Life in the Right Direction: How Millennials Can Jumpstart Their Careers

Proactive practices that can help set you apart from the competition.

Think about how you felt the first moment you realized you were going off to college. You were probably feeling excited about this new chapter in your life and what it could bring to better yourself. Did you feel overwhelmed? Worried? Were you having self-doubts about the path you were taking, or wondering if it was the right decision? If so, you shouldn’t worry. This is completely normal.

What I call “prioritizing your problems,” and the major problem …

As we progress through our college years, usually, these competing emotions never go away. They are simply replaced by newer encounters of thoughts or experiences at that point in time. It’s part of our nature to focus on what creates conflict in our lives. I had to make decisions like this while asking myself, “do I quit my summer job at The Cheesecake Factory, pack a suitcase, move to a foreign country and leave everything I know behind me?” … Yes! I quickly realized that conflicts which made me feel the most uncomfortable, were the sparks behind all the new networking, experiences, and skills I accumulated in my most vulnerable state. Naturally, we try to avoid scenarios or moments in our lives that make us feel this way. We constantly prioritize these moments to try to fix them. Instead of prioritizing what to do about the conflicts you face, what if you could develop some practices in life to be proactive for tackling those moments counteractive to your success?

Face reality in stride:

Many people I know in college, including myself, must face the reality of everything that leads up to graduation. Getting a college education is demanding and effects every aspect of our lives. You know what I mean: when you find yourself not really knowing what you want from life, shouldering massive student loans, living away from home, and finding your place in the world. We were always told we’d have to face these things in the future …

Now the time has come and those competing emotions are easily pushed to the back of our minds. That is, until another major life transition arrives as you find yourself graduating from college and needing to make the next move. Graduation signifies a milestone in which we have successfully earned a degree with the promises it holds. For most recent college graduates, the diploma emphasizes the tough realities of finding a job in a small window of time.

Throughout my college career I was constantly finding myself asking these questions. They consumed every single one of my thoughts as the countdown to walking across the stage was drawing near. I have been able to identify and use five simple practices that have led me to stand out in the job market. My concoction of strategies served me when I applied, landed interviews, and received offers! Meanwhile, these practices still allowed time to experience the “college-life”, travel, and live life.

Excel in time management and organization:

When I first went to college time management was the one practice I had to keep reminding myself to always be on top. Perfecting your time management and organizational skills are some of the simple core practices that will help you move forward. Not only do these help to reduce stress and anxiety levels with the increased busyness of our daily lives, but it’s relatively easy to develop these practices! I never seem to have a pen or paper with me. Whenever I think of something I may need to write down, my notes app on my phone is the way to go.

Be fearless with persistency and asking questions:

Many times, persistence can be viewed as a strength or an annoyance. But only to a certain extent! We’ve also been led to think that asking questions is a sign of weakness or incompetence. The problem with this that those who do not ask questions may live in fear of the unknown… Fear limits us to what we know and can learn by asking and achieving what we want through persistency. Our worth can be demonstrated through persistency. Meanwhile, asking questions helps us recognize our limitations and gives us the tools to improve.

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Brian Tracy, Motivational Public Speaker, Self-Development Author

Flaunt your sense of humor:

A skilled sense of humor can help in a lot of life and work environments — it is a key trait to have. This skill is especially useful when developing important relationships with bosses, co-workers, and other people that could be resourceful when transitioning into the job market and making first impressions in an interview. A well-honed sense of humor highlights insightfulness, maturity, and adaptability in response to an environment. The important thing to remember is that humor in the workplace must be appropriate. It can be open to criticism with varying scenarios. Take a look at 10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work . It emphasizes the importance of varying company cultures, the role of humor, and how it can be used to advance your career.

Learn to influence people:

This skill alone sounds a little funny… but it holds a lot of truth and has major benefits. Persuasiveness could completely transform how you interact with people and ultimately land a job. The main objective when learning how to influence people is to skillfully emphasize your worth to someone while answering their questions concerning what value you bring to them … NOT what they can do for you. This is something that I did not learn in school and it goes hand in hand with learning how to network and get hired. One of the most helpful references I have used is Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends & Influence People which provides the exact structure, examples, and explanations why this is so important and can be applied to anyone looking to start a career.

Have an open mind and be yourself:

This is practice number five… and my number one to success. In the ever-changing work environment, this is a key tool. I categorize this as the “umbrella practice” for standout traits that have led me throughout the entire job search process into employment. If you’re a diverse thinker, adaptable in action, and comfortable in your own skin, it says a lot about your true character. Open mindedness is something that is unique to you. Many times people develop their skills, work habits, and mindset in a way that cannot easily be changed. Remembering and implementing this practice when you’re meeting people and making lasting impressions is that moment to stand out from the competition and show potential employers they need to invest in you.

The next time you find yourself filling out an application or getting ready for an interview, ask yourself these three questions: What are some key behaviors I can adopt to stand out? What have I accomplished that can help me through this process? How can I emphasize who I am and the value I bring to someone new?

Try using some of these practices and see how the results may greatly increase your success throughout the transition as a student to professional.

- Kevin E. Wood