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  • Simone Beretta

5 things millennials need to know to get an edge

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Simone Beretta - Head of HR Middle East - BOSCH

No matter which industry you work in, chances are that you'll have noticed a change in the social makeup of the workforce in the past few years - and chances are that you have been a contributor to that change. The traditional workforce has been now replaced by a completely different set of ideas and priorities driven by millennials.

As millennials begin to occupy a growing share of the workforce, their desire to stand out has grown as well. While their unbridled ambition and drive is commendable, it also poses a challenge in a modern market that has no lack of competition from both highly qualified people and - increasingly - from machines. Finding your own edge is crucial to making an impact.

While there are many paths to leadership, there are a few methods that are sure to give you an edge above the rest:

1. Come up with solutions, not problems.

Highlighting problems and pointing fingers is easy; coming up with solutions is harder. This means that problem-solvers are an invaluable asset. Technology will increasingly change the workplace as we know it and developments in artificial intelligence (AI) will perhaps enable machines to progressively take over responsibilities of routine tasks, meaning it is better to focus on cognitive tasks where the human factor will remain essential. Try to critically analyse problems from different perspectives and come up with new and creative ideas. Test your findings and propose your solution to your organisation.

2. True leadership comes through influencing and empowering others.

According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 63 per cent of millennials feel that their leadership skills are not developed. The truth is that there is no silver bullet for leadership skills. In a workplace characterised by agile working, where organisational hierarchies tend to be less relevant and boundaries across different departments tend to disappear, focus on your ability to influence others and to empower them to bring results rather than expecting your organisation to assign you a position of authority due to your experience or knowledge.

3. Never underestimate the value of good communication.

All too often, I've heard companies complaining about lack of clarity or structure - or both - in the communication skills of fresh graduates. Seventy-six percent of employers surveyed in the Middle East Skills Report listed written communication to be a vital skill. This is not surprising at all. Good communication is the foundation of a cohesive organisation, as it weeds out misunderstandings and inefficiencies, avoids duplication of efforts and lessens the need to play email tennis asking for clarification. Learn how to deliver your message in a clear and concise way, taking into consideration your target audience and the context. Convincing others of your great ideas is easier if you can convey them clearly.

4. Be curious about everything around you.

The late Walt Disney once said, "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." In a world where change happens at a much faster pace than in the past, the knowledge you acquire at university is likely to become obsolete quickly. So, don't consider your degree an arrival point, but rather the starting point of your knowledge journey. Don't just expect your manager to pick a few classroom trainings for you; be proactive in further enhancing your strengths and addressing your areas of improvement with all possible sources. Books, online tutorials, forums and networks are all effective ways to keep learning. Curiosity kindles the passion to learn more and try new things. It enables people to break out of their comfort zone, acquire knowledge and pick up new skills - all vital pillars to career growth.

5. Feedback is an opportunity for growth. Use it.

As someone who has been in the HR field for many years, I often see employee feedback being misconstrued. It is nothing more than a means for employees to be informed of areas that need improvement, but taking feedback to heart can sometimes be challenging. If I could pick an analogy that would convey this idea, I would pick the concept of 'red-teaming'. Red-teaming is a term that refers to the process by which organisations hire an external party - usually a benign hacker - to infiltrate their IT infrastructure to pinpoint weak spots in their system. Based on the hacker's operations, the company then tries to stitch up those holes in the system to avoid being compromised by a real hacker in the future. In the same vein, when used constructively, feedback reveals areas of development. The key is to remember that it's always business, not personal. Employees who grasp this at an early stage and leverage feedback the right way can propel their career growth.

If I can just leave you with one message, it would be that it's important to remember that opportunity is always there, and it belongs to those who can keep their eye on the prize and never stop learning along the way. The tips shared here are not a guaranteed way to get ahead, but they definitely go a long way in standing out in a highly competitive workplace.

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