Millennials find themselves completely misunderstood at work.
Always in a constant battle to prove themselves and their worth to their seniors, have their innovative ideas taken seriously, or trying to establish a different work environment to the rigid, conventional situation favoured by oldies.
We chat to Jared Louw, Marketing Manager for MSC College who chats to us about his experience with young employees and offers some critical advice.
It recently dawned on Louw that he’d reached the 10 year mark in his employment career.
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During that time he’d had the chance to work with and observe a number of young employees, many of whom had left him feeling some degree of disappointment in how they’ve conducted themselves.
During those times he’d often wished that he could spend more time with each one of them in order to offer some advice and encouragement.
Seeing young people succeed is something that is really important to Louw.
Young professionals doing well in their chosen fields is not just beneficial to them, but to their families and greater communities as well.
Here are a few tips to empower you in the workplace:
1. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE – SUCCINCTLY AND CLEARLY
Here’s a secret when it comes to climbing the career ladder (and some might say that it’s an unfortunate secret): you need to be noticed. You need to make yourself heard instead of blending in with the crowd.
For example, if you’re working in a group, volunteer to be the one who presents back. In group meetings, prepare well so that you can voice your sensible opinions instead of sitting in silence.
To do this most effectively you need to be a confident, decisive communicator who can get their points across clearly.
The bad news is that for many, communication is often a weakness. In some cases, communication is a frightening prospect.
However, communication, like any other skill, is something that is improved through practise. Some of the best communicators in the world started out as nervous fidgety speakers with low self-confidence. What eventually made them more confident was practise.
(It’s probably a worthy thing to remember – if doing something in the workplace scares you, you probably need to do more of it)
If you want to succeed in the workplace and in business, you need to communicate well – in a confident, concise manner.
People who waffle for ages around a subject don’t endear themselves to others, and struggle to get their message across. Similarly, people who never talk are never noticed, and are seldom seen as managerial material.
Unfortunately, the only way to grow in this regard is to put yourself out there. Look for opportunities where you can communicate, present or contribute more in discussions.
Before you know it your nerves will decline, and you’ll have gained the positive attention of your superiors.
It is important to remember that great communicators are great listeners, first and foremost.
Make a habit of listening to understand, rather than listening to respond. Imperative to effective communication skills are other non-verbal actions such as friendly, open body language; acknowledging the other person; and really thinking and evaluating what is being said.
Never let mistakes happen due to a simple lack of communication and clarity.
2. DON’T BE A MORON
Nobody likes a moron. So don’t be one.
Not doing something because “it’s not in my job description or contract” or “ it’s above and beyond my working hours” is going to get you absolutely nowhere and makes you look like a stuck up moron.
If you think that any manager or superior won’t think less of you if you utter words like this to them, you are horribly wrong. In contrast to this, if you show a positive attitude, a willingness to get involved and go above and beyond what is expected of you, there is very little more you can do to endear yourself to the powers that be.
Whatever you studied, there is a high likelihood that you’ll be doing very little of your diploma or degree content while in the workplace during the first few years.
This is why an open mind and a willingness to learn is so important. Nobody likes the graduate who enters the workplace and acts like they know it all or fights back when getting advice.
Being as helpful as possible allows you to experience different areas of the business or industry, and will help you build relationships and develop goodwill with your superiors.
Keep asking yourself this question: Will the company miss me and really want me back if I disappeared and never returned? If the answer is no, then you’re not doing enough.
Keep asking that question until the answer is yes, and then strive to keep it as a yes.
3. BE MINDFUL
The concept of mindfulness is often spoken about purely in spiritual terms, when in fact, it is something that is particularly relevant to your life in the business world.
What is mindfulness? The website PsychologyToday.com does a very good job of defining the concept:
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad.
Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
The most important aspect of mindfulness in the business world is a continual observation of your feelings as well as what is going on around you.
Here’s an unavoidable truth about you in the working world: you’ll screw up.
Sometimes you’ll make massive screw ups. Things will go wrong due to your mistakes. If you’re thinking “Nah, that won’t happen to me, I’ll be a good employee”, then you’ve just made your first screw up.
Employees that constantly believe that they’ve never made a mistake and blame it on other factors when in fact they were at fault, are on a straight road to nowhere because they’re never learning.
As humans we learn primarily through experience and reflection. It is also true that during the toughest times, we learn the most. You become far more experienced by working on difficult projects than you do working on easy ones.
The tough client teaches you more about service than the easy one does. And without mistakes we will never truly master the craft we are practising.
But all of this learning requires you to be mindful.
How did that mistake happen? How could I have done that differently? What actions and thoughts of mine led to that?
Open minded self-reflection is critical in developing our careers and ourselves as people.
4. BE FLEXIBLE TO CHANGE AND GROW
If your plan is too rigid or you’re too steadfast in your approach, you could find yourself clinging to an industry offering you minimal gateways to growth.
For example, if your 10 year plan is to “be a marketing manager within the FMCG environment” – it is perhaps worthwhile to venture into other industries if you continue to find yourself hovering around an entry level job with minimal gateways to progression.
It is always worth looking around at your peers. Are others in the company progressing due to good performance and opportunity, or are people staying in the same position for years even though they are very competent?
Action 1 spoke of the importance of a vision for yourself, but always factor in change – changes in the world, changes in yourself and changes in your industry or environment.
The key thing to note here is flexibility.
The world and its technology are moving at rates far quicker than before.
Successful people are generally those who have the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge, and apply it to their daily lives. Education is a lifelong aspect that begins from the moment we are born.
As the great Albert Einstein said “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
In the workplace, this is particularly relevant.
Let the world around you be your school, and let experiences be your teacher.