As strange as it seems to me, I graduated from college eight years ago now. I remember landing my first job right out of college as a graphic designer at an advertising agency. Looking back now I was on a huge learning curve that I sometimes navigated with grace– other times like a clumsy, naive soldier skipping through a minefield. I definitely had some “wins” but looking back I made mistakes that are now clear to me, and were probably painfully obvious to my coworkers and superiors at the time. Back then, I would have loved to have the advice of author Alexandra Levit, but she was probably still in the midst of navigating her own journey.
Alexadra Levit is a workplace author, speaker, columnist, and consultant. I first heard of her through the Bentley University #PreparedU Project where she was a panelist. I loved her insight on millennials in the workplace and decided to check out more of Levit’s work starting with her book They Don’t teach Corporate in College (Third Edition) (because they really don’t teach corporate in college.) She accurately describes how the millennial mindset meshes with (and against) the current workplace climate and older generations, and how newbies to the workforce can learn and adapt.
Here are a few takeaways I got from the read-through:
1. “I’m Special” Syndrome. Levit’s debut to the business world is a common millennial story. Teachers, parents, coaches taught millennials to have high standards, but they also inadvertently gave them false expectations of our their skills, and may even have created entitlement issues. This is a well researched trend with the millennial generation and Levit reflects on her own attitude in first starting out in the in the workforce. It’s painfully accurate and millennials will be able to relate to her experiences.
2. Wake Up Call & Examining “Soft Skills.” A great piece of advice that I didn’t know out of college that Levit talks about is that you’re not done learning. Not even close. In fact, millennials, you’ve just begun in your learning process. Bentley University’s #PreparedU Project had an extensive section on how millennials are decently prepared in “hard skills” out of college, but lacking on “soft skills.” Millennials are generally not aware that they are lacking these “soft skills” (or anything at all), and so the workplace and inter-generational confusion ensues.
3. Take Your 20s Seriously. While a wake up call for milennials may seem harsh, it’s necessary. Levit advises to continue to figure out who you are, but start acting as well. This is an idea reflected on by Meg Jay in the TED Talk 20 is not the new 30 who advises to gain “identity capitol” in your twenties. The best way to find yourself is to get moving. I recently came up on a satirical sketch by 20 vs 30 showing the slowing down of life after the crazy decade that is your twenties. It’s an interesting theme developing with millennials that wasting your 20s isn’t as fun as MTV made us believe in our teen years.
4. Paralysis by Analysis & Easing Your QLC. It’s action that helps calm the angst of the infamous quarter-life crisis. Levit advises to do your best in making decisions, and “things will most likely fall into place.” Good advice and probably a relief to many millennials trying to steer their way through new territory. A great anecdote she includes is about a recent college grad who moves in with his parents who encouraging him to not rush into the workforce too soon.” He actually goes against their helicopter parenting advice by landing a job, and taking his parents to dinner one night dressed in a brand new suit. His parents tell him that perhaps he is ready after all. I love this tidbit about helicopter parenting because it’s a real force to be reckoned with. Young people need to dismiss any voice that subtly (or outright) tells them that they aren’t ready or capable to live life as an independent adult.
Levit really gets it. The book is 10 chapters long and covers every part of your career from just starting out, to promotions, to career changes, and entering into a leadership position. Alexadra Levit has done it all so she’s great voice translating workplace realities for people just down the ladder from her (corporate ladder or otherwise).
If you are new to the workforce and have no idea what you’re doing, or if you think you do know what you’re doing (you probably don’t) check out Levit’s very accurate, and practical advice from someone who has been there.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/afagen/4040074936/