If you’re struggling to get ahead, you’re not alone. Most of the best jobs out there are exclusively available for STEM majors, and unless you’re willing to go back to graduate school, it can be pretty easy to feel like you’re hopelessly stuck in a minimum-wage job forever.
Thankfully, there’s still hope, because Forbes surveyed top recruiters and managers to find out how millennials can get ahead, and came away with four major career skills we can develop in 2017 to get ahead without learning how to balance a chemical equation. If you’re looking for a salary boost without picking up a side hustle, devote your new year to developing these four soft skills to get ahead – or at least, stop being so behind in pay and the workplace.
When in the process of interviewing for a job, it can be easy to oversell yourself and come across as way too competent in skills you really don’t have in order to get a job you might otherwise be unqualified for, which can lead to negative consequences, like getting fired and having to explain to all of your future employers what happened. Instead of coming across as too demanding, Forbes suggests asking for help when needed and admitting your flaws are better ways to proceed if you want to be the best possible employee.
Sorry, Forbes, but I’m going to start off by saying that your first suggestion is honestly bullshit. From a generation that entered the workforce during one of the worst times in U.S. history, we know pretty well that our jobs can slip out from under us at any moment, and we’re not about to screw that up.
From observations about myself and most of my peers, it seems that we’re actually more likely to sell ourselves short, negotiate less, and accept fewer benefits for the stability of full-time employment. If your boss or hiring manager is a Gen X douchebag who thinks millennials are all worthless, make sure you show him or her a fair amount of deference in order to get ahead because, like the rest of the world, Forbes thinks we’re all self-important and self-obsessed individuals who can’t stop this behavior from bleeding over into our work lives.
The only time I’ve heard “agility” be described as a skill is when I’m watching the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, so it’s probably not that surprising that this isn’t a skill I’ve taken the time to develop – or let my employers know I’ve developed. Whether or not you’re a stereotypical millennial, there’s a good chance your older employer thinks you are, and they don’t think you’re flexible enough. We’re not talking about yoga here; instead, we’re talking about the ability to adapt to situations beyond our control, which our employers don’t think we do (see: millennials’ reputation for job hopping until we end up in the “perfect” role).
Forbes recommends showing your employers that you have “grit” – yep, you heard that right – to prove that you’re not a crybaby who needs a safe space. Try to come up with alternate solutions when faced with a hard problem to get the job done, and use the tale of your success at your next performance review in order to finally start making enough to cover the interest payments on your student loans.
2. “More Than College”
This one really sucks for us, but there’s genuinely no way around it. Thirty years ago, bachelor’s degrees were more rare, so completing your undergrad education was a big boost on a resumé to set you up for an awesome, high-paying job. Now, bachelor’s degrees are expected, so not only do you take on loads of student debt, but it only ends up setting you up for a low-paying entry-level position, so you still have to find ways to stand out while trying to figure out how we’re going to pay off over $30K in student debt on an administrative assistant salary.
To get ahead of this one, focus on skills employers want that weren’t necessarily included in your core courses for completing an English major. The best one? Curiosity and a willingness to learn. If you bring this up in a next job interview, you’re golden. The reason why? As soon as you entered the workplace, you probably realized that nothing you learned in school prepared you for your current role, so you had to start learning on the job – and quickly. Let your employers know this is something you’re good at, and suddenly your 2.8 GPA isn’t as important anymore.
As someone with a serious internet and iPhone addiction, just reading this heading made me cringe – which, of course, is why it’s at the top of the list of the skills we need to work on. When our attention is constantly pulled in a million directions, things skip through the cracks – think typos, formatting errors, and missed calendar appointments, which don’t exactly make for a top employee.
Time management also falls into this category, which is something that many of us struggle with, and part of the reason that our office hours are so long. I really want to be offended that employers have grouped us together and generalized us like this, I can’t deny that I carry my phone into every meeting and check each and every notification the second I get it, whether I’m in front of my boss or not.
While these may be considered flaws when looking for employment or to get that performance bonus, there are ways to fight back – Forbes recommends jumping in to own a project and seeing it through from beginning to end. Even if you do succumb to the inch to open every one of your messages during office hours, taking charge of a project and remaining committed to delivering a quality final product will show your boss that you have the attention needed to manage long-term projects and can put you in line for the next big promotion.
To sum up: hiring managers everywhere think millennials are a bunch of yuppies, and from all of our Instagrams featuring avocado toast, I really can’t blame them. Whether or not you’re a really bad stereotype of a twenty-something, it’s your job to convince your employer that you can actually be a serious person and a good employee through hard work, attention, and dedication. Make your job your priority before you start popping out kiddos and going above and beyond (because really, that what most of these suggestions boil down to) are more important now than ever, so let’s make 2017 the year we all get raises and start beating down those terrible millennial stereotypes once and for all. .