With April coming to a close, so do Exams and in some cases Post Secondary programs – a new group of graduates are about to enter the workforce! So, if I were asked to present a Valedictory Address to the Post Secondary Class of 2016, this is the message I would leave: Keep reading – it’s relevant to us all, no matter what stage of your career, you are at.
1. Your learning is not over!
Technically, the learning that you had at the institution you signed up for is over. The learning where you paid $X per semester, to be allowed the opportunity to endeavor upon new information, write countless papers, stay up late, well into the early hours, having to forego numerous social outings, “because you had to study” is over. However, the learning that you are about to embark upon, when an employer will PAY YOU to come to the organization and actively participate has just begun – so EMBRACE it! Sure, there could be overtime, but likely not until 2:00am! AND THEY ARE GOING TO PAY YOU!! So, graduates, don’t get all hang up on what you get paid the first year out – it will be way more than you paid for the average 1-year tuition! Jump in and continue your learning – Start earning your credit hours towards your MIB – Masters IN Business!
2. Group work is finally over!
Technically, I would love to say it's over too, however, it’s not. It’s not just about you. Group work never ends! So think back to your Post Secondary career of having to form a group, where you may have all seemed mismatched, may not align with each other, or where you may not have even spoken the same language – this will continue. Organizations are full of teams that will be handed an objective and must work together. Collaboration is a good thing and allows you to work with an array of experienced people that when the project is done, you will all be better for it. Even the CEO leads through an executive team and if asked, the decisions made are even better, than if he/she had to go it alone.
3. Embrace the Soccer Moms and Hockey Dads!
These are the individuals you encounter in the workplace who possibly have been in the workforce for about 10 years, and are usually juggling – a lot! They are leading or participating in projects that are tied to where the company is heading to. Innovative initiatives, upcoming campaigns, re-engineering of processes - the list is really endless. These groups of people could readily use some assistance, they have proven themselves countless times over, are capable of collaborating, and definitely have a lot on their plate with their family lives and their careers. For this reason, they are also in a great position for you to assist them. You will learn, you will show initiative and will be truly establishing yourself as a team player – and can quite play a role in something big that would never have been offered to you, if you had not asked and paid attention to the organizational dynamics going on.
4. Stick close to the grey haired people – version 1.0.
I can legitimately make this statement as I am one of these individuals! (Okay, well L’Oréal Preference comes to work with me every day so rarely do the grey hairs appear.) We are the individuals who have surpassed 25 years in the workforce, our kids are older, we can spend extra time at the office, ‘spear heading’ initiatives or leading teams, and yet we are often regarded as the past generation. In fact, when I read an email out loud from my phone one day, while sitting near my 20-year-old son, and mentioned that I had been asked to speak at a tech conference – he immediately quipped. “Ha! You!? Speak on Technology?! As if!” As I looked at him with a piercing glare of shock, I realized in his eyes, he did not see me as the person who had spent 16 years in Telecom and IT, when ISDN was introduced. I was simply a mom, that he relegated into the group of not being with it because I had asked one too many times, “What’s wrong with my phone?!”
So, you can learn from US and WE can learn from you! Here’s an opportunity for both groups to enhance the tried and true processes with new forms of communication, a new approach or simply a different way of looking at things.
5. Stick even CLOSER to the other grey haired people – version 2.0.
This is the group who on a daily basis are doing all the same things the v1.0 are doing, however, they will flat out tell you about retirement. They are talking about their grand-kids and their kids, but when they speak of retirement, they don’t sound like your grandparents necessarily. They talk about the many different projects they are planning outside of work. “Once they retire,” or “what they will do a few days a week,” are phrases you may hear in passing. Spend some quality time with this group and you can’t go wrong! In many companies today, with a large number of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, so will a lot of legacy information and knowledge leave the company. This is a group of individuals that you can learn from and carry over some of that historical knowledge – that places you in a position to bridge what IS and what will BE. At the same time, you can share something that you know. However, ask first what it is that these individuals would like to learn from you – you may be surprised at what you hear. This will take you to a level of learning of how to coach up, effectively.
6. Show what you know and how you do it – don’t lecture your post secondary theory notes!
As every generation graduates, they are equipped with the newest approach, knowledge, medium, tools, processes, in what ever field they are in. Yet, too many graduates come across as they are the only ones that have ever graduated with the ‘newest information.’ Therefore, what you bring into the workforce, still needs to work alongside, what was brought in 5, 10 and even 15 years ago. Yes, knowledge, processes will have been modified and adapted and some may no longer be used, however, having the ability to bridge your information and processes with existing processes and tools is a very valuable skill to have. For example, in the area of marketing, we are in an environment where, multiple mediums are continually used to convey messages. Various forms of print material, video, billboards, radio, TV, digital, and social media are present. However, the belief that it should be ‘out with the old, and in with the new’ is very short sighted. The Social media platforms of today are the TV and Billboard ads of yesteryear…and I’m sure entire Marketing Budgets back then were not all swayed by only those mediums, when they were introduced! So, there is ample opportunity to capitalize on what each person knows well, and exponentially, the entire team will grow, learn and hence be more productive and successful.
7. Don’t rush and don’t get overwhelmed!
I recently interviewed a Millennial who was looking to move from her role and her organization after only nine months. Her Reason? She had learned everything she possibly could! She was convinced if she stayed any longer her career would stagnate. You have not learned everything – none of us have. The best leader or CEO will always tell you what else they are learning at this very moment. You have been provided the wonderful opportunity to learn and work and be paid. Have patience, and as long as you are putting in your best effort, and moving things forward, the rest will work out. Taking on additional projects will show initiatives and drive, however, not to the point where you are feeling overwhelmed or your best effort isn’t present. No one succeeds in these types of situations. Timing is everything and in the business world there are cycles and there are decisions to make, followed by actions, and in most instances, the decisions are not life or death. This is your time to implement all of your school learning coupled with your daily learning into real, practical and relevant work, and grow your experience and your career.
I recently mentioned, to an experienced business owner and recreational ice climber, the number of tasks and projects I had to get through in the next few months, and just wanted to have them all completed, now. He calmly offered meaningful words of wisdom that really sunk in – “You’ll get there. That’s how you climb a mountain, one step at a time.”
Although we may think that a Message to the Class of 2016 is truly for the millennials and those just entering the workforce, we can look at each lesson and realize that we all have a part in bridging the learning and sometimes need that reminder to embrace the situations we are in. We can all effectively contribute to the organization we work for in ensuring it moves forward. As an organization moves forward so does each individual; sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. Embrace the change, embrace the message and embrace the direction you can be a part of!