If there’s one thing I learned from writing a career advice book for millennials, it’s that this isn’t my parent’s job market.
Due to an increasingly global, freelance and remote workforce, rapid advances in technology, and an ever-evolving economy, the corporate career ladder is dead. Gone are the days where someone lands a job after college, and stays at the same company for twenty-five years. Nearly one-quarter of millennials have switched their jobs in the past year (three times the number of non-millennials), and the average 25-34 year-old is leaving their job every three years.
But it’s not just millennials that are job-hopping; the average person 25 and older is staying at their job just over five years. In the job market of the future, all of us, regardless of age, will constantly have to adapt and re-invent our careers. The U.S. Department of Labor has noted that 65% of today’s children will end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Here are a few ways all workers, not just millennials, can remain engaged in an increasingly uncertain job market.
1. Lead with purpose
We often hear about meaning-hungry millennials, but a report by IBM IBM, +0.13% found that millennials share similar priorities as older employees. The truth is that all employees want to make a positive impact on their organization and help solve social or environmental challenges through their work. Purpose is a top driver for engagement for everyone in the workplace. According to research by The Energy Project and Harvard Business Review, employees who derive meaning from their job report higher job satisfaction and engagement. So, how will you prioritize meaning in the workplace? Can you focus on projects that really excite you? Can you use your work to make a positive impact on society? Is it possible for you to collaborate more with partners, inside and outside of your organization, on initiatives that improve quality of life for your co-workers, customers, and community?
2. Treat your manager like a mentor
A recent report by Gallup found that millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. That is a lot of money, and while it’s true that some millennials are going to leave their jobs regardless of what a company does, employees who have supportive supervisors are 30 percent more likely to stay with their organization. What this means for employees is that it’s in your interest to create a positive relationship with your supervisor. How can you treat your manager as a supportive coach and mentor, who is invested in your professional development beyond your day-to-day responsibilities? One way to do this is to spend more time with your manager outside of the office. Help them get to know you, your family, your personal interests, and your long-term career goals. This will help your manager value you, nominate you for potential promotions, and maybe even help guide you to the next great position when it is time for you to find a new opportunity.
3. Always add value before asking for favors
I meet a lot of younger employees who like to complain that they haven’t gotten a promotion or a raise. My immediate question for these workers is, “Well, how much value have you added to your company?” The more value you add, the more likely you are to get a promotion. So, next time there is an opportunity to co-lead a new project or initiative at work, jump on it, even if it’s something you don’t have a lot of experience in. If there’s an important deadline for your team, make sure you exceed the expectations of your supervisor. If you know your company is struggling in a particular area, do the extra research and homework necessary to suggest a new approach. When you add more value, you’ll be more engaged, and you’ll start earning the praise you deserve.
4. Think of your office like a classroom
According to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey, one of the main things millennials are looking for in the workplace is learning and leadership development. Your education doesn’t stop when you leave college, it continues every single day you’re in the workforce. A flexible and unstable job markets rewards those who continue to innovate and test their assumptions about their skills and interests. So, how can you treat your office like a classroom? Try new things every day, prototype your ideas and projects, and be okay with going outside your comfort zone and making mistakes. Trying new things ensures that your second month on the job is going to be completely different than your first month, which will help you stay motivated and engaged. Learning what you don’t like about your job is just as valuable as learning what you love.
5. Build your own board of advisors
Most organizations have a board of advisors on their website — individuals with a lot of experience and connections that make the organization look more competent. Why not create a personal board of advisors that can help advise you at different stages of your career, help you think through whether to take a new position or move to a new city, and help clarify your long-term career goals. I recommend finding five mentors to serve on your board; at least two should have several years of experience in your area of interest, and if possible, try to include someone who is at least ten years older than you, and someone younger than you. LinkedIn and Twitter can be very useful resources for finding potential mentors to serve on your advisory board.
6. Take a break (or two) while you’re at work
Succeeding in today’s workforce is not about working hard, it’s about working smart. If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s impossible to make an impact with your work. It’s important to take frequent breaks during the workday, whether it’s to exercise, take a walk outside, meditate, write in your journal, or simply relax. One study found that employees who took a break every ninety minutes were 30 percent more focused, and that employees who were able to focus on only one task at a time were 50 percent more engaged. How can you take more time off at work, and when you return to your desk, focus on only task at a time, instead of having fifteen different browser tabs open on your computer?
If you start working smarter, you’ll be on the path to finding more meaning in the workplace, and doing your organization (and yourself) a huge favor.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky is a millennial career expert and the author of “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters”, which was recently published by TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House.