Ten Success-Driven Tips for the Aspiring Corporate Millennial

GenY, Millennials

As a young professional, I will be the first to admit that adapting to the political and hierarchic corporate environment requires diligence, to say the least. Working as a server/bartender in college, I was accustomed to genuine human interaction, especially amongst coworkers. For one thing, there wasn’t much hierarchy. Even the managers would get behind the line and cook, walk food to tables, and help make drinks if necessary. We all worked towards the same goal. If we had a conflict, we would go back to the alley, curse each other out and then let it go. We may not have been the most “professional,” but at the end of the day, we knew where we stood with each other.

Then I joined corporate America…the real Hunger Games. In this type of environment, your success is defined by how fast and how high you climb the company ladder. Unfortunately, it is much like a game of snakes and ladders in that much of your success is dependent on external factors. Primarily, your success is dependent on other people who are already in positions of authority rather than your competence. Although we can’t control the actions or decisions of others, we can control our own behaviors in ways which can influence their perception. You must learn to play the game strategically. However, the real challenge is learning to be strategic while still keeping your core values intact.

Lucky for you, I have compiled a list of 10 tips on how to positively influence company leadership while also retaining a conscious. Some of these pointers I had to learn the hard way while others are simply values that I refuse to neglect. Nonetheless, they have taken me from entry level to working with upper management in a few short years. I have received a promotion nearly every year and have yet to lose my willful, spirited, can-do attitude that so often gets beaten out of you while drudging up the corporate ladder. So here we go…

  1. Exude Professionalism: Although one’s definition of “professional” may vary, one aspect remains pretty consistent across the board; for better or worse, your work attire and overall presentation has a huge influence on how your are perceived. This was tough for me to understand initially, and I know what you are thinking: “You mean to tell me that my clothes are more important than how hard I work, how intelligent I am, or what I have to bring to the table?” “How am I supposed to afford professional dress clothes on an entry level paycheck?” “Since when are 4 inch hoop earrings too big?!?!”

Okay, maybe those were just my thoughts, but if you too feel that it is absolutely ridiculous to spend hard earned money on stuffy clothes simply to impress others, or if you feel like your competence, intelligence, diligence, and hard work should be more important than the clothes you are wearing, you are absolutely correct. However the reality is, if everyone in leadership is wearing suits and blazers, you need to follow suit (no pun intended.) For this I have two words…bargain hunting. Hit up your neighborhood Ross, TJ Maxx, or even Macy’s clearance rack. Consider it an investment.

  1. Emanate Authenticity: Most people can sense when someone is being disingenuous, and once that perception is established, your credibility is shot. None of us are perfect, but it is incredibly important to “say what you mean, and mean what you say. Remain genuine and people will appreciate your candor. (That is unless you are a complete asshole. In that case, strive to be someone else. Even assholes don’t like assholes…)
  1. Proceed With Curiosity: Remember that anyone can learn how to perform a task, but the leader questions “why?” Once you understand why certain tasks are performed and how different components interact with each other, you gain the high level understanding required to solve problems or even anticipate them before they occur.
  1. Be Proactive and Take Initiative: Whenever appropriate, perform duties without being asked to. Once a problem arises, take ownership, investigate, and resolve the issue. If it is necessary to manage the problem up, you will have already done the necessary leg work. Speaking from experience, there is nothing more annoying that an employee that simply passes on every problem without ever trying to resolve it themselves.
  1. Stay On Top Of Your Game: You are always on stage. Every interaction presents the opportunity to either impress someone with your knowledge and kind demeanor, or make yourself look incompetent (or even worse… look like an asshole.) No matter whom you are interacting with, whether it is the security guard, the janitor, a colleague, a supervisor, or the CEO, your behavior always has the potential to bite you in the ass. The funny thing about big business is you never know who knows who.

Even more importantly, you should take pride in yourself, in your intelligence, and in your work. You should strive to be the best at whatever you do. Mediocrity is a waste of time, and in my opinion, it’s downright sinful.

As millennials, we are always accused of feeling entitled. Well my rebuttal to that is, we don’t “feel” entitled, we ARE in actuality entitled to a comfortable, collaborative, and compensating work environment. But not because we are just spoiled brats; rather because we are hardworking, intelligent, educated, morally advanced creatures who not only want to be successful but also want to live positive, meaningful, and impactful lives. We are constantly rewriting rules and redefining the world around us. I would argue that we kick major ass. (By the way, I hate to be wrong) Don’t let me down GenY! Be on point every time, all day, every day.

  1. Be Strategically Assertive: Learn to tailor your assertiveness to your audience. Some individuals can appreciate the eager and sometimes overzealous employee. Personally, I love the employee that asks all the questions, wants to solve all the problems, and wants it all done yesterday. Unfortunately, not all leaders feel the same. Some leaders feel threatened by overly assertive employees, some leaders are lazy, or sometimes leadership simply doesn’t have room on their plates for anything else.

Nonetheless, in order to advance your career, you have to establish an opportunity to shine and to show leadership that you are willing and capable of moving to the next level. Just be mindful in doing so. Observe the difference in personalities and know who to approach and at what time. When the perfect opportunity does present, nail it!

  1. Practice Patience: The “P” word…my least favorite of them all. For millennials, we tend to be so eager to climb the corporate ladder that we could care less about bureaucracy, seniority, or any of the like. We know that we are capable of rising to the challenges of new positions and we also know that these student loans aren’t going to pay themselves off, although we keep praying for a miracle.

I have had to learn that things take time. You may not get the first, or second, or even third promotion that you apply for. Most companies will not promote a newbie right out of the gate. You may have to prove yourself time and time again before you get selected for a new position. Just be patient. Whatever you do, do not become bitter. There have been periods of time where I was frustrated with decisions made by upper management, and I was simply going through the motions. However, I did my best to refrain from negativity. This only makes you and everyone around you miserable. How you react to these situations will indicate how well you manage adversity. Maintain a positive attitude and you may very well land the next promotion.

  1. Humble Yourself: In your professional experience, you will run into many egos along the way. Don’t be misled to believe that belittling, condescending, or even indifferent behavior is acceptable. This stands true no matter what position you hold. Although an authoritarian attitude has predominated corporate politics for years, this leadership style is no longer effective or tolerable. We all want to feel important and appreciated in our positions. Studies show that productivity increases when a collaborative leadership style is utilized. Stand at the head of this initiative and lead by example.
  1. Lend A Helping Hand: If at any point you are in the position to assist someone else, take it. This can be something as simple as holding an elevator, showing compassion to a distressed colleague, or making a recommendation. Oftentimes people are only willing to lend time or effort if they are receiving something in return. They fail to realize that what goes around comes around. Even a tiny contribution to the morale of the company can impact everyone positively.
  1. Remain True To Yourself: For some, these tips will come naturally. For others, they require a little more work. In order to thrive in the world of corporate politics, you will likely have to compromise some of your beliefs at some point in time. Learning to compromise is a good thing. However, don’t become so focused on success that you lose sight of who you are at heart. Although the Hunger Games comparison may be slightly over exaggerated, know that saboteurs are lurking and they come in all forms. The goal is to infiltrate and evoke change from within. Do not get lost and in turn lose yourself in the mission. If you feel all sensibility slipping away, abort mission and walk away…if necessary, run.

I wish I could post “10 Sure-Fire Ways To Corporate Success,” but that would be BS. Business politics are complicated and can change at the drop of a dime. Nonetheless, these tips have taken me far at a relatively fast speed. I am proud of the success I have gained. Therefore, it was bitter sweet to submit my letter of resignation to a company that has seen me grow from a bartender into a professional. Yet, in staying true to myself there are certain qualities in leadership that I simply cannot overlook. (What can I say, I’m stubborn as hell…) So onto law school I go. Stay tuned…

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The Millennial Dilemma

GenY, Millennials

Millenials, Millenials, Millenials… I have been doing so much research on this topic, that I am almost tired of hearing the name. Personally I prefer to be called “GenY” or “GenNext.” Nonetheless, if you were born roughly between 1980 and 2000, you are considered a “Millenial.” If you haven’t already been beaten over the head with the term yourself, you may ask what this means…

As Millenials, we are defined as the “me” generation; they use words like narcissistic, self-centered, entitled, and my personal favorite, defiant. While our parents and grandparents were the do-ers, we are the THINKERS. We have questions and we want answers. We thrive on creating meaning within our lives. We feel an overwhelming sense of purpose, although we often have a hard time putting our finger on exactly what that purpose is. As the largest and most diverse generation in the US, we value authenticity, individuality, self-expression, creativity, family, and community.

Most importantly, millennials aren’t afraid of change. In fact, we encourage it. We ARE the change.

I believe that every generation and every person serves a purpose. My goal is not to propagate the notion that “we are the best.” However, just like our children will likely be even more enlightened than us, I feel like we are more free thinking than preceding generations. This ability to think outside the box pressures us to question current institutions and consider the effect they have on the planet as a whole. It also affords us the ability to creatively propose solutions to global problems that previously may have been swept under the rug. Furthermore, as a generation founded on the internet and instantaneous worldwide communication, we have no choice but to ultimately consider the big picture.

All of that being said, I think many of us struggle daily with a certain degree of turmoil. We are simultaneously being pulled in two different directions. On one hand, we were born into a world that values money. Success is defined as having fancy cars, big houses, name brand clothes, and plenty of money stashed away in the bank. We have been bred to be consumers. On the other hand, we have this overwhelming desire to make the world a better place. We want to live meaningful lives and work in professions that help people. The problem arises once we realize that these two ideologies are nearly paradoxical.

How do you work for a big corporation if you know that they exploit laborers in developing countries? How do you start your own sales business when you know that people really don’t “need” the stuff you are selling? How do you and your husband buy a 5 bedroom house just so you have enough space to keep all of your “stuff” when you know there are people around the world with no home? How do you collect multiple pairs of shoes when some people walk barefoot?

Ignorance is bliss. If we didn’t know all of these truths, we could easily play along and praise money as the ultimate prophet. The problem is, we KNOW the truth. We know that the more we have, the less someone else has. This is a systematic mechanism of the capitalist system. (Other people who are way smarter than me can explain this much better than I can, so I recommend you do your research. One of the most eye-opening documentaries I have seen is Zeitgeist. It makes it very simple to understand.)

This exact inner turmoil…this paradox… is what inspired me to get the tattoo “Righteous Ambitions” as soon as I was legally old enough to do so on my own. What that meant for me was a quest for balance. I desire to be successful enough to live comfortably, but I also desire help other people. On one hand, I am a bleeding heart and on the other, I am a pitbull. Little did I know that at nearly 30 years old, I would still be struggling to find the niche that allows me to balance both.

This struggle is common for our generation. You may call it the quarter-life crisis. It is that feeling that we should have it all together by our mid-twenties, and yet, we don’t. Why not? Because we refuse to settle. We refuse to submit to unhappiness. We refuse to be devalued. We refuse to be unauthentic.

As of right now, I don’t have all of the answers. I personally don’t know what exactly I “want to do with my life.” However, I have faith that I will find my niche…I will find my calling. And if you are a fellow millennial asking yourself WTF you are going to do with your life, just know that you are not alone. My advice is to stay true to yourself. There is a place for everyone. Whether you are the corporate employee who challenges the status quo or you are the entrepreneur who starts a business founded on social responsibility, you have a purpose. We all do. Hang in there, keep your head up, and stay true to you…

THE CONTINUED OBJECTIFICATION AND SEXUALIZATION OF WOMEN

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Gandhi

As a proud member of “Generation Y,” I usually try to have an upbeat optimistic approach when it comes to social problems. I do believe that people can change, and I believe that our collective conscious as a society is changing for the better. However, in order to change, sometimes we need to point out exactly where we are getti ng it wrong. So, today’s topic is the continued exploitation, devaluation, and objectification of women…

Let me first begin with one of the biggest crises facing our world currently; that is, human trafficking. In case you are totally in the dark about this (as I fear too many people are), according to Google human trafficking is “the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.” We are talking about slavery here folks! Here are a few stats:

  • In the United States alone, human trafficking generates 5 billion dollars. (United Nations)
  • Each year, as many as 300,000 children become victims of commercial sexual exploitation, with the average entry age being between 13 and 14 years old. (US. Department of Justice)
  • An average victim of sexual exploitation works 12 hour days and is required to have sex with between 20 and 45 men per day. (Polaris Project)

Those are just a few statistics which capture only a glimpse of the disturbing reality faced by too many of our world’s women and children. One of the most disturbing realizations for me was the fact that this is happening in our own front yard. When we hear about the abuse and mutilation of women across the wold, our hearts ache, but there is always a level of separation. As an American, I was beyond belief when I discovered that these are also Americans who frequent these “brothels.” It is Americans who are transporting and exploiting these women and children. This is not a developing world problem. This is everyone’s problem. I want to return to this topic in depth on a future date, but if you want to know more information in the meantime, the hyper-links above are a good place to start.

Right next to human trafficking is the objectification of young girls and women by family members, mentors, and peers particularly by way of unwanted sexual advances or even sexual assault. According to RAINNevery two minutes an American is sexually assaulted and 44% of victims are under age 18. Only about 40% of sexual assaults are actually reported. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that as many as 1 in 3 young girls will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood and approximately 1 in 5 high school girls report physical and/or sexual abuse by someone they are dating.

The number of young girls who are prematurely exposed to sex is staggering. Yet, I am amazed at the resilience and how so many of these victims are still able to mature into loving and caring women. That is not to say that the scars are not there, because they certainly are. While many of these women are capable of loving and desire to be loved, they do not know what it is to be truly loved. They oftentimes end up confusing sexual desire and jealousy with love. They don’t realize that although sex can be a liberating and even a spiritual endeavor for a woman, there is so much more that defines who she is and so much more for a man to value.

Consequentially, when it comes to personal relationships, our society has increasingly become more sexual. And we aren’t talking about the good sexual; we aren’t talking one-love, hippie sexual. We are talking about people being used solely for fleeting sexual or egotistical desires and then being discarded once those desires pass or are replaced with new ones. The devaluation of women seems to have created a vicious cycle between men and women. Women blame men for taking them for granted and men blame women for being “hoes.” But what do you really expect? Not only have many of these women experienced unwanted sexual advances or even abuse first-hand, but the sexualization of women is widely endorsed by the media, entertainment industry, and even in the workplace. To be a woman and to be desirable is to be sexual…or at least that is what we are lead to believe.

Finally, let’s talk about the workplace. It wasn’t until I got into my mid-twenties that I realized that sexual harassment (and sexism period) is still a very relevant problem. As a highly intelligent woman, a hard worker, and loyal employee, I felt as though I could compete right alongside men with no problem. I heard about the glass ceiling and “quid pro quo,” but I knew my intelligence and my work ethic. Surely that would earn me the respect to not have to deal with sexual harassment. I was mistaken.

My first experience with sexual harassment came when I was working as a bartender at a restaurant. Not to sound cocky, but as a relatively attractive woman, I was accustomed to men making presumptuous advances towards me. When my manager followed suit, I just brushed it off. However, after years and years of side comments latent with arrogance and an assumption that if he were not a manager, I would somehow want to get with him, I was over it. I knew his personality though. I knew that if I flat out told him to back off, he would immediately get defensive and I would become his target. I didn’t want to lose my job, nor did I want him to lose his. He had a wife and three kids. I didn’t want to be to held responsible for those repercussions. Although I sucked it up, I never realized how much it really bothered me until one day I was venting to my coworker about him. I explained how tired I was of having to tolerate these comments. All I wanted to do was come to work, do my job, and go home. I worked hard and our job was stressful enough already without having someone constantly harassing me. As I was talking, I started to cry…this is what sexual harassment feels like.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior is not isolated to restaurant jobs, blue collar jobs, or military jobs. Sexual harassment is everywhere. As a “professional,” I have experienced the same type of advances. Even worse, I have been denied promotions because I did not fall in line with what my male superior expected of me as other women had. To put it plainly, I did not kiss his ass.

Women have a very fine line to walk in the workplace and unfortunately, unless you are “the boss,” you have to strike a delicate balance between being sociable and detached. For many women, it is our nature to be the caregiver, to be compassionate, to be friendly. Oftentimes, men confuse this with attraction or flirtation, and they feel that it is okay to make sexual advances. On the other hand, if we are reserved and “strictly business,” we are a stuck up bitch. Is it no wonder why the majority of leadership positions are still filled by men? Moving up the corporate hierarchy for many women is much like a game of snakes and ladders. Regardless of intelligence, work ethic, or amicability, sometimes it is a matter dumb luck.       

With all of the above taken into consideration, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, it should be clear that a woman’s struggle is still very relevant. This is not to take away from men who have experienced similar situations because they certainly are out there. This is also not to give women an excuse to throw a pity party or set the world up in flames (although I have considered…)

My goal is to provide awareness about these issues. With awareness you can begin to alter your way of thinking about women. Recognize that no matter how subtle, once you turn a women into a sexual object, whether it be via thoughts, gestures, grunts, implicit comments, or all out physical contact, you are perpetuating the very same concept that justifies the enslavement and sexual abuse of women and children that occurs every single minute all over the world.

“To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.”

–Eckhart Tolle