holders.
And if you know of anyone whose life would be made easier by knowing these tips, please share them. So much career angst can be avoided with a spoonful of the right medicine!
“I need Monday off for a weekend trip to Vegas.”
You have every right to vacation days.
HOWEVER, your boss doesn’t need to know what you do on the weekend. You may be excited. You and your boss may be on friendly terms.
But, I guarantee, when you come into the office on Tuesday morning and you a) arrive a few minutes late, b) don’t jump in with the most brilliant problem-solving solution ever during a meeting, c) forget to do that one thing your boss never mentioned but expects completed OR d) are anything less that 200% on top of your game… the assumption will be made that you are a hung-over, entitled idiot who has no respect for priorities or authority.
A frequent realistic scenario? Yes.
Tip: Do NOT go motor-mouth about your weekend plans.*
* Of course there’s an exception to this rule. If you work at a talent agency**, PR firm, on Wall Street or for a celebrity, being a party animal is a required component of the job so blab, blab, blab away.
** I once turned down a job when my potential boss told me I had to promise to go out for drinks at least five nights a week. On my own dime. In hindsight, I should have known it wasn’t my scene when he introduced me to his pet snake.
“I just got a killer 2-bedroom apartment – way bigger than my room at home, so I’m gonna have to get all new furniture.”
Congrats on moving out of your parents’ house. That’s a huge accomplishment. Seriously.
HOWEVER, you’ve now just reminded your boss of exactly how much less life experience you have than they do. Also, if your boss has kids, you’ve now made her think of them and all the headaches they cause. Not a good comparison to live up or down to.
Tip: Avoid referencing your parents and how recently you were weaned.
Also, if this is your first, second or even third job and you’re moving into a 2-bedroom apartment, your boss is now confident that he doesn’t need to give you a raise for a hell of a long time because you’re obviously some sort of trust fund baby.
Tip: Keep knowledge of your unearned wealth to yourself.
If you do have a trust fund, or very well manipulated parents footing your bills, your boss’ conclusion is just an annoyance that will slowly erode your self-confidence as you continue to toil without receiving any finance-based approval indicators.
If you are following in the footsteps of most Americans, however, and living above your means by getting a place you can’t easily afford, you are totally screwed and will slide ever-faster into the demoralizing and very slippery slope of debt and financial fear.
Tip: Avoid obtaining the trappings of a life you can’t afford.***
*** In addition to a swanky first apartment, trappings that can doom you may include a brand new car, the latest killer kicks and this season’s “It” bag.
“But I didn’t know…”
No one knows everything, including your boss.
HOWEVER, please don’t EVER be caught in the past tense when it comes to a lack of knowledge. THIS IS CRUCIAL!
Tip: Ask questions. I mean it. ASK!****
**** Seriously. If you don’t know something, ask. If you aren’t sure you know something, ask. If you’re confused about something, ask.
You will not be penalized for not knowing something.
You WILL be screwed if you ACT based on that lack of knowledge and have to fall back on “but I didn’t know” or “I thought” or “I assumed.”
And you will be doubly screwed because you will know that the hot water you’re drowning in was entirely avoidable if you’d just gathered your courage, shucked your ego, and… asked.
“I just have a quick question…”
Asking questions is vital to your success. (see above)
HOWEVER, timing and accuracy are everything.
A “quick” question is… one that can be asked in one concise sentence and answered in no more than one minute.
Please memorize that definition. And teach it to everyone you know.
A quick question is only effective if it is used judiciously. Meaning, asking “a quick question” every half hour will NOT garner you a great referral but may have you scouting out a new career much more quickly than you’d anticipated.
Tip: Be clear about how much time you need to ask your question(s), be respectful of your boss’ or colleague’s time and consolidate your questions if you can.
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These are just a few of the tips I have for folks just starting out in the work force (and anyone else who hears him/herself in the above quotes). These tips have consistently surprised the 20-somethings I work with, who then grab onto them like life-vests in rocky surf.
Wouldn’t it be great if folks had been clued into the basics BEFORE they jumped into the water?
I’d love to hear what tips you have about how to avoid sabotaging a job or how you’ve learned from any of the above mistakes if you made them on your own career path. Share in the comments below!