As young professionals, we have been tagged with a bias that we must overcome before we can truly be effective, engaged team members. Young professionals lack the experience to be viewed as productive members of a team until they “put in their due.” Like all biases, this can be undeserved, but for the most part is very true. Talent alone will not convince a thriving company of your value.
I have identified three factors that have positioned me to work with smart, high level executives at a growing small business that will flip this bias in your favor, so you can stand out.
Prepare for everything. Prepare for even the most informal meetings. Review notes from meetings and take good notes so you never have to ask questions about facts that were previously stated.
Most people are content with getting through the day, just waiting for 5:00 to roll around. People who are prepared for meetings and can weigh in on every topic are invaluable to organizations and are the most productive.
As a younger member of the team with only a few years of experience, you will close the knowledge gap with more experienced member by being prepared. If you bring evidence and facts to the conversation that back up your position then it will be hard for people to question your stance. People will notice details you bring to the table and will start to believe in your capabilities.
Have you ever heard people just talk so they could hear the sound of their own voices? They sounded silly, didn’t they? That’s how you sound when you don’t think about what you say.
Saying the first thing that jumps into your head is dangerous. Since we don’t have experience to fall back on, we have to listen extra-carefully to understand the points and the questions that are being posed. Listen to what other people are saying.
You don’t have to say something to come across as competent and knowledgeable. Since, you are trying to build a reputation as reliable and capable, do not think out loud about ideas that you have not fully thought out (refer to #1). An idea that makes little sense will do more harm than good.
When you do say something, make sure it is concise and well thought out. If people are intrigued, they will ask questions, then you can expand on your thoughts. This is where your preparation will pay off.
3) Have a fresh mindset.
Challenging the status quo is never easy but almost always needed. As a member of a younger generation, you have different perspectives from other generations, just as different ethnic groups and genders have different perspectives.
Your perspective as Gen Y is unique and valuable. Experienced members will often come off as the most knowledgeable and at times the most articulate, however, this comes at a cost of growing up in a different era.
Where a Generation X-er might be the spokesperson for mass marketing through TV ads, a Gen Y-er could easily argue the need for more internet marketing (and could easily win the argument). Where a traditional salesperson might want to go on the road to talk to new prospects, a young sales person might want more digital tools at his or her disposal to help introduce the brand through content marketing, blogs and infographics.
Neither the old way or the new way is the “right” way, but just because the organization focuses on the old way doesn’t mean you should keep quiet and conform. In no way am I suggesting you confront more senior co-workers and argue to get your way. Rather, consider bringing up your thoughts and insights on how to fix a stated problem because, more than likely, your ideas are just as good as those of your older co-workers. Even if you don’t know how to fully implement your ideas, raising questions will make your team think and question the status quo. If you can do that, then you will be off to a good start.
Combining these three factors with respect, manners and a strong work ethic will make you stand out from the rest of the young professionals.
Sean Chalmers is a business developer and marketer for CertifiedBackground.com, a background screening company (sounds awesome, doesn’t it?). He works to bring new products, services, and partnerships to CertifiedBackground.com. When he isn’t reading, working or writing business plans, you can find him at the gym or at the beach. You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.
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