How to Succeed in Business and still be a Twenty-Something

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By Michael A. Olguin / President of Havas Formula

If everything you read about millennials is only partially true, then we as employers should be afraid to hire anyone who was born in the ‘80s. Thus, if I was a millennial (which I am not), I would feel pretty bad about myself and the likelihood of reaching my fullest potential given all of the negative things that have been said and written about me—from my work ethic, need for positive affirmation and inability to take criticism to my lack of loyalty and quest for the fastest route to the corner office. So I thought I would provide the many millennials in the workforce with a can’t-miss plan for professional success that will, once and for all, quell all the haters out there.

1.    Ask questions (but explain why you’re asking them) – Yes, many corporate managers expect subordinates to just do what has been asked of them. However, if you learn a bit about millennials you will understand that they need more information—they want to know why. What are we trying to accomplish? How are we going to get there? What’s the value? As a millennial, you will provide greater understanding to your manager if he or she understands the context of your question and how the answer will help you to do a better job.  

2.    Under promise and over deliver (not so obvious to millennials) – Many believe that millennials are more about doing the job quickly, rather than correctly. And that their goal is to get a pat on the back for getting the job done. The best way for millennials to change that perception is to deliver beyond their manager’s expectation. Ask specifics about the task, but then push beyond it. When your manager says they want “A, B and C,” deliver “A, B, C, D and E.” In addition to impressing them, you will find that the quality (and importance) of the work you are asked to do will also improve.

3.    Don’t look for credit (I know it’s counter-intuitive, but I assure you it works) – When you are driven by doing what is right, what is best for the situation and what will drive the greatest results, you will find it incredibly satisfying. Bosses love when someone is selfless, cares only about the company (or client) and is driven by team success. When you focus on the group prize and not personal accolades, your entire team will notice—and this will ultimately drive your individual success.

4.    Punch above your weight (do what nobody but you believed you could do) – Many managers erroneously believe that millennials don’t have the experience, know-how or desire to be successful. You have every opportunity to change that perception by asking to do more. Don’t settle for a standard list of to do’s. When you can do work above your pay grade, then you are bringing greater value to the company and to your manager. When they see that drive, they will likely look for greater opportunities to leverage your desire and motivation.

5.    Lighten up (don’t let everything you believe in weigh you down) – The perception is that millennials are driven by a bigger purpose in life and business than what appears on the surface. This noble mentality is a good thing, but don’t let it get in the way of working hard, doing what’s right or upending your employer’s process because you feel differently. Though there are numerous mission-based brands out there, it’s important to remember that most companies are in business to turn a profit. Thus, everything you can do to enhance that proposition will cast a favorable light on you.

Remember that people who love what they do are typically the same people who have the greatest amount of success within their company—they have more friends at work, are promoted more frequently, and generally make more money. As a millennial, you can choose to be what you want to be, and not what the world thinks you are.