Welcome to our blog series, The Rise of the Millennial Employee! There's a lot of talk out there about Millennials who are entering the workforce in droves. And we believe there is much to be learned on both sides of the fence; Millennials have many great insights to offer their GenX and Baby Boomer colleagues and these experienced co-workers have career tips and advice to share. That's why we have brought together Alison Guillaume, our Resource Specialist Program Manager, and Kaila Orn, an Eliassen Group Consultant Liaison, to share their individual perspectives. Alison kicks things off with this piece on building your personal brand:
Day One, Job One. You’ve landed your first career opportunity and you’re excited to get started. As you walk through the door on your first day, you’re resigned to make a strong impression, let people know who you are and bring your ideas to the table.
So what are some important things you should do – and NOT do – to make sure you start off on the right foot?
1. Dress for the position you want, not the position you have. You’ve probably heard this one a million times. And while the draw to dress like that guy sporting the flip flops and shorts may be strong, just don’t do it. People will take you more seriously if you’re dressed professionally.
2. Make it a regular habit to have lunch with someone new in the office. Yes, we realize that you have a couple of friends who work down the hall but if you want to build up your influence, then you need to develop other relationships internally. These new connections can offer varied perspectives in the form of career advice and insights into other parts of the organization that you may not be familiar with. So the next time you’re grabbing that coffee in the break room, introduce yourself to someone new.
3. Seek out a professional mentoring program. These days, many companies have instituted formal mentoring programs; they may host a luncheon once per month and even help pair up employees to facilitate these professional relationships.
So your new company doesn’t have a program, you say? As you meet others within the company, consider what you might be looking for in a mentor and see if you can interact with potential mentor candidates on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to tell him/her that you are seeking someone who can serve as a mentor and let them know your goals up front.
4. Keep it professional. Yes, we understand that you had an awesome time on Saturday night and that you and your buddy may have had a little too much. While it may be okay to share these details with friends outside of work, keep in mind that people are paying attention and overhear things at the office. And whether or not you interact with these individuals frequently, they are basing their opinions of you on what they hear and may also relate these to others within the company. So, keep the conversation professional as much as possible.
5. Take advantage of opportunities for face-to-face conversations. Sure, it’s definitely easier to send emails and often times you must use email to be sure to include the right people in your communications. But if you’re working on something with Emma who sits right around the corner, why not take the opportunity to go over and have a face-to-face discussion with her rather than send that email? Take advantage of these opportunities to interact and collaborate with colleagues when you can!
6. Show up early. The traffic was horrible, your dog is sick, your car wouldn’t start…there are so many reasons why it’s tough to get to work on time. And, certainly, things happen. But we encourage you to show up early – or at least on time – as a regular habit. So set your alarm a half hour earlier, take a different route and ask your roommate to bring your dog to the vet.
7. Ask a ton of questions. Your company believes in you; they realize that you’re both smart and talented or else they wouldn’t have hired you. But keep in mind that you don’t know everything; this is a new job, a new career and likely an industry that you may not be entirely familiar with. Take the time to learn from others who have been in the industry for a while, who understand the company’s value proposition, products and services and ask them lots of questions. Keep in mind that most people love to share their knowledge with you – it’s a win/win!
8. Be engaged, i.e. not on your phone/device. Picture this: you’ve been asked to give a presentation on a new product. You’ve worked on this presentation for 5 days and practiced your delivery several times. As you stand up and start speaking, several people take out their phones and start texting, reading email and checking their Snaps. DON’T. DO. IT. Again, if you’re new to the company and/or if you’re a young professional, your actions are noticed. Wait until after the meeting/training/conference call to text your roommate. (The dog will be okay until then.)
9. Get involved! These days, there are often many opportunities to jump into the company culture and get involved in activities that are fun and/or meaningful to you personally. Sign up to volunteer, join committees, and offer to assist with special projects where you will likely get a lot of facetime with company leaders. Get yourself known in good way.
10. Don’t be that person who has too many drinks at the company outing. It’s easy to get carried away when you have access to an open bar. But inevitably, you will say or do something you shouldn’t like asking your CEO to do shots at the bar. So have fun but be sure to exercise control and stay professional.
11. Attend external networking events and actually NETWORK. There are some really great networking events out there, especially for those in the tech industry. From local meetups to larger scale conferences, young professionals have access to a wide range of networking opportunities. So make it a goal to attend one event per month and then have a plan of attack – how many people will you talk to? What are some topics you could discuss? It’s easier when you have a goal and a plan.
12. We have to say it: use social media for good and not evil. That profile photo of you and your girlfriend on the beach? Please don’t use it as your LinkedIn photo. Keep in mind that anyone can find your photos on Google: potential employers, colleagues, clients, etc. As we have articulated in some previous posts and articles, keep your social media accounts professional whenever possible.
13. Take advantage of your benefits. So this one is us looking out for you on a personal level. Be sure to take advantage of as many of the benefits your new employer offers as you can. Invest in your 401K, submit that claim for your gym membership reimbursement, and be sure you have adequate health insurance.
When all is said and done, you want to come to work each day with a positive outlook and as an employee who will positively contribute to the company’s goals and workplace culture. From there, so many things are possible, both in your new company and in your long-term career.
Do you have specific questions about building your personal brand and influence as a young professional? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org.