Stand out from the crowd.
It’s true, millennial workers tend to differ from their older (and younger) colleagues. But contrary to popular depictions, they’re not a monolithic group. By defying negative generational stereotypes and living up to positive expectations, millennials can pleasantly surprise their managers, work well with colleagues of different ages and succeed at the office. Read on to learn about eight career skills that distinguish the best millennial workers from their peers.
“The millennial generation grew up immersed in technology,” Wendy Burk, CEO and founder of Cadence travel management company, wrote in an email. It’s therefore not surprising that she and other managers name digital savvy as one of “the most obvious skills that set millennials apart.” Consequently, many a millennial has been automatically typecast as the office technology guru. If you’re a young professional who doesn’t know a thumb drive from a mouse pad, you may find yourself disappointing your boss when he comes seeking your help recovering his lost document. Even if tech skills weren’t explicitly listed in your job description, you’ll make yourself invaluable around the office if you’re able to help your colleagues troubleshoot.
Millennials have a reputation for craving constant contact of certain kinds. Many will readily post on social media or send a text for work purposes. But when invited to a face-to-face meeting, or asked to pick up the phone, some balk, managers say. “Having comfortable conversations is a skill younger people are evolving into,” says Shane Green, author and founder of SGEi, which provides training to young employees. That is, he clarifies, “effective communication beyond social media platforms.” That means millennial workers with strong oral communication skills will set themselves apart from the pack.
Sense of Purpose
More than members of previous generations, millennials seek jobs that align with their personal values, studies show. “They’re eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact on society,” says Heidi Soltis-Berner, managing director of Deloitte University, the consulting firm’s workforce training arm. Their higher standards may make them prone to greater levels of dissatisfaction, Green says. To avoid that, he recommends millennials “find a job where you’re going to be able to make a difference” by testing whether “you feel that connection” during the interview process. When applied well, that sense of purpose can make millennials passionate employees who dedicate great care and deploy extra effort toward their job responsibilities.
Comfort With Collaboration
Work is increasingly collaborative, which is good news for many millennials. “They like sitting in a room with a bunch of individuals and talking through ideas,” Green says. An important component of teamwork is, of course, “good listening skills,” which Soltis-Berner ranks among the most important qualities Deloitte looks for in its hires.
Perhaps thanks to their early exposure to digital technology tools, millennials are better able than many members of older generations to “adapt to changes much quicker,” Burk says. “This allows them to dive into new projects without the burden of heavy training.” But millennials’ “great love of learning” can be “a double-edged sword because they tend to want to grow beyond their roles very quickly and learn new ones,” Burk explains. That means millennials who demonstrate some patience will offer their supervisors a bit of relief — and those bosses will be grateful. “The best millennial employees for us are the ones who are able to simultaneously embrace and overcome their own tendencies to constantly try new things,” Burk says.
Interest in Self-Improvement
Companies have decreased their reliance on annual reviews thanks to their young workers’ desire for more continuous performance evaluations. “Millennials love feedback. They crave it,” Green says. “They like having those conversations with the boss: ‘How do I get better?'” That self-motivated desire to constantly improve can make millennials valuable employees — especially those who don’t measure their progress solely by promotion opportunities.
Open-mindedness is among millennials’ best qualities, Green says. It gives them a natural knack for solving problems. “They’re really resourceful,” Green says. “They realize there’s so many different ways to do things.” Young workers who fit that description may find it bodes well for their career prospects. The ability to “solve complex issues” is among the most valuable for employees to have, Soltis-Berner says.
It may seem counterintuitive, but in an increasingly automated and digitized work world, “the most valuable skills are going to be people skills,” Green says. “That’s the surprise element.” People who care about their clients and co-workers, and who can effectively convey that empathy, will distinguish themselves. They’ll also have increased job security, as even the most advanced technical systems will have trouble convincingly emulating real human emotions.
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