Making Sense of the Millennial Career Path

When a millennial lands their first job, they think they’ve made it. I remember the excitement and sense of accomplishment that washed over me for a few weeks after “the call”, together with the congratulations, enthusiasm, and high-fives from friends. However, getting through the seemingly endless application process, web of emails, constant scheduling and rescheduling, and nailing Skype and in-person interviews is only the first of many job-searching journeys I—as a young millennial—will endure.

Last week, our very own Gabe Cohen, CMO, sat on the What I Wish I Knew When I Was A YP panel discussion put on by the Business Marketing Association – Colorado, an organization that is geared towards professionals age 30 and under, college grads who are looking to further their marketing careers, gain new insights and resources, and foster networking relationships along the way.

In this day and age, no one stays at their first job forever. You pick up new skills and competencies in your first few years of the “real world”, probably the most valuable of those you will ever gain. You learn how to add value to and have an impact on the team, how to be a part of the solution, and how to create new opportunities.

It was incredibly insightful to listen to some of the top CMO’s and marketers in Colorado talk about their first job and how they got to where they are today—to hear what they wish they had known, their thoughts on the corporate versus agency side, and some tips and tricks for the young professional.

1.. It’s all about will, not skill. Being the “new kid”—and pretty literally a kid in the eyes of your coworkers—it’s important to put your fresh perspective to work right away and have the intelligence to spot what needs to be done. There’s nothing more valuable than bringing an insight that your peers had never considered, making them have the “I hadn’t thought of that” and “Ah-Ha” moment.

2. You can’t teach company culture. Julie Wienen, fellow panelist and previous Director of Marketing for PCS Ferguson, was direct in responding to the topic of company culture: “You can’t teach culture. It works or it doesn’t.” You have to like where you work, people and task; it’s as simple as that. If it’s like pulling teeth to make ends meet in creating a pleasant work environment, it’s safe to say it’s not the right fit. It’s important to be honest in evaluating what you will enjoy doing versus what you can be bothered to do.

3. It’s important to be situationally fluent. Knowing when to speak up versus when to stay in the background, when to let your knowledge shine versus when to stay modest, when to crack a joke versus keep your comments to yourself…It’s important to be adaptable to different situations and present yourself in the most professional of ways across various contexts. In the “real world” no one focuses solely on your book smarts; it’s about emotional intelligence and knowing what motivates people to act, following through, and reading signals.

4. Take the risk; don’t be afraid to leave your first job. Unlike our parents’ generation—people who worked 40 years for the same company and received an engraved gold watch at the announcement of their retirement—91% of millennials are expected to stay in a job for less than three years (Forbes.com). While we may be afraid to leave our first job, and potentially face disappointed parents and a shaky job market, it’s important to not become stagnant in your work and development, looking for new opportunities to put your skills to the test and continue grow as a professional.

5. Find a mentor. Navigating new territory, both professionally and personally, can be nerve-racking. It is instrumental to connect with a colleague who can not only provide you with some context as to how what you are doing plays into the larger picture, but who can also advise you on career decisions. A mentor will hold you accountable to your goals, but will become a close friend in due time; they’re able to lend a hand in a tricky situation, suggest ways to succeed at the more mundane aspects of office life (we’ve all been there), and even grab a well-deserved drink after work on a Friday afternoon.

Jordyn Greenberg is Strategy Analyst with a fresh perspective on the millennial career journey.

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