When I started working at The Estée Lauder Companies last September, I was only twenty one years old. Pretty young in comparison to most of my colleagues. From middle school through college I was used to being one of the youngest kids in my grade so this was not an entirely new feeling. Some days I feel like I am a 35-40 year old trapped in a 22 year old body. I have an older soul and I have been repeatedly told that I am mature for my age. When I started working, I was always without fail the youngest person in the room (and typically still am!). Since my birthday is Halloween, I was only 21 for a couple of weeks, but being 22 at a corporation of the magnitude that I work for, it is still pretty rare to meet someone as young/or younger than me.
As a result of my age, I knew from day one that I wanted to be seen as professional and work in a way that garners respect and showcases maturity. I am not an expert by any means, but over the last eleven months of working I have found a few ways to be seen as a professional twenty something in a corporate environment.
- Respect – Always be respectful of your co-workers and managers. You are at the bottom of the totem pole, so remember to be respectful of the hierarchy. The only way to gain respect is to give it.
- Enunciate and speak clearly – Stop, take a breath, speak slowly and clearly. I for one tend to speak way too quickly, which often makes me look like a silly little teeny bopper. As a result I am constantly trying to slow down. Also try to refrain from the words “like,” “oh my god,” “um” etc. They make you look very immature.
- Organization – One trait that many people higher up in my company have commented on is my organization skills. I think millennials often get a bad rep for being easily distracted and disorganized. Try to stay on top of things and keep your space looking clean and professional. You’re cubicle is not a dorm room, so don’t leave it looking like one.
- Refrain from social media/texting/etc. – You are at work, so don’t constantly pull up BuzzFeed articles or be caught scanning Twitter (unless you’re job is in social media of course!). Take your job seriously, put your phone away, and resist the temptation to read that Refinery29 article until later (the app Pocket is great for this!) Millennials are known for their addiction to social media, so resist the urge and focus on the tasks at hand.
- Kindness – Kill others with kindness and always try to go above and beyond. As a newbie I find that I am still the bright-eyed and excited assistant, which is striking to other employees who have been working for years. I always try to be kind and helpful to the best of my ability. The best way to gain respect and be seen as a part of the organization is through kindness and hard work. Don’t act like any task is beneath you, you are there to learn and grow, so be kind.
- Dress Appropriately – You’re short summer sun dress is not going to cut it in the office, even if it over 90 degrees outside. Dress professionally, but still age appropriate (you don’t need to break out an ugly pant suit!) I have stocked my wardrobe with lots of fun and colorful options from a hot pink pencil skirt to a vibrant pattern dress. Both of these fit in perfectly with my office culture and feel true to my age. If you are stuck figuring out what to wear, observe what other women in your office wear and emulate those who’s style you admire.
- Read! – Know the industry and keep yourself up to date on the latest news. Find out about the latest technology or new strategies, who knows maybe they could come in handy at your own office. Knowledge is power.
- Speak up – Do not be afraid to give your opinion at meetings. A few months ago my manager allowed me to sit in on a brainstorming session. However when I mentioned attending she told me that if I was to go, I was expected to participate. I felt like it was one of those Lean In moments Sheryl Sandberg prepared me for. I went into that meeting with tons of ideas to share. Just because you are young, does not mean you are not a valuable commodity to the rest of the team. Most companies are recognizing the power of the millennials and are intrigued by our perspectives. In fact, one of the VPs stopped conversation and asked my opinion directly because she wanted to know what a 22 year old thought.
- Say No – On the flip side of speak up, know when to say no and ask for help. It is okay to recognize when you are in over your head (so don’t let yourself get to that point!) Ask questions and communicate with your manager when you are feeling overwhelmed. This showcases not only maturity but ensures that you are on the same page as your manager and team. You won’t know all the answers or be able to handle everything right off the bat, so it is okay to ask for help and lean on your team members sometimes.
- Hard Work – At the end of the day it is your work that truly speaks for you. Never stop working hard! A quote that I keep in mind on a daily basis is from the ultimate shark, Mark Cubin who said, “Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you.” Don’t get lazy and keep working hard, it is the one thing that will speak volumes for you without you saying a word.
Being a millennial at a large corporation has been an interesting adjustment. I have learned so much over the last few months and I like to think that my ideas have made some type of impact in a small way. I am grateful to work at a company where I could truly see myself for the long haul and a place where I learn something new daily. To all my fellow post grads out there, we may be young, but we are incredibly valuable to our companies. Don’t forget what you bring to the table, just be sure to be respectful and work hard, otherwise your ideas may be easily sidestepped.
* I work for The Estée Lauder Companies however all thoughts and opinions are my own *