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Lessons from the real world: Advice for new graduates

Millennials face unique challenges as they enter the workforce.


When Kayla Buell graduated college two years early and began working full time, she faced a whole new world of challenges. "I found myself thrown into this workplace where everyone was a lot older, and I didn't know what to do," she says. Her experiences inspired Buell to help the next crop of young professionals navigate the adult world—and so her blog Gen Y Girl was born. She then compiled some of her best advice into a book: Corporate Survival Guide For Your Twenties.

She spoke to Verizon about her personal experiences and offered her "been there, done that" thoughts for new grads entering the workforce.

Why do Millennials sometimes get a bad rap in the workplace?

There is a negative stereotype that young people are entitled and want everything handed to them right away. That could be true of some people, but it's not necessarily a generational thing. I know a lot of very hard-working young professionals. At the same time, I do feel that my generation is challenging some traditional norms like the 9-to-5 workplace, and they do express new ideas about work-life balance. That's where some traditional employers may get the wrong impression that they don't want to work.  But it's not that at all. They just approach these issues differently.

So how can millennials overcome such stereotypes, and stand out in a good way?

It's important to work on your personal brand. You want to be in the driver's seat of what happens next in your career. One thing you can do is to make sure your LinkedIn account is always up to date. For me, I learned so much about HR and career planning that I started blogging about it. You can also make an online portfolio to showcase your work. The Internet and technology allow you to take control of your own personal brand.

What can you do in real life to make a good impression?

You have to learn how to be assertive, but it takes practice. It's a learned behavior and it takes courage to have grown-up conversations with your bosses. I was nervous and soft-spoken at first, but the more I practiced it, the better I became. You don't have to be rude-I would never advocate that. But you should know your worth, and know that you should be respected whether you're 18 or 40. Don't be afraid to voice your opinions just like any other adult in the workplace.

How has technology helped you advance your career?

It is a shocker when you start an adult life, because you have a lot less free time than you did when you had a college student schedule. It can be challenging. What worked for me was trying to find spots in your day to maximize your time. Technology helped me with that since I can bring my work with me on the go. During my lunch break, and before work, I found time to be productive and I was even able to write my book in three months. I've learned how to monitor the free time I have, and track it so I'm not wasting hours on Instagram and Facebook.

What are your best networking strategies?

Whether you do it in a traditional face-to-face or in a digital way, you should be meeting other people. Any effort you make to meet like-minded people in your industry is a type of networking. It should be outside of your immediate workplace. There are lots of established industry organizations, and major cities usually have groups or chapters where members can meet or have mixers. Even if you are more introverted, there are tons of Facebook and LinkedIn groups where you can share experiences, or you can send a quick tweet to someone doing interesting work. 

Do you have any tech tips you think all recent grads should apply?

Responding to opportunities as soon as they arise can be a great way to stand out and attract the attention of job recruiters. Getting job alerts on your smart watch is one way to stay connected without being tethered to a desk. Reliable wifi is a must when you’re job hunting or working remotely. As is a familiarity with video chatting, since video interviews and conferences are becoming more and more common.

Any other real world tips for Millennials?

There are a lot who grads who think they are going to make $100,000 right out of college. Those salary expectations are usually very unrealistic if you have no experience in an industry, and a lot of young people struggle with that. Also, some people tend to have priorities in the wrong places, and there isn't a lot of saving going on. If money is tight at first, even saving $20 a month is better than nothing at all, and if you can start putting money into a 401k right away, even better-compound interest is a beautiful thing.

What is the most important piece of advice that helped you survive your first few years of adulting?

Just be resilient. You're going to face rejection, have people telling you no, have people who don't call you back, or apply for promotions and get turned down. The best thing to remember is keep on going. Too many people let their egos get in the way and end up quitting, but if you keep going after goals, eventually you'll get there.

Whether it's devices or accessories, setting up your home office or grinding on-the-go, Verizon has the tools to equip new graduates with the things they need to meet the real world head-on.


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