Maybe you can fill me in on something: Can anybody off the street write a blog post and get it published on the Forbes site? Is there no editorial control on that site? Is there anybody at Forbes concerned with the quality of stuff that gets posted there?
[These are rhetorical questions. I don't really care about it that much to get answers. Was just trying to open this post in a provocative way]
A recent post, titled Three Ways Millennials Can Succeed At Work, triggered my questions. Two of the three pieces of advice are stupid things for anybody new to the workforce to do. The so-called expert interviewed by the so-called blogger recommended that Millennials:
1. Become “Intrapreneurs.” According to the article, millennials should become “consultants within their company” or “intrapreneurs.” Even those that, as the article puts it, work for a “corporation.” The so-called expert is quoted as saying “the goal is to be somebody who sees opportunities where others don’t, and expand your job. You can do research, make a presentation, and say, ‘here’s the opportunity and how we can take advantage of it.’ “
My take: Speaking on behalf of the gazillion of Boomers and Gen Xers working in “corporations,” I can assure you that the last thing that will make some Millennial — with all of his or her FIVE minutes worth of work experience — successful is walking around acting like an internal “consultant” or “intrapreneur.”
I wouldn’t dispute for a moment that in any given company (or corporation), there are a trillion things that need to be fixed, or opportunities that are out there. But understanding WHY certain opportunities aren’t, or haven’t been, pursued is a perspective lacking in many inexperienced people.
This isn’t to say Millennials don’t, or couldn’t, have great ideas for how to change the way things are done. But, like it or not, there may be reasons why things are done the way they’re done. One reason is that the boss likes it done that way. There’s a comfort level in knowing that the output that is produced from doing something the way its been done for the past 10 years will be of the same high quality that’s been produced for the past 10 years.
2. Build Your Brand. The so-called expert, who, according to the article, made his name by persuading EMC to make him its first social media hire, urges others to take a similar tack. “Starting out, maybe you’re one of 1000 marketing specialists in a big company. But if you take on a big project, you’re one of one. People will view it as risky, but it’s risky not to take risks in your career.”
My take: Gag me. This is the root of the problem with Millennials’ image and reputation: That they’re more concerned with their “personal brand” than adding value and producing results for the company that pays their salary.
Personal “branding” (as a verb) shouldn’t be part of any Millennial’s vocabulary (hell, I’d go as far as saying it shouldn’t be part of anybody’s vocabulary). Creating a personal brand isn’t a goal. It’s an outcome. Add value, earn a positive personal brand.
In fairness, the Forbes article recommended three things that Millennials could do to succeed. The one recommendation that I didn’t blast is a good point: Hone Your Soft Skills. In a study conducted with American Express, the so-called expert found that “the top thing managers want [in their employees] is the ability to prioritize, a positive attitude, and teamwork – and what connects those things is soft skills.”
My take: Totally agree. Sadly, the Forbes article doesn’t talk about what these soft skills are, or exactly how to develop them. Because nobody needs that advice more than me.
Although I’m wholly unqualified to give anybody advice on how to succeed at work, it seems to me that if I’m going to debunk the recommendations in the Forbes article, I should be constructive and offer ideas for what Millennials should do. Here are my two recommendations for how Millennials can succeed at work:
1. Add value. Millennials should be obsessed with this one mantra: “How can I add value?” In other words, how do I: 1) make my company more successful; 2) make my boss more successful; and 3) make my colleagues successful. And that’s not in any particular order.
Two points to keep in mind:
a) There will always be political issues that make making your boss/colleagues more successful a tricky proposition. Your boss and/or colleagues may be jerks, taking credit for your work and screwing you over. Granted. But that shouldn’t stop you from obsessing over the goal to add value.
b) This advice doesn’t just apply to Millennials. The number of people in companies who don’t add value — to their companies, their bosses, or their colleagues. Add value, earn a positive personal brand.
2. GSD. GSD is an acronym that means Get Sh*t Done. The number of people in companies who don’t get sh*t done (in other words, who do diddly-squat) is higher than anyone could possibly count. If you’re a Millennial who wants to succeed and stand out, then GSD. Getting your own sh*t done is a great place to start. But if you’re able to get (motivate, incent) other people to GSD, you will move up the org chart very fast.