Millennials: 7 Keys of Success to Apply Immediately

I work with a ton of Millennials. From hundreds of universities around the country, I’ve had thousands of interactions over the years. Some of these are just a few minutes, while others are consistent interaction for an entire year. Some interactions are college juniors and seniors applying for a top level volunteer position or internship. Other interactions are passing conversations after I’ve given a presentation at a school.

I have a lot of hope for our future. Some of these Millennials are going to be world changers. They have endless passion, incredible talent, and a lot of desire to do good.

After thousands of interactions, here are some things I hope they will keep in mind as they continue to grow, improve, and start running the world.

  1. Make a Good First (or 10th) Impression
  • Pay attention to the situations you find yourself in. If it’s an interview, dressing like you’re going to the gym does not give a good impression. (Including Skype interviews, which was the inspiration for this point.)
  • Don’t make a joke when the situation doesn’t call for it. Please learn from my mistakes on this one!
  • Don’t order a $40 steak if your boss orders a $10 sandwich.
  • The key is to think about the situations you’re in and make better decisions. Spending just 5 seconds can be enough to bring clarity to what’s at stake. Take note of who’s in attendance.
  • This is not about conforming to the crowd. It’s about being savvy and not blowing an opportunity or first impression.
  • See #7 below.

2. Pay Attention to Details

  • I cannot tell you how many times I’ve scheduled (and confirmed!) meetings with Millennials, that were then missed because they forgot the timezone difference. You should know what timezone you live in. If you have a phone call or video meeting with someone (especially for a job interview!!!!), be on time.
  • If you get to meet the CEO of the company you want to work for, know her/his name.
  • If your boss asks for a response by Wednesday, don’t reply on Thursday.
  • Spellcheck.
  • Missing details can be detrimental to future opportunities. Sending in incomplete forms, missing deadlines, misspelled words, calling the wrong number, showing up on the wrong day, all send a signal that you’re not serious. It says you can’t be trusted. This sounds harsh, but why would an employer give you a raise if you can’t meet an email deadline?
  • If you get the details right, then you can be trusted with more.
  • If you will consistently do what you say you’re going to do, then you will earn people’s trust. When people trust you, greater opportunities will come your way.

3. Be Great in Person

  • For a generation that grew up in email, online and texting, it can be a challenge. As much as we use technology, it’s still those great in person that will get rewarded the most.
  • This means you need to put down phones, step away from the laptop and go spend time with people.
  • Spend some time putting down the phone and looking people in the eye. If you’re going to a lunch meeting, leave your phone in your pocket.
  • Learn how to handle awkward pauses in conversations. (The answer is not to pull out your phone and check Instagram.)
  • One of the best ways to learn is by watching. How do the senior leaders interact? How do you mentors interact in person? You can observe a lot through simple observation.

4. Broaden your Knowledge and Experience

  • It’s easier than ever to stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the world. Scan the headlines a few times a week, this will also help you with in-person conversations.
  • Read books, blogs. Listen to podcasts, TED talks, sermons. There’s no shortage of knowledge to gain. If you stop learning after graduation, you are passing up a huge opportunity.
  • You still have a lot to learn. This is okay. If you knew everything you needed to know at 22, then you’re probably selling yourself short of what you can accomplish.
  • If you are spending more time on Netflix or social media sites than learning, you’re missing a huge opportunity to get ahead. Millions of your peers are binge watching. What if you went binge learning?
  • Find a mentor.

5. Be Open to Critique and Instruction

  • I was terrible at this in my 20s, so I’m speaking from a position of regret.
  • You should seek out someone that can speak into your life and help you grow, improve. Find some one older, who’s further down the road than you. (Like a mentor?)
  • One of the best pieces of advise I received was, “have someone in your life who’s not impressed by you.” You need someone who will be willing to say you’re wrong, or the idea is bad. If everyone is in awe of you, then you’re going to have a huge kink in the armor.
  • This will go much smoother if you will seek this out and give someone permission. No one likes unsolicited critique and instruction.
  • Sometimes your boss will be perfect for this. If she is able to observe you in your role and is someone you want to emulate, you can ask for more feedback. Of course, a good boss will be proactively doing this anyway. Don’t ask your boss to for unsolicited critique if you don’t trust him, think he may use your vulnerability against you, or if he’s not the type of leader you want to be.
  • Use discernment in choosing someone to give you critique and instruction. Find someone who has your best in interest in mind. Find someone you trust. Find someone who has enough experience to make a difference. Most of the time, the colleague who has one more year experience is not your best option.

6. Don’t Try and Do it All

  • Some of the most gifted students I’ve worked with, I mean, the top 1% out of thousands of high caliber students, fell far short of their potential because they made far too many commitments.
  • Learning to say “no” to good things to say “yes” to great things takes wisdom. The sooner you start practicing the better.
  • Now, let me completely contradict myself from the previous sentence. Your 20s is a great time to try a lot of things to see what you care most about, what you are good at, and what you want to spend the rest of your life working on. It’s okay to try a lot of things, just don’t make more commitments than you can keep.
  • If you’ve over committed, the sooner you say something the better. I wish some of the student leaders that have worked with me would have called me sooner and simply said, I’m overbooked. I can’t do it all. I need some help. If that would have happened, it would have been much better for everyone. We could have found a replacement. There would not have been a dip in results. Everyone would have been better off.
  • Overcommitting leads to under preforming, which leads to a bad impression. This violates our first key to success. Don’t make a bad first impression.

7. Guard your Digital Footprint

  • Everything you put online will live somewhere and has the potential to come back and haunt you.
  • Remember that fun crazy spring break trip? A potential employer just looked at the pictures.
  • Rude, inappropriate, racist, sexist, derogatory, comments/jokes/rants were also just read by a potential employer.
  • Emails, texts, Snaps…same thing.
  • I’ve sat with colleagues as they’ve scanned the social media pages of potential hires. What you put online shows some of who you are.
  • Speaking of email: get a professional email. No more high school nicknames and the year you graduated please.
  • Don’t have your avatar (that automatically shows up with services like Gmail by the way) be of you wearing a bathing suit at the beach on that infamous spring break trip.

*Originally posted on

Like what you read? Give greg darley a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.