Welcome to the Jungle

Using computerHow has the 21st century workplace changed? With the Millennial generation rapidly overtaking the workforce, it is inevitable that the way we do business and how we interact around the office is different than the industrial work model we’ve embraced since the end of World War II. More importantly, what must YOU do to not only survive but thrive in this new environment?

Dan Schawbel, in his book Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success  ties in some well-known life lessons with some insights on the new and improved office.

Before I move forward, I do want to acknowledge that there are some industries that may not presently reflect the new workplace model. Specifically, government career fields, the military, career service workers such as police and fire and in my industry, airline pilots. While the Millennial generation may think of long-term planning as only 3 years out, some of these professions, including some of the trades, are still legacy positions, where people can be in that same job for 20 or 30 years. In the airline industry, it doesn’t matter if you’re the ace of the base and can land a plane in the Hudson without blinking, or if you just barely passed your last flight check, you’re going to move up based on your seniority number.

But, the skills of promoting yourself and developing your personal brand, will benefit even these individuals. Police officers and government employees want to promote up the chain. Fire fighters often develop second careers outside of work and need assistance building their business. And airline pilots lose medicals, or get furloughed or decide they want more time at home and end up coming off the line.

The icy cold water to the face – no matter how much you want to avoid the truth, here it is: just doing your job isn’t enough – you need to really stand out and the skills you learn outside of the workplace can help get you promoted inside the workplace (Schawbel 4). It’s a new workplace and there are new rules (Schawbel 7) – Schawbel lists 12 but I’m going to consolidate them here:

  1. If you are just doing your job description you’re not doing enough. Be on the lookout for projects and collaborations and get as much training and certifications as possible (Schawbel 8). I like to use the analogy of putting arrows in your quiver. Each certification, resume bullet, project or accomplishment is another arrow in the quiver and the person who is going to win the battle is the one with the most ammunition.
  2. Even for government employees, airline pilots and others who appear to have permanent employment, do not rest on that dangerous assumption. There really is no such thing as job security. Your job is temporary (Schawbel 7). Companies are acquiring or being acquired, taxpayers are rebelling and not approving money to hire more government employees, and for some positions there is always the chance that you may no longer be medically qualified to continue doing that job. I am not just talking about airline pilots, there are plenty of positions out there with physical requirements and you could be one traffic accident away from being unable to do that work. Even if your job requires no physical activity, life is full of uncertainties and you never know what can happen that leaves you looking for work.
  3. The skills you will need in the future are not the skills you have right now or are not the skills you learned in school (Schawbel 8). I’m not just talking about the hard skills, i.e. the technical expertise, but today’s companies are looking for leadership, organizational, teamwork, listening and coaching skills (Schawbel 8).
  4. Your reputation is your single greatest asset (Schawbel 8). I am quoting Dan Scwabel here, but also Todd Crouse, a corporate pilot here in Denver who is also in the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame – he just told my Aviation Job Targeting class the very same message today. What really matters is what you are known for, how much people trust you, who you know and who knows about you (Schawbel 9).
  5. The line between your personal life and your professional life has vanished (Schawbel 9). The average millennial employee is connected to at least 16 coworkers on Facebook, who are additionally connected to other coworkers. One off-handed remark about a political opinion you hold or a flippant comment you make now gets around to everyone.
  6. For those of you who just read number 5 and said, “…and that’s why I don’t have a Facebook page,” I have bad news for you. You need one, or at least a LinkedIn page. Expanding your social network is like shoring up the defenses of your career. You don’t have to post everything on your Facebook page and you can actually use it as a marketing tool, rather than an online scrapbook. It only takes one person to change your life for the better (Schawbel 11) and you may be missing out on them because you’re not using social media. Today, its not about who can get the information (its everywhere, just Google-it), it’s about who can work with others to solve problems (Schawbel 11).
  7. You need to work with people from different generations, (Schawbel 11) so figure it out. This rule applies to the Baby Boomers as much as it applies to Gen X, Y and Z. There is story after story of companies going bankrupt because they held to old business models and didn’t listen to the younger generation coming up, just as their are stories of younglings screwing things up because they hadn’t learned some of the life lessons that their elders already figured out.
  8. Remember that just like in the “olden days,” your bosses priorities are still your priorities – their career comes first (Schawbel 10). Just like in a family, if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Well, if the boss ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. And if you’re looking to run your boss over to get his job or his bosses job, be careful and re-read #4 above. The people you step on on the way up, will be there waiting for you on your way back down and they can either soften the blow or accelerate the fall.
  9. Although I’m a firm believer in #8, remember that your career is in your hands, not your employer’s (Schawbel 12). I’ve learned this the hard way – a few times in fact. Company’s will look out for themselves and if you’re not benefitting them anymore, you’re on your way out (Schawbel 12).

There is one point that I want to address with respect to the new workplace. Schawbel says that hours are out and accomplishments are in, relating to the fact that the workplace is changing to be more focused on what you’re getting done, rather than occupying a chair from 8-5.

The workplace is changing, however, he also acknowledges that the older generations still (right or wrong) equate occupying space in the office with productivity. It’s the way they grew up and it’s their paradigm. So, while you may do your best work from 2am to 4am, sitting naked at your laptop eating Cheetos, you may still need to respect the Boomers and late-model X’ers workplace etiquette and drop in from time to time (please get dressed before you do).

Tomorrow, building the skill set.

Schawbel, DanPromote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

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