5 Pieces Of Tough Love For Millennials


Guest blogger Nigel Dessau is the author of Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack, and the creator of the website ‘The 3 Minute Mentor.’ He is a nationally award-winning marketing professional with over 25 years of experience leading corporate marketing and communications for several multi-million and billion dollar companies. He began his career by working for IBM, serving customers and partners in the UK. Dessau moved to the U.S. following an assignment in New York, where he continued to work for IBM for nine years. Since leaving, Dessau has held senior executive and CMO roles at both private at Fortune 500 companies including StorageTek, Sun Microsystems, AMD, and Stratus Technologies.

A recent survey by a leadership training firm called Virtuali and WorkplaceTrends.com found that 91 percent of millennials aspire to be leaders. Most interestingly, when asked why, only 5 percent said money and 1 percent said power. The largest answer, with 43 percent, was “empowering others.” The problem for millennials who want to be leaders is clearly not a lack of motivation. The biggest obstacle, however, is that most of them don’t have the skills they need to succeed. And what’s worse, many of them don’t even know how to attain them.

While building the website called The 3 Minute Mentor, my colleagues and I have researched and surveyed over 1,000 professionals and upcoming leaders. As part of that survey we asked them what it took to succeed in the 21st Century. What became clear was that the skills Millennials learn in college, even if they do MBAs, and the skills they will need to succeed in the real world, are out of lock-step with each other.

It’s time to bridge this divide, and here are 7 ways to do it:

  1. Get some content. While your knowledge of Facebook and every Kardashian is great, you will have to bring something more to work. Be a specialist in something that is of value to employers. People employ people who know stuff.
  2. Your approach matters. You will only succeed if you can get people of all ages and levels to work with you. Use your content to get respect and turn that respect into action. This defines your approach to work.
  3. Grow a network. You need to learn to build your business network with the same vigor that you learned to build your social network. At work, it is great if you have content and approach, but people need to know that you have these.
  4. Have presence. The first 10 seconds of a presentation will tell an audience more about you than the next 10 minutes. More and more we are judged on taking command of a room and clearly communicating. Even if you hate speaking in public, get good at it.
  5. Earn some stripes. While you think you should be running the world, no one else does. Like it or not, you are going to have to spend some time working up from the bottom of something. While frustrating, in the long run, it will make you a better leader.
  6. A phone is for more than texting. While we use our mobile phones for many things today, sometimes we forget that it can also be used to talk to people. While email is easy, pick up the phone and make a personal connection. Better still, go talk to them face to face.
  7. Don’t try and do it on your own. There are lots of people out there who can help you. Mentors are critical resources and anyone who has done well in life will tell you that it would not have been possible without their mentors.

There are actually 36 valuable pieces of advice that I’ve gathered from professionals and upcoming leaders, and they’re all laid out in detail in my book, Become a 21st Century Executive – Breaking Away from the Pack.

Bottom line: By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce—and they are already the largest generation at work right now, surpassing Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers.  If these numbers are true, then not only do they want to be leaders, we will need them to be successful at leading. Helping them get these skills is the best thing we can all do for them and for the generations of the future.

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