How to be Taken Seriously as a Young Professional
Millennials and generation y members continue to enter a working world that is previously uncharted territory. Never before has technology advanced at such a rapid pace, requiring employees to stay up-to-date and adaptable. Never before has an entire generation been expected to have a college degree in order to land an entry-level position or work for free as an “intern”. Never before has America been a country where white-collar job positions vastly outnumber blue collar ones.
There is a stigma that millennials are entitled and unwilling to work for what they think they deserve, that they (we) expect everything to be handed to us. While this stereotype may be true of some, there is a way to set yourself apart and break away from the stigma in order to be taken seriously as a young professional in your workplace. To some of you these tips may seem obvious, but to others these are small changes that you can make every day that will earn you respect at your place of employment.
- Be willing to show up early and leave late
I’m not saying that you should be the one to turn the lights on in the office every morning or burn the midnight oil. However, there is nothing more impressive then your boss or supervisor walking by and seeing you already starting to get to work before he or she has even gotten into the office, and this will speak volumes to your character and work ethic. Staying past five (or whenever your workday is done) to make sure all of your tasks are completed also speaks to your character, which is something that may give you a leg up down the line – you never know! This also includes being enthusiastic if someone asks you to get started on a project at 4:45PM, opposed to seeming indifferent or even worse, annoyed. If you have this willingness you will be taken seriously as a young professional in your workplace.
- Dress the part
Put effort into your appearance, people notice. Even if your office’s dress code is casual it is important not to get stuck wearing jeans and a flannel every day. If your outfit is casual, dress it up with a cute pair of shoes – booties go great with almost everything in the fall/winter! If your office has a more business-style dress code the it is more black and white for what is acceptable and expected for you to wear everyday – but make sure you’re spending time on your hair and makeup. Again, I’m not suggesting you look like you’re ready for a black tie event, but adding product or running a flat iron over your hair makes you look more put together than you may even realize.
Girls, this also means spending time on nail maintenance. As a previous division one athlete, I was used to having half painted fingernails and calluses covering my palms. However, I quickly realized that this was one of the easiest ways to appear unprofessional in the workplace. Even if you can’t afford a weekly manicure or you simply aren’t good at painting your nails, keeping them filed with a fresh coat of clear polish goes a long way!
- Ask questions when you don’t know the answer
This may seem counter intuitive to some of you because being professional means knowing everything, right? Wrong. Employers would much rather you asked for help before you get started on a project, than have to waste time, money, and resources on fixing mistakes after the fact. Asking questions also shows your employer that you are engaged and actively thinking about issues that may arise – making you seem proactive in your approach.
- Know when you should speak up (& when you shouldn’t)
This one is much more up to your discretion because it requires you read your workplace and understand the culture and environment. My general advice would be to speak up when you’re asked directly for your feedback. There is nothing worse than being in a meeting when your boss asks for your opinion and you have not yet formulated one. Be engaged with the discussions happening around you and have an opinion, even if you end up not sharing it.
If you’re a more outgoing, opinionated person then my advice to you may be the opposite; learn how to keep your opinions to yourself unless the situation warrants your input. Until you get the lay of the land and more experience under your belt, your opinions do not have much ground to stand on. That is not to say they are not worthy, but pick and choose the ones you share. Understanding your work environment and when it is appropriate to provide your input is an easy and quick way to be taken more seriously as a young professional in your workplace.
- Keep your work area clean and organized
Having a cluttered, disorganized work area not only appears unprofessional it could also hinder your work performance. Things may get lost or overlooked if you do not have a system in place for organization, so it is worth taking the extra time during the day to keep things in their place. Also, if your boss stops by and it looks like a mini tornado ran across your desk you will not be taken seriously as a young professional whether or not your boss explicitly says anything to you, it is definitely not a good look.
Millennails and generation y members are exploring uncharted territory and have to prove themselves and overcome stigmas before they even step into the office on their first day. Above all else work hard, be passionate and enthusiastic, and stay professional. Following these five simple guidelines is the quickest way to be taken seriously as a young professional in the workplace.