If you’re a millennial, in many ways you’ve been dealt a bad hand.
You can no longer rely on cradle to the grave employment of yesteryear. The organisation you join today is unlikely to be the one that hosts your retirement party decades from now. You get labelled “snowflake” and “Generation Me”. And don’t even get me started on social security expectations, student debt and trying to get onto the property ladder.
As the viral video by Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace testifies, it’s not your fault. But the onus is still on you to take control of your future. The challenge comes from the fact that you can’t rely on your company, your division or your boss to shape your career path. You can influence how your manager views you, but you can’t do anything about the economy, a structural downturn in your industry or how technology is changing business.
So, what can you do to take control of your career path?
Before you even think about layering on new skills or strategies, investigate what makes you tick. What are your beliefs? What do you value most in life? Is your career about making a difference, making money, or even making your father proud? What are your motivations? Write down your observations in a journal. You can also take self-assessment tests, such as the free VIA Character Strengths survey, to learn more about yourself. Getting clear on your answers can help frame your future choices. It can inspire your decisions and open you up to new opportunities.
Once you know what you value, think about what you want to get out of your current organisation and your career in general. Having goals can provide focus and direction. They can help guide you on the qualifications to take, the skills to learn and the people to network with. Once you have your goals, construct a plan and align your actions accordingly.
If you don’t have clarity, don’t beat yourself up about it. No one knows where they will be in five years’ time anyway. Think about taking small steps. Just try to move in a set direction. Keep picking up career insights along the way and if your mood changes, be willing and ready to pivot.
If you want help with your thinking, get a mentor or a coach. Not every organisation will have a mentor programme. But it doesn’t even have to be a formal arrangement anyway.
Maybe you can arrange a regular coffee with a senior colleague or an old boss to bounce off ideas and talk about your career. You could also seek out a career coach to help you get clarity on your goals and help you structure your path.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This saying speaks volumes about the importance of working with others and building a network. Don’t just reach out to those more likely to be similar to you (e.g. your alumni). Connect with those that perhaps have a different background and perspective (e.g. at Meetups). Either way, connect through Facebook and LinkedIn groups to expand your professional network.
Don’t wait for your boss to offer you training opportunities. See what is available internally and externally to help you improve your impact at work. If the company pays, even better.
You can also think about taking online courses to keep your skills relevant. There are thousands of free and reasonably-priced courses to choose from on education sites like Coursera, edX and Udemy.
Upskilling doesn’t have to be through courses though. There’s plenty of value to be had from reading around topics. Don’t forget your local library. Yes, you can get the latest fad marketing or social media book on Amazon, and that could be useful for keeping up to date with trends.
But there’s so much untapped value to be had browsing library aisles. You also get free access to an array of industry magazines that can help you improve your human capital.
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Remember when you were still in school and everyone’s giving you unsolicited career advice? How much of it end up actually being useful right now?