People love to rip on Millennials, blaming an entire generation of being crappy workers. They're accused of being unable to focus, addicted to incentives, feeling entitled to special treatment, using stupid excuses for not showing up to work, demanding flexibility, and wanting to make a difference in the world without actually having to work hard. Really? Can 80 million people between the ages of 18 and 35 credibly be painted all the same color?

Gen-Xer Anthony Smith thinks not, although he has some advice for people younger than his nearly 40-year-old self. As founder and CEO of Insightly, a San Francisco-based maker of customer relationship and project management software for small to medium sized businesses, he employs nearly 100 employees, many of whom are labeled as Millennials. At the helm of a company which has raised $42 million in venture capital and amassed more than 1 million customers in 251 countries, he says he has learned a thing or two along the way. Here's what he says younger workers can do to get ahead in the world.

1. Don't be afraid to try something big.

People younger than 30--typically without children or spouses of their own--have the energy, ambition and bandwidth to make career or entrepreneurial choices which may be too scary later in life. "The only thing you're really risking is yourself," he says. "And you can always go home and live with mom if it doesn't work out."

2. Visualize what success looks like.

This involves not only setting goals, but also the discrete steps it will take to get there. It's one thing to have a goal of making a million dollars before you hit 30, but how exactly are you going to make it happen?

3. Read every day to learn from others.

He's not talking about Buzzfeed, either. Instead, make it a habit to consume quality media outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to educate yourself about the space you're trying to enter. "If you become a voracious consumer of information after a while you start to get a pretty good background of why things are the way they are, where some existing entrants in those businesses have gone and why they've become successful," he says. "Then learn from that as you plot your own course."

Published on: Aug 1, 2016
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