Preface: I asked Garrett to write the main blog this time, from a Millennial perspective. I heard Karie Willyerd speak at a conference the other day, and although we’ve referred to her book “Stretch” before, I thought Garrett’s view might be unique. Even Millennials need to stretch. In role reversal, I have submitted “One Boomer’s View” at the bottom.
Millennial Key Point: As relatively new career starters, we’re constantly mindful that we’re expected to prove ourselves. We’re the “fresh fish,” and we need to convince everyone we can swim. That’s just the way it is. Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick’s book, Stretch: How to Future Proof Yourself in Tomorrow’s Workplace, speaks to the question: How do you stay relevant at work?
They say, “The problem is you are so busy keeping up with your day-to-day that you can’t prepare for tomorrow.” Interesting.
The book lists “Five Practices” that we all need to know (in every generation) to keep current and relevant as our careers and corporations inevitably evolve. Below is my Millennial response to each:
1. Learn in Any Situation:
Followers of this blog have heard this one before. If Millennials have the advantage in anything, it might be this. In the workplace, we’re like 4-year-olds with iPads. We learn something every time we update our iPhones, or download a new app. We can’t be sticklers to one technology or method… Sheesh, even our everyday terminology has an expiration date. What was socially acceptable yesterday could get us roasted today if we don’t keep current. This translates to the workplace too; being “in the know” is just everyday life.
2. Open Your Thinking to a World Beyond Where You Are Now:
Just two years ago, some of us were probably still renting DVDs!! LOL! All we know is a world beyond where we are now. Every Millennial is kicking themselves because we all likely imagined the concept of SnapChat before it came out. Now its market value is over $20 billion dollars. Thinking about it isn’t the issue; it’s knowing how to implement it… Which bring us to the next practice.
3. Connect to the People Who Can Help You Make Your Future Happen:
Now we get into tougher territory. I think some Millennials are hesitant to reach out to others, especially higher ups, because we’re afraid they’ll assume we A. Want something from them, or B. Want to take short cuts. I’ll admit that this fear has certainly stopped me in my tracks from time to time. This reverts back to Practice 1 for me, because I think if we learn how to ask for guidance without ever implying that we’re trying to piggyback, it’s likely we’ll be able to connect and receive their two-cents. After all, great leaders have a responsibility to develop others, and the idea that lower level people should know their place is an outdated viewpoint.
4. Seek Experiences That Will Prepare You For Tomorrow:
As comfy as entry roles may be, sooner or later you have to find a coach or mentor who’s willing to take you off the bench and put you in the big game. In a world with many players on a roster, it’s easy to stay on the sidelines for longer than you want to. Does that business trip sound scary, inconvenient, stressful and out of your league? Good. Try to take it.
5. Stay Motivated Through the Ups and Downs of a Career So You Can Bounce Forward:
As Millennials and post-grads, we can sometimes get anxious about how long ago college was, and what we have (or have not) accomplished in between. Often we forget that we have decades (literally multiple 10-year-spans) ahead of us, where we’ll be working with many new ups and downs along the way. That shouldn’t be daunting, it should be exciting. We can spend this time learning, thinking, connecting and experiencing throughout it all… If that isn’t enough motivation, then, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
Millennial Character Moves:
- Be thankful that you may have some technological advantages and a more youthful spirit to take risks, dream and progress… But you need the help, courage and guidance of those above you to make the correct connections to unglue yourself from any stuck position. Try not to be such a wuss, and turn those LinkedIn connections into handshakes.
- Remember that time isn’t slowing down for you, things will never be easier, and you need to keep “stretching” unless you want a career ending injury.
Keep limber in the Triangle,
One Boomer View: Staying relevant is a growth mindset combined with applying the five practices and more. If we’re not staying “fresh fish,” as Garrett puts it, we end up stinky. On a practical basis every one of us needs to learn on the fly, identifying exactly what we’ve added to our skill set in the past day, week, month. If we can’t do that we are not really consciously advancing. Note the butterflies in the stomach test. When was the last time you had that edgy nervousness? If not for a while, are you really pushing yourself? Or are you just coasting in a routine? Get a little scared all the time. That’s where the growth is. If not get out of the way and let that fresh fish swim past you.