So, you’re a millennial and you’re looking for a job?
Well, chances are you’re not just looking for a job–you’re looking for a particular kind of job. You want something fulfilling. Something that’s going to make you happy. Something that pays well, and most of all, has some sort of clear trajectory toward a bright and promising future.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the majority of the time, those things have more to do with you and the habits you choose to put into place–not what your employer promises.
That doesn’t mean those goals aren’t obtainable.
However, in order to build that sort of life for yourself, here’s what you need to understand from the beginning.
1. You get paid what you settle for.
The other way of saying this is, “You get what you negotiate.”
Too many millennials complain about not getting paid enough, meanwhile they do one of two things: they either do not ask for a raise, period, or they do not take the time to understand what would warrant a raise and going all-in on acquiring that skill set.
The truth is, employers want the best work they can get for the lowest possible price. That’s economics 101. So if you think you’re going to show up to work one day and they’re going to pay you more than what you’ve already accepted for yourself, you’re wrong. If you want more, you have to either ask for it, or become so valuable that they have no other choice but to raise your rate.
2. When you apply for a job, your resume is borderline meaningless.
Do you want to know where most resumes go? Into an email account that nobody checks on a regular basis.
Most jobs get filled by friends, network connections, and personal recommendations. That’s just how life works. People would rather do business with people they know–whether that’s a client making a choice of which company to let handle their marketing, or an employer deciding who to hire.
If you want a great job, have your resume ready to go, of course, but take the time to reach out to your network and see who knows who. Ask for introductions. Set up coffee meetings with people at the company you want to work at, get to know them a bit. Go the extra mile. Otherwise, nobody is going to pay attention to you.
3. Your online presence is more important than you think.
I’m still wondering how long it’s going to be until the masses understand this concept.
When you interviewing for jobs, best believe whoever is looking at your resume is also typing your name into Google. And guess what? If you’re invisible, or your Twitter profile has been vacant since 2009, and your Facebook profile picture is you holding a red solo cup, and your LinkedIn is empty and ignored, you’ve lost.
On the flip-side, if someone Googles your name and up comes a fairly impressive online persona, your value (in their mind) just skyrocketed. Oh, you have 20,000 Followers on Instagram? Oh, you’re a Top Writer on Quora? As much as we like to think these things don’t “matter,” they do. And people base real decisions off the way you present yourself on the Internet.
There’s value in building your personal brand. Significant value.
4. If you want to be taught, you have to be open to learning.
Millennials get a bad reputation for being impatient, entitled, and all the rest. But the truth is, that’s most often the result of environments being very poorly managed and poorly led, with no real intention to guide the new generation and empower them, but rather to have them follow the same “put your head down and just do it” mentality that drove the older generations.
However (and this is a big however), Millennials, if you want to be taught, you have to be teachable. If you want to learn, you have to be open and willing. If you want to get the most out of your experience (regardless of all the dysfunction a company may have), you have to be willing to see the good. It’s not a one-sided relationship.
5. Every work environment has its pros and cons. It’s what you make of it that matters.
Building off #4 here, there is no “perfect” work environment. Even the best, most millennial-friendly environments have their challenges. The real value you extract is dependent upon what you bring to the table.
Just because you’re getting paid to be there, doesn’t mean it’s all take-take-take. You might have the worst manager on the planet, you might have to do tasks you don’t enjoy, you might have to work longer than you’d prefer, but ultimately the lessons you learn are the result of your own perspective. You can either see it as a punishment, or an opportunity. You can either get down about it, or you can take the lesson in stride.
As my grandma used to say, “You can learn something from everyone.”
It’s on you to find those lessons for yourself.
6. Long-term success is knowing what you don’t know.
So many young people try to job hop their way up the ladder. They work somewhere for nine months and then leave to go somewhere else–often times inflating their skills on their resume in hopes of a higher paying salary. This course is then repeated every year or two until eventually hitting a comfortable ceiling where they get paid to “direct traffic” around the office.
If that’s what success means to you, by all means. But that’s not what success means to me.
If you really want to be successful and great at what you do, then you have to start seeing job opportunities as ways to learn what it is you still don’t know. The people who fail have no self-awareness of what it is they know and don’t know. They are blissfully ignorant.
Knowing what you don’t know is what gives you longevity, and continues to present you with challenges for you to overcome and continue to hone your skills.
7. Your paycheck doesn’t fall from the sky.
One of the most humbling things in the world is to work for a small business–less than ten people, so you can truly see the impact your work has on the company as a whole.
So many people entering the work force think that a salary, vacation days off, and afternoons off when they don’t feel like working are guaranteed. They think a college education means they deserve those things, no questions asked.
When you work for a small business, you realize that the job you have is the result of someone working very, very hard in order to put food on your plate. They hit the pavement every single day to make a living for themselves, to keep their company alive, and most of all, to make sure that you have a paycheck.
To then assume that you can, at times, not work (or not care about your work) and just collect your paycheck is a faulty perspective. The truth is, it is entitled. Why this happens is a whole other discussion, but what you need to know is that it’s not to be taken for granted. That’s money out of someone else’s pocket you’re taking. It doesn’t fall from the sky.
8. Nobody owes you anything.
You want to make your dream come true? You want to do your own thing, not have a 9-5, work for yourself, travel the world with your laptop, and live life on your own terms?
Most people don’t have what it takes to build that for themselves. But everyone sure loves to talk about it.
In life, nobody owes you a job. Nobody owes you clients. Nobody owes you a paycheck. Those are all things you have to go out and get yourself.
Talking about that “dream” like it’s expected, like everyone deserves that, is not correct. And truthfully, it’s insulting to the people who sacrifice so much in order to make it happen. So instead of talking the talk about how you want the best job ever, start walking the walk and getting that sort of job (or your “dream lifestyle”) yourself.
9. Find a job that compliments your side hustle.
People’s dreams die because they divide their day job with their dream–or moonlighting gig.
If you can find a day job that teaches you what you want to learn, and continue to supports your side gig, you will be far more likely to succeed. For me, this was working at a digital marketing agency while I was continuing to hone my craft as a writer at night. My day job was teaching me about marketing and personal brand building, which I could then apply to my future as a writer.
4 years later, and I turned my side hustle into my main gig. At 26 years old, I am a full-time writer and ghostwriter.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.