How to Be Your Office’s Favorite Millennial
Stereotyping a group of people based on anything is categorically unacceptable, unless that “anything” is generational and unless you are talking about Millennials (those between the ages of 18-35), and then it seems okay to call them lazy, entitled, self-absorbed, coddled, even delusional. How is this fair?
According to Pew Research Center, the first quarter of 2015 saw the number of Millennials in the American workforce surpass Generation X (ages 35-50); with Baby Boomers (51+) rapidly retiring, Millennials now represent more than one in three employees in the US. That’s a significant percentage of the workforce to be badmouthing.
It’s daunting to be a recent college graduate trying to fit into the new reality of professional life when you know that negative press abounds; but those associations are changing as your generation and its hallmark ways of doing business are becoming more widely understood and valued.
The trailblazers among your contemporaries have exhibited real grit in weathering the unflattering press that has followed your generation’s professional maturation. Perhaps the hazing period is over; increasingly positive descriptions are surfacing about Millennials, those enterprising entrepreneurs poised to help dislodge the modern workplace from its 9-5 funk with their fluid technological know-how and commitment to making a difference in the world.
So how do you capitalize on this positivity and avoid the mistakes that got other Millennials categorized so negatively? Consider these simple strategies to forge satisfying relationships among your colleagues and secure your status as everyone’s favorite Millennial in the office.
Absorb your new culture, and show your colleagues how excited you are to be there. Make it your mission to remember your co-workers’ names and as much as you can about their work and their lives.
Refrain from always carrying your phone with you, especially when you are still learning the ropes. Continually glancing at your phone is a nervous habit, and it comes off as rude or disinterested. Body language matters, and lack of interest is not the message you are trying to send.
For the first couple of weeks in your new environment you want to be as be as fully present as possible, not just to make a good impression but also for your own sake–to open yourself up to this new experience.
Communication is key
Phone calls and face-to-face meetings are probably not your preferred modes of communication. Although you may interact with your personal network exclusively through chat, the diversity of people in your office plus workplace norms might mean you need to open yourself up to email, phone calls and in-person meetings.
While it may seem uncomfortable to drop by someone’s office when you can more efficiently send a text, impromptu conversations build relationships and get work done. A meeting accomplishes what can take a slew of text messages. It is a great way to brainstorm, plan and delegate. Face-to-face meetings have a value that electronic interactions simply don’t.
Awkwardness stems from nervousness, and it can be practiced away. Sure, you may be inviting some uncomfortable moments by putting yourself out there, but the more you do it, the more you will hone strategies to smooth out those rough edges. Set up informational meetings and lunches in your first couple weeks on the job. It will build bridges.
Invite others’ perspectives
Cultivate relationships with your colleagues. Even if they are older than you and their lives are different than yours, there is always common ground such as music, animals, sports, books, etc. Find some area of shared interest upon which to build a basic relationship so that you can figure out who you really click with and who you trust. Then when the time comes to talk about what you really need to discuss – your workplace – you know that you have an ally and eventually, perhaps, a mentor.
A trusted mentor can help guide you through the day-to-day realities of work. The professional world is totally different than the university. You are expected to proactively produce. Your boss won’t be proud of you if you do your job. A boss simply expects that of you. A mentor can help bridge the emotional gap between college and the professional world. She or he can give you the inside track on cultural mores and expectations that you are still learning and help you to fit in more comfortably.
Work relationships are wonderful. In addition to serving a very necessary function, they enhance your life by giving you the chance to build relationships outside of your peer group. It’s a win-win.
Do your time patiently
Get comfortable working your way up. No matter how smart or educated you are, it takes time to get acclimated to the professional world. Being humble about that will win you favor in the professional world. You are new to this realm, so there should be no task that is beneath you. Help out wherever you can. Volunteer to do the grunt work when it helps out your team. Few players jump on a team and go right to the star role, and the most celebrated stars are the ones who enhance the experience for the whole team. If you want to build solid relationships with your team, you have to sweat a little bit, but it will be worth it. Being on a team that functions well together and produces high-quality work is fun and satisfying.
You want the members of your team to know they can count on you. Don’t show up late, take long lunches, excessive sick time or bend the rules until you know what your work culture tolerates. Show your colleagues that you have a solid work ethic. There may be room for flexibility, and as you understand the culture you will learn how to use that benefit, but show your dependability first. Cutting corners looks bad. Avoid doing it if you want your colleagues to take you seriously.
Millennials are proving themselves left and right
Your generation is full of hardworking and enterprising people. You have nothing to apologize for. You and your contemporaries are an asset to the workforce.
Work requires diplomacy, patience and discipline. Hone those skills, and as you work your way up you will be able to enjoy greater flexibility and creativity in the positions to which you advance. Those are job perks that usually come later in one’s career, and you will earn them too, once you do your time.