By Nicole Smartt, owner of Star Staffing.
As a millennial and an owner of a staffing firm that places hundreds of employees (including millennials), every week across our seven offices, I often hear negativity about millennials in the workplace. And even interviewing a few millennials, it was hard for me not to break down the misconception of work and working hard. So, millennials, read this, digest this, and make changes to your expectations and your approach accordingly:
1. You earn what you deserve.
Succeeding in your career takes hard work. Growing up, you may have received participation trophies, but I think this is a major disservice. Kids never asked for participation trophies, but adults overcorrect and coddle, therefore altering their expectations. But the workplace is different: Things take time, especially when you're working with a team of people who have priorities that are different from yours. Instant gratification is manufactured by people who aren't very good at waiting. Practice delayed gratification --it will really help you in the future.
2. There is no silver bullet.
The only way that any work gets done is when people show up and put effort into getting that work done. Think about the enormous amount of effort -- human-powered effort -- that went into making your smartphone: mineral mining for the interior components, constructing and installing those components, manufacturing the case, working minerals into glass, testing internal components, building the operating system, testing it, and on and on. Then think about how many apps you have installed. Every single one of them represents thousands of human hours. Every single one of those people showed up, so you didn't have to.
3. Start anywhere, just start!
Stop expecting the corner office and start working towards it. There can sometimes be a sense of paralysis when you're starting out, or an expectation that your degree means you're ready to jump to the top tier on your team. But in most industries, that just isn't how it works. You've got some real in-the-field learning to do, and you're perfectly capable of doing it. Take the time, put in the effort, and you'll earn your rise in the ranks eventually.
4. Stop complaining.
Nothing easy was ever achieved overnight. If you're trying to point out things that could be improved, make sure you're being received as helpful, motivated and clear-thinking, rather than being whiny or complaining. We all have to do things we'd rather not deal with. Learning how to take care of the things you have to -- without complaining.
5. Be reliable.
So it's your birthday -- you still need to show up for work. Your company depends on you. Of course, everybody needs a day now and then, but here's what happens if you are unreliable, even a little bit, early in your career: It becomes a habit. This isn't exclusive to millennials -- it's a purely human trait. When you make a habit of, say, lateness, it's that much harder to not be late further down the road. On top of that, unreliability sets the tone of your relationship with your workplace. This can be detrimental to your ability to grow with the company and can set coworkers subtly against you, which can add to workplace hostility. "Millennials" is a broad term and a generalization that can be dangerous. I've known many millennials who don't show any of the characteristics mentioned in this article, but it will work to your advantage, whoever you are, to keep these things in mind.
Nicole Smartt is the owner of Star Staffing. She is the youngest recipient to be awarded the Forty Under 40 award, which recognizes business leaders under the age of 40.