Calling All Millennials…
Congratulations! You just graduated college and now you get to enter the real world.
Work, they said, would be fun. You’re either searching for your first real job, about to start at an amazing new company, or you’ve secured an internship.
Any scenario you find yourself in, you’re going to have to learn very quickly what it takes to be a professional. So here are 7 helpful pieces of career advice to set you apart from the other recent graduates.
This is the beginning of your career and you certainly want to start off on the right foot… or maybe the left?
1.Dress To Impress
Your parents have been telling you to ditch the twenty piercings in your ear and the long, shaggy hair for years now. Yes, We understand you’re a millennial and value self-expression, but that doesn’t mean older generations (those likely to be your boss) do as well.
Unfortunately, these are the individuals you must impress – for now. Here’s what you need to do to get some actual respect:
- Take out those earrings
- Cut your hair
- Shower daily
- Invest in some clothes that don’t make you stick out like a sore thumb
My first experience as a young professional placed me in the State Capital of Washington State. I wore a blazer, pencil skirt, nylons, and heels everyday.
It got old fast.
However, this attire signified my new level of professionalism. Suddenly people treated me as if I had something important to say, and my time mattered.
When you dress the part, you are the part. For a quick guide on what professional attire looks like, check this out:
2. Start From The Bottom
If you’re anything like I am, you probably have your career goals in order and are ready to focus on the big picture. But unfortunately, a college degree doesn’t automatically qualify you to manage a department in your city’s local government or run a large investment firm.
I know. Shocking right?
What you have is a piece of paper that says you can make a four year commitment to an institution, you (hopefully) enjoy learning about your trade, and can handle deadlines, along with a reasonable amount of stress.
That’s about it.
This means that your first step is to land an entry-level job at an organization of interest to you. Step two is to work diligently, learn all you can, take the projects nobody else wants, and grin and bear it.
Right now, learning soft skills and showing your employers that you can execute any task thrown at you is crucial to your career success. After working your heart out, proving yourself to your employer, and gaining useful skills, you will finally be ready for that promotion.
Many millennials overlook the importance of branding themselves. Yet, in the age of Facebook and social networking, it is now more important than ever.
In order to start branding yourself properly, there’s two main things you should do. Here’s what they are:
- Add your family online. This will cause you to think twice about sharing a post that is filled with inappropriate content. If your grandma wouldn’t look at you the same after sharing the post, your employers probably won’t either.
Remember that privacy settings can only go so far – if coworkers share with your boss, you might be taken less seriously and you can kiss that promotion good-bye.
- Don’t drink and work. This should be obvious: but never, under any circumstances, drink around people ranked above you.
By fighting these urges, you exhibit self-restraint and willpower that other millennials may not have. Exercising sound judgement will show your bosses that they can trust you with the operations of their company. Plus, nobody wants to be known as the “drunk” at office parties.
4. Know When To Unplug
Technology is tricky.
It has brought many conveniences to our daily lives and revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with others. We are all lucky to be living in this incredible day and age.
However, knowing when to unplug is key in the professional world. You don’t want to miss a piece of important information because you were texting during the entire meeting.
When you get the urge to text, take a moment to assess the situation and determine the level of importance of responding immediately. Unless it’s absolutely pertinent that you reply, don’t. Showing self-restraint and detachment from your mobile device will show your coworkers that you are completely present and that you respect their time.
Bonus Tip, it is also important to block out times in your day to get work done. It is easy to get distracted by responding to thirty e-mails every hour, but you won’t get any work done. Allocate time to put all of your concentration on projects in progress – no distractions!
5. Ins And Outs Of Networking
Networking is a great opportunity to advertise your brand (yourself) and meet seasoned professionals within your discipline. These individuals may make or break your career in the future, so be on your “A” game.
As a young professional, It’s important to come prepared to any networking event or meeting. That means having your business cards handy! You never know when you’ll need to exchange information.
Business cards save time exchanging information and storing it on your mobile devices. Electronic businesses cards can be used as an alternative and here is an amazing resource to help you build your very own:
After exchanging information it is always a good idea to follow-up. Whether this is a quick e-mail or a formal card, this is a crucial step. If you want to make a lasting impression, follow-up; if they remember you and you continue to stay in touch, you’ve networked successfully.
6. Find A Workplace Best Friend
Nobody wants to go it alone – so don’t.
Find someone you can confide in and trust. This person will be your rock throughout your career.
The ideal work best friend is someone that will give you honest criticism and serve as friendly competition to keep you on your toes. This healthy relationship can provide many benefits to your level of engagement and success at work.
These can include but are not limited to:
- Helping out with work related projects
- Provide encouragement when the work environment gets a little hectic
- Sending you funny cat memes to get you through the afternoon slump
Having a workplace best friend really is the best.
7. Lies Are Always Uncovered
We’ve all heard this growing up: Don’t lie, the truth always gets out.
That is so true. There is nothing more embarrassing that lying about a situation and having someone find out. Here is a personal story of my own to serve as a warning for all you would be Pinocchios.
I was in a room at work once, when a Legislator realized he had been lied to, and let me tell you, he was not happy!
His trust with the individual was lost that day, and there is no bouncing back from that. This individual’s professional career is over. Done. Kaput.
Bottom line: It’s easier to tell the truth, no matter the cost, than get caught in a lie.
If you remain truthful and own up to mistakes, people will respect you more, as that shows a level of maturity that many people do not possess. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, reputation is everything.
You don’t want to be known as the liar or manipulator – so stay honest!
Now that you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, it’s time to go out and dominate the working world. If you don’t take away anything else, always remember the following job advice:
- Exercise sound judgement and err on the side of caution
- Always dress more professionally than necessary
- Make mature decisions
- Never talk about topics that you couldn’t discuss with your grandmother
Good luck out there!
About The Author – Andrea Smith:
Andrea is a Public Administration graduate student at WSU. She has a background in campaign and government relations.
You can find her on Twitter: @raisingnala.