OK, everybody. Listen up. I want you to succeed. Big time. I want you to figure out what people want, what you can provide, either working for others or for yourself, and then go for it—and succeed. I want you to realize your dreams, feel good about what you’re doing, and live a full, love-filled life. These are my official tips for millennials to succeed in the workplace.
Everything I’m about to say comes from that fervent desire. I’m going to say things you need to hear, so all this good stuff happens to you.
- It’s not about you. It’s about them. We are swamped with selfies. People can get famous just by being a little outrageous. If that is what you love, great. But most of us find ourselves working in the business world in one form or another, and you’re competing with other people who do something similar. Which means that the people and companies who meet customer needs best will come out on top. Which also means, if you are all obsessed with yourself, and think the world owes you, you won’t do as well as those who get over themselves and make the world a better place. In the everyday world, it’s the most helpful people, the problem-solvers, the ones who really truly care—who tend to succeed.
- Truth matters. People buy from people they trust. That includes people who hire you, partner with you, and buy products or services from you. If you are willing to compromise on “small” things, they will notice that and decide you can’t be trusted. The only thing that makes a person trustworthy is that they have made a decision, at some point in their lives, that they will always tell the truth. And, of course, dishonesty always backfires. It makes life worse, not better. Always.
- Business documents are not “texts.” No, you don’t have to be stuffy. But you have to go way beyond the informality of texting. Any document you send—even emails—should be carefully constructed, logical, helpful, and thought out. Break the email or document into logical sections with subheads or numbers. Make it easy for people to scan the information. Again, it’s a “you win or I win” world in business. Someone is going to get the sale, and if you take more care with your message, that someone is more likely to be you. It won’t be the only reason, but it will certainly contribute. Be courteous, careful, and well-composed. It will bring you customers and you will keep more customers, if you are in business for yourself. And it will get you promoted if you work for someone else.
- Don’t be afraid. For some reason, as much as Millennials love to talk about living outside the box, we see people being afraid to make decisions or make mistakes. We all make mistakes. It’s part of working in our busy world. Were you trying your best, and you just misunderstood? Is it something that can be fixed? (Anything can be fixed.) Are you worried someone will think you are [gasp!] human? This is part of getting over yourself, and being honest with yourself and others. You do your best, and if you do screw up, just “find it, face it, fix it.” People will really trust you if you just own up to it and explain exactly what happened. A good boss will appreciate your attitude and maturity, and help you fix it.
- Don’t work for jerks. I once worked for a man who told me, after I spoke up in a meeting, “I’m not paying you to think!” To which I responded, “Ok, then, I quit.” I’ve been avoiding jerks ever since, and haven’t regretted it for a second. Jerks, quite simply, are people who make life harder for other people. On purpose. I don’t care how or why they got there; my own personal theory is that they decide, sometime in daycare or kindergarten, that they are going to be a jerk. It is a decision. Babies are not born jerks. Watch how that prospective boss treats others; look for signs of “I am superior to you,” or “I am all that matters in this conversation,” or “I don’t really care how hard this is for you, and I’m not going to help you.”
- The minute you start operating on the “seller” side of the equation, you stop thinking like a buyer. Almost every entrepreneur makes this mistake. They decide to solve a problem by opening a business. They get things started, and they find it’s easy to spend more than they make, and they start to really need to make sales. But the problem is, the buyer has lots of choices—more than ever before—and they don’t need to buy from a particular person or company. Not to mention, the things that you think are super special about your product or service may not matter to them in the slightest. The only way to get past this is to start interviewing your customers every chance you get (something I talk about in my book) and ask them simple but revealing questions such as, “What exactly were you looking for? Why did you buy this one? If you were me, what would you work focus on or fix?”
- A little humility goes a long way. When you’re in business, you want to be the kind of person whom other people want to do business with. That means that you are helpful and caring; you are pleasant; you listen carefully; you respond quickly; and you are unselfish. If you think of your own experiences in the business world—even in retail stores and restaurants—those nicer people really stand out and make you want to come back for more. The successful Millennial entrepreneurs are figuring this out, and I’m so happy to see it.
- You need to be really buttoned up on the “tougher” part of business. So far I’ve been talking about the “softer” sides of running a business. But there is a harder edge to the reality, too. You must bring in more than you spend, or you will go out of business. You must be willing to let the negative and lazy people go (the sooner the better, because every day you delay is another day that your positive and hard-working people are being frustrated and dragged down by the people you should be firing). You need to pay careful attention to regulations, such as those involving harassment, insurance, and safety. One of the reasons I love being in business is because it demands so much of us all. It builds character. It is an adventure, like climbing a new mountain every day.
- Don’t be afraid of people who are better than you. We all like to think we are able to do anything, but in reality, we are better at certain things than other things. If you have started or are running a company, the more it grows, the more your weaknesses will become a serious problem. Your business needs all areas to be working at top speed, and if you are just not that great at, say, accounting, get a good bookkeeper and work extra hard to understand and support everything he or she is doing. The faster you grow, the faster these issues can get out of hand.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Find ways to give yourself a fresh dose of peace every day. Have a quiet place, where you can be alone with your thoughts, and then stop thinking. It helps to listen to “white noise” like fan noise, so that you are listening to something beyond the voice in your head. Relax. See things more clearly and in perspective. Make decisions that make sense, and act on them the next day. Know that tomorrow is another day, a day that will be filled again with challenges and victories. It’s all good. Even the worst situations teach us valuable lessons, lessons we will apply with confidence next time.
You are the new world of business. The future is yours to shape. The world only gets better one person at a time, and the world is filled with businesses providing services and products that help people live better and get more done.
This wraps up my advice for millennials in the workplace. Best of luck to you.