Ah, “the millennials.” Faceless generation of socially networked people who never touched a rotary phone—or so the media likes to generalize. In reality, the only thing that millennials have in common is being born around the same time. As such, there’s no “one size fits all” career approach that will boost all millennials as they enter and push further into the workforce. However, there are some career tips to keep in mind as you get started in your professional life.
1. Social networking does NOT equal social capital.
According to career guru Margaret Heffernan, who gave a 2015 TED Talk about how to get more out of workplace structure, one of the most important things an employee (or employer) can do is to build bonds in the workplace, and enable things like casual stand-up meetings or coffee breaks to facilitate conversation. This builds “social capital,” or mutual trust and reliance. This is different from social networking, where we might know where a colleague had dinner last night, but not necessarily much insight about what makes them tic professionally. Social media (and the tech-savviness it suggests) is a great tool, but you can’t replace good old-fashioned conversation with retweets.
2. It’s okay not to be “on” all the time.
There’s a certain perception that if you’re young and ambitious, you’re willing to “do what it takes” around the clock to move up and ahead. That could mean long hours, or it could mean putting yourself “on call” to answer emails at 10:30 at night. And while showing devotion and round-the-clock competence looks good to anyone who might be observing from a distance, it’s not going to mean much if you burn out early. Don’t neglect work-life balance, even at the start of your career. You’re committing to a career for the long haul, so setting dangerously high precedents early on can turn on you later on if your priorities change or you decide that your old work habits just aren’t sustainable.
3. Time management is key.
This is the mantra for all ages, actually. But for millennials, who are seen as natural multitaskers thanks to technology, it’s especially relevant right now. Set aside time for big projects or necessary productivity. Ignore your inbox for an hour (if possible) in order to check off some hard to-dos from your list. Look at your week in advance, and figure out what you need to do and when you can do it, to avoid running into a crunch time.
Super-multitasking (email + chat + work task + second work task in the background) can be exhausting, and may lead to shoddier “productivity.” Mistakes happen when you’re trying to do too many things at once, so be sure to take specific “breaks” throughout the day from various tasks in order to give your attention to other things that need to be done as well.
Whether you’re just getting started out of school or still figuring out what you want your long-term career path to be, keeping these ideas in mind can help you navigate those bumpy early days. (And by “early days,” I mean every day until your retirement party.)