Extraordinary drive: Career advice for millennials, from a millennial
by Elizabeth Ross
A millennial is someone from the generation reaching young adulthood in the early twenty-first century, with birth dates ranging from the 1980s to mid-1990s. The generation following them are known as the post-millennials and this blog could apply to them too.
Who is the millennial writing this?
I am an organisational psychology honours student who has worked as a holiday temp for Pro Appointments for the past three years. My field of study and my time at Pro Appointments has opened my eyes to some hard truths about careers that many of my friends don’t know yet. Here’s some career advice I’d love to share with them.
Your career development starts now
The number one thing employers want in a candidate is work experience. It is a good thing to have a degree, and many jobs require one, but your degree is only an entry requirement, not the deciding factor. What employers want to know is will you be able to do the job. Recruitment takes the company a lot of effort, whether done with the help of an agency, or by an internal recruiter. The company is already investing a lot of time, blood, sweat, tears, and money into finding you, let alone employing you and providing any training thereafter. So they want to know you will be able to do the job.
Work, work, work, work, work
Employers will seldom take on a completely fresh graduate. They want to see you know what work is about. So get out there! Any work experience that involves reporting to a manager, client interaction, team work, etc. is good practice for you and shows a potential employer you are responsible and know how to work. A better option than traditional student jobs like tutoring and waitressing is to work part-time or holiday temp roles in your field. If you are studying accounting, try to find part-time bookkeeping work. If you are studying marketing, seek out a promotions or events assistant role.
If you have no idea what career direction you want to go in, use your part-time or temp work as a chance to explore different roles in different sectors. Work experience helps you learn more about yourself — what you like and don’t like, what you’re good at and what you need to improve on. This self-discovery would save many students the heartache of a degree that never gets used (I know someone who did a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, only to complete it and decide he wanted to go into computer engineering and start a whole new degree). It would also save you from the trap of thinking if you add more degrees to your CV, you will be more employable. If you don’t have work experience in the field, a Masters degree isn’t going to make you more attractive than the candidate with a Bachelors degree who does have experience!
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
How do you find these positions? Some fields make it easier than others. Professions in health sciences, engineering, accounting, law, and technical trades have a pipeline by which students are given training work during their studies and after. However, most sectors don’t make it so easy for millennials to obtain work experience while studying. So you need to make your own contacts. If you drew out your social network as a web, you’d be amazed by the vast tangle of connections! Your neighbour’s son may own a business that needs an extra person to help out with accounts. Your dad’s friend may know of a position in his company. Your family, neighbours, friends’ parents, teachers’ parents, congregants at your place of worship, and members of your sports or social club may be useful in your search for student work. (Any job search operates this way too).
If you’re serious about getting experience, and can afford to, don’t be too sticky about salary. If you have to work for free for a while to prove your value, do it.
You make your own luck
Working while studying is a necessity for many students to pay off their student loans or earn some spending money. The big danger for students who are lucky enough to have parents funding these things is laziness. The two and a half month summer holiday is spent at the beach, lying on the couch, and moaning about how bored you are! But your parents can’t make life easy for you forever, and you could turn out to be unlucky later if you allow your privileges to hinder your career development.
Don’t expect it to be glamourous
Student jobs and entry level graduate jobs are not likely to be glamourous. You will be doing the grunt work. The pay will not buy you a flashy lifestyle. Be realistic. Get on with it.
Give your best in everything you do
The effort you put into your work, and the way you treat colleagues and customers all adds up to your personal “brand”. Especially in roles in which a manager has many direct reports and a high turnover, such as restaurant and retail jobs, or when you worked a temp role for only a brief time, you want your manager to remember you and give an excellent reference when a future employer calls.
The first main requirement an employer looks for is work experience. The second (which can be seen as a first for many employers) is that mystical quality of “fit“. Fit looks at factors like:
- Will you fit the role (for example a shy, reserved person is not going to cut it in sales),
- Will you fit in with the team (the personalities of the people you will be working with), and
- Will you fit in with the company overall (for example, an arty free spirit will not fit in a corporate bureaucracy).
Again, work experience helps you to know yourself and what kind of job, team, and environment is best for you, and therefore set a vision for your career.
Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist who studied how individuals develop exceptional talent, said: “What accounts for the difference between greatness and mediocrity? Extraordinary drive.”
You can have a satisfying career and a great life if you take the steps now! Be driven. Seek out every opportunity you can to learn, grow, and achieve your best.
You can do it!