MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is one piece of advice all millennials should take before entering the workforce? is written by Liz Wiseman, President of Wiseman Group.
New entrants to the workforce are full of passion and have high hopes for having an impact, but they can quickly learn that others have low expectations of their abilities. If you are a millennial new hire, your boss probably views you as a rookie who needs to learn the ropes and prove yourself. You can end up feeling idle when you are revving to contribute.
While conducting research for my book, Rookie Smarts, I found that those new to something important and difficult (regardless of their age) are surprisingly strong performers. In knowledge industries, such as tech/bio tech, consulting, and education, these rookies tend to outperform experienced professionals – especially in innovation and speed.
So, let your neophyte status work to your advantage. Not only are you more capable than your boss might think, you might be more capable than even you imagine. Here are three strategies for a making an immediate impact so you not only get noticed and but also get the green light for more fulfilling work.
1. Contribute big on day one. Instead of ramping up slowly, start contributing immediately. For example, when eBay (EBAY) revamped their onboarding process for recent college graduates in 2013 they sent a strong message: “Don’t hold back: jump in, share your ideas, and make an immediate contribution.” As a result, in their first few months of work, the 2013 recruits on average submitted 25% more ideas for patents than the rest of the company for the same period and had more ideas that led to formal patent submissions.
2. Solve a big problem. At the beginning of your career, it is tempting to pursue the work you are really interested in — I made this mistake early in my career. The VP of my division at the time advised me to “figure out your boss’s biggest challenge and help her solve it.” Heeding my VP’s counsel, I dove wholeheartedly into a role where I had little skill (and only mild interest). As I tackled this tough work, I earned a reputation for “getting it and then getting it done” that, in turn, opened doors for me to do work that I truly loved.
3. Get your rookie on. As you work in the rookie zone, make sure you operate with “rookie smarts.” Specifically:
Be willing to take a constructive challenge – A good challenge should stretch you to your max, but not break you. If the challenge is legitimately too big, find a way to resize it.
Announce your ignorance – Don’t pretend to be an expert when you’re not. Tell people you are a rookie, but then learn quickly.
Seek out experts – Reach out to experts and let them teach you. A sincere request for guidance is endearing and activates the mentoring gene.
Get fast feedback – Take small experiments and work in agile “sprints.” Check in with your stakeholder at the completion of everysprint, get feedback, and redirect accordingly.
Take charge – Being a rookie doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan or are a follower. You can be in learning mode and still conduct yourself so your colleagues see you as accountable. Be willing to lead, even if from the back of the pack.
Not only are rookies capable of doing amazing work themselves; they are often the spark that ignites a team of experienced professionals. But be careful — veteran staffers can feel threatened by up-and-coming newbies. So, soak in their wisdom and help them reignite their passion and a sense of wonder in their work.
Be proud of being a rookie. The fact that you have no idea what you’re doing just might be your superpower. As you knock it out of the park, don’t let your success go to your head. In the famous words of Steve Jobs, “stay hungry and foolish.”
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What is one piece of advice all millennials should take before entering the workforce?
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