Millennials who want to achieve early career success first need a potent plan to find their place in the fluid 21st-century workplace. Ditto that for their younger demographic cohort who are commonly known as Generation Z.
Survey research also points out that Millennials value work flexibility and want to make a meaningful difference in society, rather than just getting rich.
The oldest members of Gen Z are now starting to enter college and the workplace in increasing numbers, following in the footsteps of their Millennial (Gen Y) predecessors. Yet despite negative stereotypes, many young people are highly motivated, ambitious and aspire to land their dream jobs sooner rather than later. Survey research also points out that Millennials value work flexibility and want to make a meaningful difference in society, rather than just getting rich. But how do these younger generations turn their professional dreams into reality while being broadly denigrated across the media spectrum as lazy, entitled and self-centered?
This is Part 2 of my Rapid Career Success Plan. Although the following career advice is especially applicable to Millennials and Gen Z, it can likewise be leveraged by any generational group. However, it’s important to note that the growing demographic of teens and 20-somethings will dominate the global workforce in the coming years and decades, according to demographers.
EDITOR’S NOTE – ENJOY PART 1 BELOW
5) Network, Network, Network
No, that’s not a typo. Rather it’s analogous to that old saying in real estate: location, location, location. The same applies to career advancement in general and networking in particular. It’s not only important to work harder and smarter with cutting-edge technology, but also to embrace and nurture key professional relationships through networking (online and off).
These VIP relationships can help pave the way toward swift career advancement.
My advice: be fearless, relentless and tireless when networking. Knock on every appropriate door and leave no proverbial stone unturned. This means reaching out to influencers, executives, and experts to assist you.
As noted in Part 1, mentors helped me to quickly land a gig as the editorial page editor of the daily student newspaper at the University of Maryland during my sophomore year. I was the youngest editor on staff and won a writing award from The Society of Professional Journalists. Once that goal was crossed off my list, I turned my attention to national politics, as I’ve always had a keen interest in public affairs and public service.
I aspired to land the highest internship possible within the U.S. Congress.
I researched and sought out leading political science professors on campus, some of whom had experience working on prior presidential campaigns. Then I showed up at their offices, sometimes unannounced. Fortunately, none of them threw me out. #EdInsights
I shared my news clips, discussed my career goals, and made a bold request for their help. This came via letters of recommendation and references. Frankly, I was surprised this worked out so well, as I didn’t know what to expect. However, reaching out to potential mentors and networking turned out to be a wise move and lifelong lesson. You may have heard the saying: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
I would add this caveat — as pointed out by MSNBC TV host and former presidential speechwriter, Chris Matthews, in his book, “Hardball” (first published in 1988 before his long-running TV show of the same name):
It’s not only who you know, but who you get to know well.
Who will go to bat for you when needed? Who will provide a good recommendation and put you in touch with the right contacts? That’s the true test of networking. You may know a lot of people, but what good are they if they brush you off when asked for help?
Today’s young people are fortunate to have a plethora of social media networking tools at their fingertips, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. While this certainly makes the networking process easier, it should not supersede it by serving as a safety blanket. While social media networking can be a great start, it’s also important to meet your connections in person, to the extent possible. This solidifies budding relationships and makes you stand out in a crowd of young job seekers who may shun in-person meetings. Let’s face it, most young people today appear more eager to text than talk. They begrudge direct face time in favor of Facebook.
Millennials and Gen Z should not rely on social media networking only.
My friend and colleague, John White, MBA, offers some exemplary advice on leveraging social media as a springboard to networking in person. His recent blog post is especially relevant to Millennials and Gen Z (“Use Social Media to Create Conversations in the Real World“). Thus, try going the extra mile to meet your contacts for lunch, coffee, dinner, drinks, or just stop by their office and say hello. If geography is problematic, then use live video streaming devices like Skype and other popular tech tools.
What if meeting in person is not possible in the short term? In that case, send VIP contacts periodic emails, cards or handwritten letters. That way they won’t forget you. Moreover, they will likely be impressed by your efforts. Then try to meet in person at a later date at their convenience, not yours. Remember that your high-level connections will be super busy, of course, so always be patient and polite.
6) Reject the Naysayers
The bigger your dream, the more likely people will tell you it’s out of reach, if not impossible. But don’t let negativity steer you off course. I set my sights high in securing a coveted full-time internship (for college credit) with the Office of the Majority Leader, House of Representatives, within the ornate U.S. Capitol Building. That’s the Number 2 leadership office in the lower chamber of Congress behind the Speaker of the House.
But I never would have achieved that goal had I listened to all the naysayers.
Most young people secure such high-level internships through home state connections to the congressman and/or big campaign contributions from family members. But I had neither of those key factors going for me. This caused a lot of my friends and colleagues to ask why they would want me? It was a good question. However, sometimes long shots come in. Nearly everyone I spoke to about this goal told me I had no chance. Yet I remained steadfast and undeterred, even though I was only 20 years old. Eventually, I was lucky enough to obtain an interview which led to being offered the job.