8 Great Gen Y Workplace Lessons from the Trenches

A few years into my career, here are some things I’ve lived and learned. Take ‘em for what they are – mistakes I’ve made or seen made by others in the first five years of my career. I’d love to hear some of yours, as well. Please comment below!

Lessons this Gen Y Worker Learned in the Early Stages of My Career

1.    Keep track of your accomplishments and contributions. Save accolades and kudos emails, track metrics (especially ones that show positive growth) and every performance review. No one else is going to do it for you. Report them to your superior if you feel you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve, and have them ready for your next interview or promotion opportunity.

2.    Blurbage is just blurbage. Using cheesy language or marketing-speak in cover letters, resumes or e-mails doesn’t get you too far. Employers, clients and peers appreciate a succinct, real expression of interest, appreciation or qualifications.

3.    A personal brand means nothing if it’s fake. Make sure your personal brand actually reflects who you are, not who you want to be. While a little aspiration is always good, if you try too hard, it shows. Stick to your strengths, and if you’re learning, say so. You don’t have to be an expert on everything out of the gate.

4.    Learn to handle it without freaking out (in public or in the office, at least.) Part of being a successful professional is handling things as they are thrown at you, without complaint – and you know the saying… “Never let them see you sweat.” I learned this lesson from a smart tradeshow director who, with a pleasant tone and smiling face, informed me of an impending disaster. It’s about appearing in control while you create a plan of attack. Thinking ahead helps, but everyone has to roll with it from time to time. Nothing is more unprofessional than a grown-up hissy fit. (Resist the urge to forward that part on to your boss).

5.    Take care of your feet, wrists and back. This goes for men and women – becoming an office slave can be terrible for your body, and you don’t have to be too far into your late 20’s for it to start to show. Good exercise, frequent breaks and all that stuff they preach at you actually are important.
Gen Y Healthy Body
Also, a few tips for the ladies out there from this fashionista who loves to be comfy: Shoe insoles, heel pads and moleskin save my life nearly every day. Wonder how Carrie & the girls wear their stilettos and still get it done hiking the streets of NYC? I guarantee that’s how. Oh yeah, and keeping a smart, chic pair of flats in your car and desk drawer never hurt, either. Swap ‘em out when you are running errands or trekking in from the parking garage. (But don’t do what a former coworker [God love her] did and wear fluffy slippers at her desk and occasional trip to the copier. Seriously?!)

6.    Cultivate the relationships, partners and mentors you will need for the future, now. As I get a few more years into my career, I’ve realized nothing is forever – and that includes the people I work with or see frequently. Some of my favorite people to tap for advice or help are not even within a day’s drive of me. It helps to keep a smart network of people at your fingertips – but you have to make it a two-way street. Respond to their requests for help on social networks, take their work polls, review their resumes and listen when their hearts are broken. People remember that kind of thing.

7.    Resist the urge for revenge, or just immediate defensive response. Whether you were passed over for a promotion, talked about behind your back or unfairly criticized in a review, remember not every attack is a cause for counter-attack. While we all gut-check, scream in our cars, or go to the bathroom to call our mom crying (ok guys maybe you don’t cry but I bet you leave early for a stiff drink), you can’t be on the offensive all the time. I’m not saying don’t fight back — but sometimes, you have to prove someone wrong over time, form a team of supporters or take time to create a thoughtful response.

8.    When you’re writing sensitive e-mails, do two things:
•    Hit Reply, but then delete that person’s email address until you’ve finished your email. That will prevent many, many too-quick ‘sends’ with unfinished or brash responses from going out.
•    Always, always, always check carefully and ensure you have not inadvertently hit “Reply All.”
•    Don’t play the CC or BCC game unless you have to. Copying someone’s boss constantly is annoying and implies you don’t think they can get it done. BCC-ing someone is kind of like talking behind their back. There are legitimate reasons for doing both of the above, just think about it before you do it.

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