2015 was a big year for Millenials. According to Pew Research Center, Millenials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce in 2015. I recently shared my thoughts on Eric Jacobson’s leadership website about how managers can engage their Millenial employees. What I’d like to do next is share how Millenials themselves can thrive in the workplace.
Here’s a start.
Seek First to Understand
Two characteristics of Millenials are their optimism in the future and also confidence in their ability to bring it to fruition. This can be a little unnerving for older, more experienced – but also more realistic colleagues. Don’t change your mindset, but take the time to listen and ask questions before proposing sweeping changes in new environments. Proposals that would otherwise work fall apart when the initial assessment is slightly off. When you’re the new person, slow is fast.
Collaborate with Tact
Millenials are the most connected generation, given how advances in technology have all but broken down traditional communication barriers. Social media allows individuals to bypass organizational and hierarchical constraints and connect directly person-to-person. Millenials are comfortable with this, but older generations tend to be more reluctant or “respectful” of hierarchy. Instead of seeking access for personal gain (a taker), find ways to provide valuable input (a giver). Figure out what other groups in the organization do, anticipate what information they need from your group, and take the initiative to make it available for them.
Act Like a Consultant
Managers lament being informed of problems. They want solutions instead. You can do better than that. When you have ideas for improvement, provide several options of ways to solve the problem. Then recommend the option you think is best along with your rationale. Do the hard work of critical thinking instead of putting it all on the decision-maker’s shoulders. Remember, good ideas (including yours) don’t follow the chain of command – they follow the path of least resistance.
Share Your Skills
Millenials have a wealth of skills to offer in the workplace – technology being at the forefront. In fact, some organizations are even setting up reverse mentoring programs to enable (or force) senior leaders to learn about the latest trends. Instead of (or despite) feeling annoyed at older colleagues’ lack of technical agility, go out of your way to explain Twitter, hashtags or crowdsourcing. Your skills give you the opportunity to be an expert right off the bat – provided you’re willing to share them.
Stay Humble & Hungry
It’s natural for older generations to feel intimidated by Millenials in the workplace for all the reasons previously mentioned – and more. Millenials don’t feel obligated to know the all answers since they know how to find them. While previous generations had to earn their stripes, in Millenials’ minds, they’re ready to lead now. They’re not entirely off base.
The Millenial generation will continue to grow as the remaining members join the workforce and the Baby Boomers continue to retire. There will not be enough Gen Xers to take all of the leadership positions the Baby Boomers vacate. This means ready-or-not, Millenials will be expected to lead. It’s not a matter of if – it’s when. The test will be your ability to get results through the people you lead. Be hungry for the opportunity but humble on the way up. It’ll make all the difference once you get there.
Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader. Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or follow him on Twitter.