Millennials are slowly entering the workplace and bringing about changes to how work is done. John O’Connor writes what we all can learn from working with Millennials.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.
Usually it doesn’t serve my purposes or my clients’ to lump groups of people into, well, groups. I try to view each person as unique, an individual with infinite potential to do good in their career and life. In short, I encourage everyone from millennials to boomers to do better and to improve themselves and their organizations despite changes and setbacks in their careers.
Today, millennials are presenting unique career challenges and providing keen career insights. From an individual or corporate perspective, I view change and technology as generally positive. At least that’s where I start in my coaching world view. But millennials continue to disrupt this world view, turning me a bit more sour on social media. I see a need for more professional discipline and personal restraint. Savvy millennials have already made oversharing mistakes, and are now watching the older generation make the same ones.
Here are some of the branding lessons that I have learned from millennials and, perhaps more importantly, the lessons that older generations can learn from them too.
1. Oversharing Can Get You Into Trouble
In the last couple years, I started serving as an “expert witness” in local disputes regarding salary issues within our county’s legal system. While interacting with attorneys, I learned that oversharing on social media indicts more people and creates more problems than ever before. To prove your client’s claims in court, it’s useful to have information shared when people are off guard.
Even if you aren’t in court, your brand lives 24/7 on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more. It doesn’t dissolve or go away. A “no-restraint” mindset can get you into serious trouble. On top of legal exposure, oversharing can hurt your professional brand. Savvy millennials know better than to overshare; they protect their brand images by keeping them locked down and quiet. I advise our clients to stay in their zone, sharing authentic information based on their brand goals, their personal attributes and their passions, always congruent with their career purposes.
2. There’s A No-Restraint Social Media Policy, But We’re Still Accountable
Snapchat offers a snapshot of how millennials protect themselves from social mistakes. Snapchat figured out a way to share pictures and messages that automatically delete after opening. While any comment or picture posted on social media carries potentially grave consequences, Snapchat hauls out the trash immediately. This is brilliant. For those of us who aren’t Snapchat-smart, we are left with social media juggernauts where we can permanently advance or damage our lives and careers: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google and the like.
In this freedom-focused free world, we like to share our opinions. Isn’t it great that we aren’t arrested for our political beliefs? Unfortunately, non-millennials (and sometimes non-savvy millennials) think it’s okay to talk about elections, bosses, companies, co-workers, family, friends, current events, food, workouts and more during work hours and on permanent (i.e. not Snapchat) channels. There is the rub.
Employers who I consult with admit to me that part of the reason the recently-departed employee (at all generational levels) was let go is because of distractions and time wasted on social media. How do you avoid the never-ending “emotional hooks” of social media? Practice time blocking by setting aside appointed times to check in. Another key? Discipline. Avoid the trap of reading, dwelling or commenting on an ongoing issue that produces zero professional reward and tempts you to let your guard down.
3.You Work At A Casino
Have you ever been? If not, I would like to take you to the new world of work. Consider your workplace a modern-day casino where your every move is monitored from Big Brother Studios by security personnel. Take Uber for example; the popular ride-sharing app has been criticized widely for monitoring activities of drivers and customers, even after they have been dropped off.
Even if you don’t drive or take Uber, companies often monitor or want to monitor your social activity. At a minimum, realize as an employee or customer that you are only a guest. Assume the “casino” you are working for is watching you 24/7. The takeaway? Try to limit your activities on social media to brand building and positive posts. Be conscious that someone is watching. But remember, some employer activity is legal, while certain monitoring is out of bounds. Know your company’s social media policy.
4. We Have No Off Button Anymore
Have you ever worked with a millennial? I have, and I find that most of them are extremely resourceful, articulate, technology savvy and quick to solve technology problems that send my blood pressure to unsettling levels. Many boomers I know look more like the earlier, impulsive millennials than millennials do at work. Many of these boomers overshare and over-post during work hours and beyond on Facebook and LinkedIn. Since execs think they are old enough to have the freedom, so they end up diminishing their professional brand and sometimes their career.
My advice? Be sure to audit your social media exposure. Google yourself. Revise any unprofessional elements of your online presence. Make sure your photos, videos and LinkedIn profile reflect your professional brand.
So what are savvy millennials teaching us? People need to view themselves as an online product and stop viewing social media as an emotional outlet. Start viewing it as a professional networking tool regardless of the platform. From Gen X-ers to boomers and beyond, it’s time to learn what the savvy millennials have sacrificed to show us the way to better branding.