By Carolyn Rodz
February 18, 2015

Millennials are among the most confident employees in the workforce, armed with the knowledge that age is no longer a prerequisite to success thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, Elizabeth Holmes and the like. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to be learned from those who have worked before them.

Seeking out advice from the people who hold the very positions that millennials one day hope to attain, or even supersede, can be extremely beneficial. When I look back at my own career and the people who helped guide my success, I can’t help but wonder what could have been if I had invested more in those relationships. So, here are my words of advice – the things I wish I knew years before I figured them out on my own:

Have a vision. It’s important to know what you want to accomplish in order to find the right people to guide you there – and I don’t mean just aspiring to be CEO of a company one day. Instead ask yourself this: What do I stand for? What impact do I want to have on the world? Know your greater goal.

Pack your social calendar. Giving 110% to your day job is extremely important in terms of building your credibility, but statistically speaking you likely won’t be there in five years, so place equal effort on building a network that will help you grow as a professional. Take advantage of every lunch and coffee break by inviting someone you respect to join you. Build genuine and authentic relationships with these people.

Keep in touch. When you meet someone that you truly connect with, continue to foster that relationship. Follow up promptly, share information of interest, and ask them for advice.

Listen. I’m constantly speaking with recent graduates and young professionals during the early stages of their careers. The ones that I’ve had the most respect for, and have gone out of my way to help, are the ones who listen. They not only ask interesting questions, but they often act on the advice I give. I’m not saying you have to do everything you are told, but consider the words people share. If they make sense, act on them. Even more importantly, if you do take someones advice (and it works in your favor), thank them. Gratitude will take you far.

Make it official. In order for a mentor relationship to grow and evolve, it must be formalized at some point. Once you’ve built a foundation with a potential mentor, ask them if they’d be open to officially mentoring you. Be transparent with your expectations and establish clear parameters such as frequency and method of communications, topics of discussion, and objectives.

Reciprocate. Often millennials feels that they have nothing to offer in a mentor/mentee relationship, but the reality is millennials have more to offer than they think. Consider your strengths, like social media or trend spotting. Be confident when sharing your perspective and help your mentor think differently.

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