The generation that grew up with the Internet is graduating from college. The young men and women of the Net Generation have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes, and as this group transitions from college to career, they may struggle to bridge the gap between their expectations and reality.
If you’re a Millennial, you’re probably accustomed to being surrounded by other Millennials. Fluent in technology and the Internet, that is where you feel most comfortable interacting with others and sharing ideas. But with four other generations likely to be your co-workers and colleagues, you’re going to have to adjust to certain professional realities in order to make a sound transition. Consider these five realities of today’s workplace to set yourself up for success.
1. Your career is in your hands. College life makes it easy to become dependent on constant guidance from your superiors. Professors give you assignments, deadlines, and generally structure your life for you. Outside of school, your parents provide guidance and support, checking in on your progress (maybe too much if they’re “helicopter parents”!), and even supplying you with money when the well runs dry. The responsibility for your success doesn’t transfer to your employer upon entering the workplace. Suddenly, your success is solely reliant on your work ethic and attitude. It’s critical to prioritize your tasks, learn time management skills, develop and stick to a routine, and above all, do your job to the best of your ability.
2. Flexibility is key. Hopefully, you enter your first full-time job feeling confident and ready to hit the ground running. At the same time, it’s important to realize that some of the goals you want to achieve at work just may not be possible, and you must work within defined parameters. From day one, you’ll likely need to align your goals with those of your employer. You’ll also have to be flexible when it comes to creating a work/life balance. This could be a struggle particularly for Millennials, who often desire more flexibility on where, when, and how work gets done. The reality is, a job doesn’t need to integrate into your lifestyle – you need to integrate your lifestyle around the job. You may need to drive a further distance to work, sacrifice a social outing to put in extra time at the office, and simply commit yourself to your work before anything else.
3. Your resume is not a golden ticket. You’ve got your degree and the technical skills you need to enter the job market – who wouldn’t want to hire you? Not so fast. While your resume is important and your foot in the door to an interview, employers are increasingly looking for candidates who possess excellent soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate, create, and communicate and think critically, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). You will have to prove yourself by showing how you can help prospective employers meet their goals.
4. You’re going to have to pay your dues. No one starts at the top. You have to work hard and put in the time and performance necessary to get there. For starters, your first pay check won’t be as big as you think it should be. While there’s no doubt that you as a Millennial have many skills and abilities you bring to the workplace that set you apart from your peers, it’s important to understand the hierarchical boundaries between job levels. It may take time, diligence, and a job well done for managers and executives to recognize and reward your skills. Over time, your salary will increase based on performance. For now, make peace with a smaller pay check and start collecting experience. It will likely be worth more in the long run!
5. Learning is lifelong. Finding a job after graduation is a great first step toward professional success. But it’s only just that – the first step. In today’s competitive workforce, you’re going to have to continually learn and build your marketable skills to further your career. The knowledge and skills you have today may not be what you need five years from now, and it’s imperative to remain current and competitive. Whether it’s pursuing a graduate degree, formal training, or informal learning opportunities, the more you develop yourself professionally, the more value you add to your employer.
All in all, Milliennials will do well to ask not what their company can do for them, but what they can do for their company. Building a career is about adding value to an organization, and you have to focus on constantly improving that value to be successful. The rest will follow.