Tips for 20-somethings: How you can be successful (and fulfilled!) in the workplace

The stigma around Millennials in the workplace has been a hot topic of discussion recently. I’ve shared a little about how employers are missing out if they write off a whole generation of employees, but what do you do if you’re in the group of talented young people impacted by this bad wrap? How can 20-somethings (and 30-somethings) fight the millennial stigma and overcome the career challenges before them?

First, it’s important to note that this issue—where an older generation questions the capacity of the current one—is not exactly unique to Millennials. Each generation approaches work and life a little differently, based on the environments in which they were raised and the values developed. However, since Millennials are the first generation raised in a truly technology-driven environment, one where the world is at their fingertips, the challenges this time around seem a bit more pronounced.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for 20-somethings to prove their worth at work. Here are a few tips to get you on the right path:

  1. Work While You’re at Work. This seems obvious but the average employee actually only works a few hours a day, spending times chatting, long lunches, etc.. Work while you are at work makes you stand out.
  2. Find a Mentor. A quick way to close the generational gap is by working together with a mentor. By finding a person in your company to learn from and to advocate on your behalf, you also have someone with whom to communicate your perspective and teach them what you’ve learned. Mentorship works both ways!
  3. Take initiative. Be purposeful in trying to become a part of the solution at work. Offer assistance on projects outside of the scope of your role and do your best to get to know your business holistically, rather than focusing only on your immediate responsibilities.
  4. Share ideas. Your knowledge can really help your company understand their business from a new perspective, so if you have something, share it. Millennials are customers too!
  5. Make a plan. One mistake 20-somethings often make is getting impatient that their careers aren’t moving as quickly as they’d like. To make sure your goals are realistic, write them down. Make a career plan with specific milestones and timelines listed. Discuss it with your mentor.
  6. Create You Own Work Experience. If you are not fulfilled at work, then create your own experiences. You are as responsible as your employer to provide an experiential work environment, so share ideas and lead the change you seek.
  7. Take responsibility. If you miss a milestone or deadline that you created in your career plan, don’t get frustrated. Instead, consider what you can do in order to expand your prospects. A lot of opportunities comes from what I call “filling your toolbox” —taking lateral and sometimes lower level jobs in order to gain experience and get a better view of the whole business. The old adage, “sometimes you have to take 1 step back to get 2 steps ahead” rings true here. Successful people don’t get discouraged if what they thought would be a promotion instead becomes another experience for their toolbox.

As a millennial, you have so many skills and so much passion, and still so many years ahead in your career to grow. By showing a willingness to learn and the initiative to make it happen, the sky is the limit on your ability to grow, both as an employee and a leader.

I would love to hear about your personal work story and what has worked for you. Please share at


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