Human Resources



10 things young employees need to understand

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I’m not exactly old (yet) and am still considered a Gen Y employee (just), so perhaps dishing out advice to “younger” staff is not exactly my place.

However, in my career to date – which has spanned from starting at the bottom of the heap as a lackey junior journalist, to a magazine editor – I have learned a few things along the way.

I have no doubt I will learn a heck of a lot more as time goes on, but I do wish someone would have shared these few points with me when I was 20.

Here are a couple of my tips you might be able to pass on to younger employees to help give them some perspective as they grow and mature in their current role.

1. Own up to your mistakes

The first time I made a mistake at work (quite a bad one) I considered not saying anything. I’m glad I did. Not only was my boss relieved I owned up, he respected me for giving him ample time to sort out the problem with me. I learned that embracing your mistakes makes you a better person – and keeps the people around you happier, too.

2. Job hopping is a bad thing

Job hopping is a bit like fashion – just because something becomes a trend, doesn’t mean it will suit you. We all know younger employees are looking to find their feet in their careers, but explaining to your next employer that you “grew out of” your previous role in a year will have them rolling their eyes.

Stay in one place. Grow. Master new critical skills. Learn from the experience. Then, you can move on. Trust me, this takes more than one year.

3. Don’t work past 6.30pm

I know it’s commonplace in Singapore to want to be the first one in the office and the last to leave, but I don’t believe this is always the best way to prove yourself.

Sure, your boss might admire you for sticking around until 9pm, but what happens when he or she asks to see what you’ve been working on until late every night? If you’ve just been sitting there as a show of commitment without actually achieving much, you’re going to look like an idiot.

My golden rule? Stay late if you actually have work to do, otherwise go home at 6.30pm. If you go home on time, it tells me you’re an organised and efficient worker.

4. Use your b****y initiative!

The number of times I have either experienced or been told about staff members who sit in the office doing nothing because they haven’t been told what to do next is appalling. You will NEVER get ahead by waiting for someone else to tell you what to do.

Make this your new mantra: Do too much, not too little.

5. Don’t email, call

This is something I learnt way back in journalism school, but it applies to every job – business gets done over the phone, or over Skype, not over email.

Young employees are generally intimidated by picking up the phone. I understand this and remember how scary it was to speak to someone on the other end who was older, more experienced, and who might be able to see through my bull****.

But seriously, there’s a reason most CEOs are up at stupid-o’clock making phone calls. Don’t hide behind your computer if you want to get ahead.

6. Read the news. Every single day.

It doesn’t matter what job you’re in, if you don’t know what’s going on in the world around you, you will always come across as uneducated, uninterested and uninformed.

You might not need to know everything that’s going on today, but you do need to be aware of the latest happenings in the industry you work in. It will become apparent very quickly if you don’t.

7. Try to find a mentor

It sounds easy, but it’s not. Even if your company pairs you with a mentor internally as part of a development or training programme, there’s no guarantee they’re the right person to inspire you and help you grow.

Take the time to find your own mentor (or two) and take their advice seriously. It’s priceless, and might even help you write your own list like this one day, which brings me to my next point…

8. Not feeling confident? Just ACT confident

This advice was given to me years ago by a mentor while I was still in school, but I have carried it with me throughout my career.

It’s not easy to simply act like you know what you’re doing when, quite often, you don’t. But thinking positively, focusing on your strengths and visualising yourself achieving the task at hand will help you become more confident.

As soon as you believe you’re going to be good at something, you will be.

9. It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you

Apart from my first job straight out of university, I have never landed a job through responding to a job ad. I have found employment through people I have met and networks I have built (in real life and online via social media.)

However, it’s not enough to go to an event to simply exchange name cards (although, that seems to be the main purpose for a lot of people). Meet people, tell them about yourself, and then follow up with those afterwards whom you think will be beneficial to expanding your network and growing your career.

Bonus: You’ll make more friends, which is always fun.

10. Be prepared to work hard, seriously

Enough with all this talk about how Gen Y are an “entitled” bunch. I hate the stigma because, for many of us, this is not true. However, there are definitely young employees out there who take advantage of the stereotype and try to get everything they want with little output. Those people will never, ever succeed in life.

Work for someone who pushes you hard and be grateful when they do. You can handle it, even if you think you can’t, and you’ll learn from it more than you realise right now.

Hong Kong HR Masterclass Series: 27th March Strengthening the mental resilience and wellbeing of employees -
improving employee engagement, talent retention and organisational productivity.
Register now here

Rebecca Lewis
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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