Monthly Archives: July 2007

I’m a Damsel in Success

My “Women are the new men” post was just published on Damsels in Success. I’ve joined Damsels in Success for professional women as one of their fifty Forum women, and will be writing a monthly post for their site. A big thank you to Damsel’s founder, Harleen Kahlon, for this wonderful opportunity.

If you missed the post the first time round, go read it at Damsels and don’t forget to leave a comment!

What glass ceiling?

What it means to be a Gen Y leader

This post was originally published at Employee Evolution.
Update: You can also find the post at The Industry Radar.

It’s a myth that the workplace is turning into one big leaderless state. Just as decisions made by committee often require head banging, life without leaders would be one big headache. Yes, leadership has changed and decentralized organizations are here to stay, but there will always be leaders. We want success. We want to win, and winners have leaders.

Once you’ve tossed aside the crutch of hierarchical authority though, “knowing how to build relationships, use influence and work with others is crucial to achieving the results you seek,” according to Valeria Maltoni, a specialist in connecting ideas and people.

A Generation Y leader inspires by enabling others to be leaders. They know the strengths of those they lead, and exploit those for the success of that person. A Gen-Y leader delegates to help the worker achieve their goals. They are motivated by relationships and have an obsession with seeing others succeed.

By making room for other leaders, “you attract people who aren’t followers, who aren’t looking for the kind of leader who will save them from the anxiety of responsibility,” according to Michael S. Hopkins. And the millennial generation does not follow.

Instead, we create our own content, build our own businesses, do things our way. Be an entrepreneur or die, says Sam Davidson at Cool People Care. For the Gen-Y leader, it isn’t about ego, but about sharing ownership and building a community of ideas. An effective Gen-Y leader helps our generation to embrace entrepreneurship at every level.

A Gen-Y leader is inclusive and collaborative, and not just within their sphere of influence. An isolated organization will perish. Successful organizations are defining themselves as the gateway expert in their field. On the playing field, in this instance, companies must pick the competitor to be a part of their team for bigger and better results. It’s not enough to have a quality product; you must reach out and promote others. Teamwork is no longer just within a company. It’s industry-wide.

As a result, lines haven’t just been blurred; they’ve been pulverized on high in a blender. Competitors are partners, work is play, and boundaries no longer exist. As such, Gen-Y leaders must be leaders by example, and in every aspect of their life, whether family, work, or play.

Generation Y leaders, however, can and will be easily replaced by their peers. We are a starfish generation. Go ahead and try to chop one of us down, and we’ll grow a whole sprawling forest in that person’s place. We’re that strong. We’re that motivated. We don’t respond lightly to pressure or corruption.

A Gen-Y leader’s efforts to maintain influence will be harder for that reason. Especially because it is often our peers doing the chopping. As a generation, we’re remarkably good at calling bull. We have no qualms about holding our leaders up to the light to check for transparency.

Gen-Y leaders then must know themselves first, and project their authenticity. They must also be constantly learning, experiencing, doing, networking, creating, giving. It won’t stop. Our generation won’t put up with selfish thoughts, unethical behavior, or tired ideas. The Gen-Y leader must be constantly on.

That’s how we will become the next great generation. We won’t stop.

Change is in the air; inhale deeply.

The dynamic leadership requirements for Gen Y are causing Masters in Public Administration, MBA and other education degrees to put an extra emphasis on leadership. 

Advice from top Executives, Presidents, and CEOs

We won’t all be Steve Jobs, but many of us will be the top executives in our respective cities. I recently met with seven of the top Executives, Presidents and CEOs in Madison, Wisconsin. Here are their keys to business and leadership success—

Share your success. It is incumbent on the person being promoted, according to Mark Meloy, President and CEO of First Business Bank, to pull others along with them. Make sure that as you become more successful, your leaders feel that their careers are moving forward as well.

Network to problem-solve. Finding groups that help you problem-solve will save many a headache, according to Brett Armstrong, CFO of the IT company Trident Contact Management. Like if you’re being audited, the group will have your back. But choose your involvement wisely, Armstrong advocates, since you only have a certain amount of time and need to spend it wisely. If you’re only half-involved then that is how people will know you.

Balance… well, it’ll all even out in the end. First, you have to decide if you want a job or a career, according to Mark Meloy. If it’s a career you decide upon, make sure you’re engaging in a two-way street. Work and life won’t always balance out that day, week, or month, but equilibrium will be found. Eventually. Meloy walks the talk at First Business Bank. When his employees go on vacation, they are not allowed access to email and have only limited access to voicemail. The company gives vacation, he says, for a reason.

A vision can’t just be a pie in the sky. A vision must be a concrete vision, according to Donna Sollenberger, President and CEO of UW Hospital and Clinics. To create the right vision, you must find the right direction for your organization to take. To do this, look at the industry trends and listen to your market. Then build a case, a good solid argument, and back it up with data to demonstrate where you need to go.

Entrepreneurs – socialites, control-freaks, risk-takers, and self-promoters. So says Curt Brink, a successful real estate developer. You must not only deal with a wide range of people in entrepreneurship, he argues, but you must also follow through on getting things done. Don’t be afraid to try something new, because once you’ve done it, you then understand how to do it better. A successful entrepreneur likes being in control, but can delegate fully. If you don’t, no one will grow. By the way, Brink was unconsciously promoting his current and past projects the entire time he was talking. That’s called passion. Get some.

Do a lot, and make sure everyone knows. Don’t let anyone pigeon hole your talents, says Annette Knapstein, Vice President of Office Administration at American Family Insurance. Stretch yourself, develop new talents and volunteer for different committees. And then, make sure everyone knows it. If they don’t know, it doesn’t exist.

Leadership is lonely sometimes. A good leader and manager makes effective decisions and communicates clearly, while putting the right people in the right spots. Not always easy, according to Gary Wolter, President and CEO of MGE. To illustrate his point, Wolter told a story about a receptionist he saw year after year. Each morning, the receptionist would say, “Hello, Gary.” Yet, when Wolter was promoted to CEO, the next morning was different. “Hello, Mr. Wolter,” the receptionist said. Leadership fundamentally changes relationships and people expect different things of you. People who were your peers, you now supervise, and while you can still be friendly, you can’t talk about the boss anymore because you are the boss. The support group that you had developed, who had remained loyal to you, and helped you along your journey has changed. Be prepared.

Throw an open door party daily. Reaching out to younger people for fresh air is essential, according to Richard Lynch, President of J.H. Findorff & Son, who had a great sense of the upcoming workforce. He recognizes that young workers are entrepreneurial, and need a flexible and honest environment to work in. He has an open door policy for this purpose and subsequently attracts the brightest young workers.

Speaking of honesty… Surround yourself with people who will tell you that you’re an idiot, says Gary Wolter. Look both inside your organization, and outside, for individuals you can bounce ideas off of, and who can communicate with you effectively and honestly.

Follow the Leader.

Skip grad school. Life is better with experience.

A few weeks ago, I met a twenty-something pursuing an advanced degree in Political Science to become a professor, although he had no real-world experience in politics. I listened to Mr. Poli Sci and then I said, “How can you possibly teach something you haven’t experienced?”

Mr. Poli Sci became quite defensive at this point claiming he had objectivity (!) since he wasn’t personally involved. I tried to think of one successful person in politics that attempted to stand on both sides of the fence. Politics is about having an opinion. It’s the very definition of passion.

In talking to Mr. Poli Sci, I realized he had committed two common Generation Y sins. One, he had a vague interest in a topic, but no passion, fostering an apathetic approach towards life. Two, he went to grad school to fix it. Life is better with experience. Here’s why:

1) Grad school is good on paper, but barely. An education doesn’t allow your competencies to be realistically measured, or allow you to be differentiated among other candidates. An education simply signifies that you have completed a degree. It doesn’t provide the full picture of your marketable skills.

Moreover, an advanced degree may bring you more money, but it’s not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is the extra stress your additional student loans will create and the regret you’ll feel for wasting your efforts when you don’t end up using your degree. Seems barely worth it considering “grad school is a confidence-killing daily assault of petty degradations.”

2) Employers look for experience, so should you. Real-world experience reigns supreme over schooling. Every time. Your experience in the real-world interacting with real people and real situations allows you to be uniquely suited towards a particular position. Of course, you need education and knowledge to put places on a map. But then you have to go live life to arrive at a destination.

Sure, Mr. Poli Sci would be a good professor, but never great. Great professors have fervent opinions, they know intimately the subject matter upon which they speak, and they have formed a deep respect for the other side. Most importantly, they’ve formed these opinions as the result of real-world experience.

3) Objectivity gets you nowhere. It’s easy to be objective when you haven’t risked anything. But success in business is not objective. Decisions are based on the relationships you have with others, and the emotions of how you’ve lived life up until this point. The facts can be laid out in front of you, but it is ultimately the experiences you’ve had that determine an outcome.

4) It’s better to do something, instead of just learn about it. Why, exactly, are so many of us in such a hurry to re-institutionalize ourselves? I spent years in college yearning to be done with school. Especially the flash card part.

Going to grad school is not having the guts to get on with life. You’re not telling corporate America anything by indulging in a larger map. You’re just making it harder to figure out which road to take. Want to give the finger to the establishment? Go blog. Go start your own business. Go to work every single day and rock every single day.

Preparation is hesitation. Action is change.

Research reveals philanthropy is just like sex, sort of

I volunteered last Thursday, walking people through the food pantry, keeping track of their points, because we didn’t have enough other volunteers. The food pantry is just like a grocery store. Clients can choose their own food based upon a point system that is roughly equal to dollars.

My second client is a young Hispanic woman who doesn’t speak English. She smiles politely whenever I ask a question. Her two or three year old son sits in the front of the cart. I can’t get him to smile. I have little patience for kids lately and figure it must be his naptime.

I gesture wildly to try and explain what I’m saying, realize the same smile remains on her face, and pull what little Spanish I know out of memory. Packs of Jello are 3 packs for 1 point. I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten Jello.

“Tres por uno punto” I say.

I tickle her son as she chooses among the different flavors. Nothing. I think he actually glares at me. I decide I don’t care if the little monster smiles or not. At least he’s not screaming.

I volunteer when I forget why I do what I do. When no money has come in for our campaign and my committee members don’t return my phone calls. When I decide to ignore the piles that need to be filed and I can’t stand one more minute in my office.

Recent studies, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports, show “donating to charity activates the same brain responses that evoke the pleasurable sensations associated with sex.” Which is why when everything goes so wrong, giving is oh-so-right. Philanthropy is like sex. I can equate just about everything to sex, so this doesn’t surprise me. With philanthropy and sex there are two universal truths:

It’s no longer fashionable to wait.
Despite statistics that show Generation Y is one of the most involved, I still run into young workers who aren’t on the pleasure train. You don’t have to be rich or bored to make a difference. Too many people believe they will wait “until…”, to donate or volunteer: until you’re successful, until you have time, until your loans are paid off, until you make enough money, until you move, until the mortgage is paid, until the kids are grown, until you die.

Truth is, there’s never a good enough time to start. Like exercise (or sex!), philanthropy should be part of your daily regime to become a better person.

The more you give, the more you receive.
A local philanthropist I know tells about the difference between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. While both seas are fed by the same river, the Dead Sea is oppressively dark and people drive miles out of their way to avoid it. The Sea of Galilee, on the other hand, is clear and beautiful. The only difference between the two is that the Dead Sea takes in everything it receives and nothing is given away. The Sea of Galilee, however, has an outlet, and for every drop that comes into the sea, another drop is given away.

Volunteering or donating helps the person you give to and by giving, you feel good as well. The pleasure of giving is at once both selfishly indulgent and selflessly divine.

I’m not thinking about any of this, however, as I walk the mother and son through the last aisle in the pantry. I’m anxious to leave and I watch the clock, worrying if I will make it to the post office on time after work.

The mother finds some cheddar cheese in the cooler, as her son plays with one of the jello boxes. I hold onto one end of the box and shake it lightly back and forth in his hand, whispering “cha-cha-cha.” His eyes light up and he smiles. Finally. Then I smile too. And what do you know, that makes my day.

Give + Receive = Bliss

I met Penelope Trunk today

I got to meet Penelope Trunk, of Brazen Careerist fame, in person today. That’s because Penelope lives where I live, in the great city of Madison, WI, and I thought the least stalkerish way to meet would be to invite her to come to one of my networking events. She graciously did just that, and spoke to a small group of us over ravioli and stale breadsticks. And when I say spoke, I mean she almost made somebody cry.

Penelope is tough.

Authentically tough, blatantly honest, and wearing some of the dirtiest shoes I’ve seen at a networking event in a long time. I loved every second of it. We all did. Trying to figure out what you want to do in life? Try stuff out. Shop around. Think you’re content? Content is boring; there’s probably something wrong with you. Found your passion already? Set crazy ambitious goals. People like to be pushed to their limits and that’s what Penelope did. She pushed each and every one of us to go farther, reach deeper and come out triumphant. Except for the woman who almost cried.

If you missed it and are lucky enough to live in Madison, WI, come to the next event I invited Penelope to speak at, the Madison MAGNET Networking Breakfast. You can skip the coffee that morning.

Don’t forget to read my related post: Personal branding, accountability, and how to just be yourself already.”

Personal branding, accountability, and how to just be yourself already

I’ve worked hard over the past two years to change my image. I used to dumb myself down, play my looks up. It was easier that way. I didn’t have to buy any drinks in college, for instance. That was my brand, an image that wasn’t who I was or wanted to be. But it worked, so I kept on.

Until my boyfriend told me I wasn’t interesting enough. Until I came home from a meeting one day, furious for not speaking my mind. Until I had one scary frickin’ visit to the ER. Yeah, those life-threatening events, they’ll get you every time.

I sat down to think about who I really was, proceeded to have a quarter-life crisis, and made some tough decisions. They weren’t decisions that were visible. I didn’t quit my job, or become celibate, or move across the country to pursue reality television. But I did slowly, painfully, change and start to brand myself differently.

Personal branding is your personality, who you are as an individual and “the sum of other brands that you either own, work for or touch in some distinct way.” It’s about being you, and marketing the heck out of it.

You, who is reliably manipulative, can’t make a commitment if your life depended on it, and won’t go to bed until you clear the next level in your video game. You, who is only working until you have a baby, hopefully two, so you can stay at home and take care of your family. You, who works eighty hours a week and must separate your jelly beans into color-respective piles before eating.

Branding is marketing those very gems of your personality. That’s not hard to do. Just be yourself. If you’re acting like someone you’re not, then it will come back to haunt you, like when the infatuation wears off in a relationship, and it is at that moment your girlfriend finds your box of hair-regeneration pills in your underwear drawer. Whoever you are, it’s really hard to change, so you win by just being you from the start.

And sometimes, inevitably, you lose. Like this guy.

Branding is inextricably linked to accountability. If you do a good enough job of marketing yourself a certain way, people will start to believe you. So much so that when you mess up, or step out of your brand, it will make others uncomfortable.

I wouldn’t worry too much about this. Instead, focus on how you define accountability and your own comfort level with your actions.

Our lives are out in the open for all to see. Who you are at your job is who you are at the bar is who you are at the gym is who you are during sex is who you are at the company picnic is who you are at, well, you get the idea. Politicians do cheat on their wives. CEOs are bad parents. Artists are erratic friends. So, what? They’re good at their passions, and at the end of the day, we’re all doing the best we can in the circumstances given.

Your image reflects on your company, friends, and family. You, however, need to be accountable to yourself first. If you’re dancing on the tables at the bar, and worried about getting caught, either you have something personally wrong, or you need to find a different job that accepts your lack of inhibition. If your Facebook photos might get you in trouble, take them down, or decide you want to work at a place where they don’t care about that sort of thing.

The lines between work and play are increasingly blurring, and if you’re one person during the day and a different one at night you have to be proud enough to market the heck out of it. If you’re not comfortable, you need to learn more about who you are. You are in control of your brand.

My mother used to tell me, “Remember who you are,” whenever I left the house. People with integrity and confidence don’t worry about “getting caught,” because they know who they are. They know that dancing on tables is acceptable to them, or that their Facebook pictures show another layer of their onion. And if it’s not okay to them, they act accordingly.

In summary, to rock the branding/accountability boat:

1. Know yourself.
2. Be yourself.
3. Love it.
4. Repeat.

By the way, I still enjoy receiving free drinks, because I’ve realized I’m okay with using my looks… Sometimes.

Be yourself, or perish, yo.

Look beyond millennial-washing benefits for happiness at work

I had my dream job once. I worked at a small company where I could utilize my skills and interests from both my college major and minor. I was located in a lively downtown area, a short walk from my apartment. There were no cubicles. Instead, the company embraced an open-office floor plan. I was given projects and responsibility right away. Free peanut butter sandwiches were available to all employees. I had good benefits and three weeks of vacation. It was great.

Except that I hated it.

Looking back, I see I was easily caught up in the bells and whistles companies implement to attract Generation Y workers, while ignoring some of the more important things. Here are some things to look out for:

1) Know the difference between a visionary leader and a good manager. A visionary person will easily sweep you off your feet with their grand ideas, but they can often be a difficult person to work for. People with just a vision will want things a certain way – without explaining how to get there – instead of giving you the autonomy, trust and guidance to do well in your position. Listen carefully to how your coworkers describe working for your boss. It will reveal a lot early on.

2) Money does matter. My first salary was hardly anything to wipe the floor with, let alone live on, but I was passionate about the job so I thought it was okay. It wasn’t. When you start a job, make sure you’re at least negotiating enough to live on, because the truly rich have both – money and passion. Money may not seem important, but it is likely to become a source of resentment later on when you expect to be rewarded for your hard work.

3) Be grateful for your office, if you have one. While open offices seem to provide a space for maximum collaboration, sometimes it’s nice to be able to shut the door. There are times you will need privacy and you’ll work better if you have it. If your workplace has an open office plan, find out if there is a private area you can use.

4) Make sure you have the flexibility and freedom to get the job done. The company I worked for said they endorsed flexible schedules to allow for the ability to go to a doctor’s appointment, attend networking events, and have lunch with a friend if needed. And I had three weeks of vacation; it said so in my contract. But I was never made to feel it was acceptable to use these benefits. I was stuck recording every minute of work, and might as well have been punching a time card for the amount of rigidity in my schedule. Moreover, I was told if I wanted to make it big, I needed to be prepared to work insane hours after work, otherwise, I wasn’t committed enough.

No thanks.

Make sure your employer walks the talk. Will you be expected to come in at 9:00 am every day or will you have more flexibility? What is the policy if you have outside commitments? Is there an “it will all even out” or “you must make up every minute” mentality? Will you have to dress up every day or can you wear jeans when you don’t have meetings?

Seemingly insignificant, these personal freedoms will become increasingly important the more you take on inside and outside of work.

5) Be weary of turnover. Within a few months of my start date, all of my co-workers announced plans to leave. I thought it was just a natural progression, but since I left, the company has since experienced a similar turnover. Yes, millennials are known to be job-hoppers, but only because we are searching for the right position. Companies with the lowest turnover are usually ranked among the best. That means if the faces at a company keep changing, take it as a bright red flashing signal to get the heck out of there.

In choosing a position, look beyond the typical things companies do to attract millennials to determine if the culture is right for you. Most importantly, know yourself. Only you know how you like to work best.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.

One of many lessons from my acting debut

The first words in the play came from me, “Turn on the lights, sweetheart. Makes it less lonely.” And so commenced the wide open step I took out of my box on Saturday night.

I had imagined that with a twenty minute play and by marking “None” under acting experience I would have gotten a few lines, maybe five or six, in a play. But when I received my script, “Hi, Rebecca? Nice to meet you. You’re Daria,” I realized that when you sign up for Blitz, those folks don’t care.

I had a real part, with A LOT of lines. From 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, I practiced my lines, we ran the script, over and over, we practiced blocking (action on stage), we talked about fake blood, dead puppies, lifting your leg up, sex beads, nervous eating, nervous peeing, beer, surfing in Nebraska. I lucked out – I had the best director and the best cast mates.

Oh, and I got to practice my first stage kiss, at least ten times, with super-cute-actor-boy. Yeah, that was hard. When he decided we should have the most passionate kiss in the bunch, and practically make out on stage, I didn’t blush. I was an actor, now. I could do that. No problemo.

They promised me I would be able to avoid the audience since I wouldn’t be able to see them from the stage as a result of the SUPER BRIGHT STAGE LIGHTS. I was doing a good job of just that when I stood up for one of my longer monologues and got a glimpse of all. the. people. holy. crap.

And promptly forgot my lines.

S#!t. S&*t. F@^K. I felt there was a long bout of silence, but everyone assured me later there was no such thing, and suddenly I saw super-cute-actor-boy smile at me from off stage, a smile that said, “it’s okay you just royally f’ed up. We’re here to have fun, remember?” Right. Okay. And then I started babbling trying to get the gist across that I had never seen Jim work once for a living, so how could I trust the jerk when he invited me to his beach house, and that’s why I broke up with him THEN AND THERE. Those were the important words, THEN AND THERE, the words I knew I was supposed to end on, so the others could save me from sinking with their own lines. I heard myself say it. Whew. I was almost shaking.

The rest of the lines came naturally. Somehow I realized I had made my mistake, and didn’t have to make another. Kind of like when I crashed into another car THE SAME DAY I got my license and my mother said, “That’s okay, now you never have to get in an accident again,” and I haven’t.

Then it was time for the last words in the play, or rather, utterances. I tried to run, but I tripped, and Lucia grabbed the back of my head- OH NO! She pulled me to the back of the couch, turned me around to face her. She cut my throat! Blood! Blood! Everywhere! I fell back, slid down over the front of the couch, my head drooping, upside down, over the seat.

I lay there, my hair falling to the floor, thinking how I had pulled this off. I was funny, sexy, rude, obnoxious, horrified, excited, confused. My intuition as an actor, they said, was fabulous. I was Daria and I was dead.

Fake it until you make it, sweetheart.

Women are the new men

This post was also published at Damsels in Success.

I know a lot of awesome Gen X and Gen Y women. In fact, the city of Madison, WI ranks in the top ten of both female creative class, and female super-creative class percentages in the nation (Charlottesville, VA and Bakersville, CA, rank first).Generation Y women, Hannah Seligson argues, are “making one of the fastest and unprecedented career ladder ascents in history.” Here are some observations about one of the most powerful groups of women in history:

Women are more business-minded than men… Springboard Enterprises reports that “women in the United States have an ownership stake of 50 percent or more in nearly half of all privately held businesses.” In fact, women are starting businesses at a rate of twice that of men, attracted to the flexible lifestyle of being your own boss.

And we’re successful at it. The gross sales of women-led companies grew 39 percent compared to 34 percent for all firms. Barron’s predicts that by 2010 a woman has a one in seven chance of having a powerful job post. In Australia, studies show that “women-led companies on average outperform those where there is no female leadership at the top,” while “law firms with more female partners have a higher per partner income than those with fewer.”

… but women don’t always want a man, or children. While men in leadership positions often have a family to support them, Gen X and Gen Y women put careers ahead of settling down. While this can be a lonely proposition, many Gen X and Gen Y women are not in a huge rush to find a man, get married and start popping out children.

In relationships, the men increasingly stay at home or hold a less stressful position. If we’re even in a relationship. Many of us are doing just fine without a man as a result of our highly independent lifestyle.

A lot of us aren’t even sure we want to have kids. And if we do, we want to adopt (anything to avoid having a foreign object pop out of our fitness-club bodies). The vast majority of women that do plan on having kids also plan on staying in the workforce.

Women are natural leaders. The millennial woman brand of leadership is more about changing the world than our own egos. Moreover, we’re change makers willing to defy the traditional structures of “command and control” leadership for a more collaborative and inclusive model.

Anna Quindlen writes, “by its very nature women’s leadership is about redefinition, while men’s leadership has been about maintaining the status quo… You’re less wedded to the shape of the table if you haven’t been permitted to sit at it.”

I’m not surprised to learn that women and men are switching roles. I see examples all around me of women embracing the power of now to lead the next generation. The more young women that get others to not only look past their age, but also any perceived inequities, the better off our world will be.

One last note. Over in the UK, academics have dubbed young women leaders as “’the Monstrous Army on the March’, women who cannot, will not be stopped.”

Well then. March on ladies.

These boots are made for leading.

24 hours from page to stage

I had a lot of great posts lined up for this week, but all I really want to write about is what I did as I was walking home after my day ended. I live near a theater, just a couple blocks away, and have lived here for about two years never thinking much about it. But today were the sign-ups for a play. A special type of play where you don’t have to have any acting experience and it’s all created in one day. You go in at 10:00 am and at 8:00 pm that night you perform. With no experience whatsoever.

And guess what?

I signed up.

And I have no acting experience. Whatsoever.

It’s the ultimate acting debut, millennial style – “instant theatrical gratification.” Starting this blog was one of those things that I put off for a long time, because I knew that when I did, this sort of thing was bound to happen. I had to be prepared for the resulting rush that only comes when you start something new, and you put yourself out there, and you’re not quite sure what the heck is going to happen. And then everything is okay and you realize you don’t remember what you were so worried about in the first place. It’s a little like attaching wings to yourself and once you do that, you can’t help but want to fly.

Fly high, baby.

How young job seekers can use their workplace advantage for more

Penelope Trunk argues that In today’s workplace, young job seekers hold the advantage. I wonder if this even matters when work no longer holds much meaning to Gen X and Gen Y. Having an advantage in a game that doesn’t challenge is useless.

Since the advantage is ours, however, let’s use it, and to negotiate more than extra vacation time:

1. Create a 3-position work week. Many of us complain that we aren’t challenged or don’t have enough to do during our 40 hours. Why work a full-time job in only one position? We already engage in extra-curricular jobs (blogging, bartending, volunteering, etc.) outside of normal work hours, but let’s take the idea further.

After you start a new job, monitor how much time it realistically takes you to complete your tasks. Then propose to your employer that they pay you a prorated version of your salary for those 20 hours, for example, that it takes you to do that job. Then go out and get another job. Repeat. This saves the company money and allows you to work two or three part-time jobs in order to showcase multiple skills and pursue numerous passions. For example, you could be an accountant for 15 hours, a personal trainer for 15 hours, and a graphic designer for 10 hours. And still have time for other extra-curricular jobs.

2. Request a trial period. For the company. Perhaps you have two job offers and aren’t sure which to choose. Or maybe you want to apply to several companies, but want a test-run first. The culture of one could be just what you’re looking for, but you won’t know until you actually work there. Why not request a trial period of a week or two to try out both jobs and see which you like better? If you request this pre-interview or job offer, this also provides an opportunity to show them what you’re made of, giving you additional negotiating power. It’s a hands-on experience interview.

3. Develop a partnership-job between companies. Let’s say you have two great skills: you are a stellar marketing guru and your research capability in biotechnology is cutting edge. The biotech company you work for hires out their marketing needs in lieu of staffing in-house. Why not work for both the marketing firm and the biotech company? At the biotech company, you are a top researcher. At the marketing firm, your major client would be the biotech company, who you would obviously have an intimate knowledge of.

Or maybe, you are a development officer at the nonprofit of which the bank you work at is a major donor. Or maybe, as the curator of an art gallery, you choose to use the firm where you work as an accountant. Discovering and using connections between separate fields will bring more meaning to your job experience and efficiencies to the companies you work for.

These are just some ideas to start us thinking bigger. Since we have the advantage, it’s up to us to make the next move and determine the pace, and outcome, of the game.

What are your thoughts? If you could have anything…

Checkmate your company.