As I explained in my last post, with graduation upon us, I thought it was a good time to provide some leadership and workplace advice to students leaving campus and entering the workforce. I have been thinking a great deal about the what to say to college grads and have been inspired by ongoing career conversations with my nephew – a recent graduate whom I love and admire – as I help him traverse the topography of his career.
I also recently came across this video of marketing and leadership consultant Simon Sinek, discussing millennials in the workforce. A great deal of what Simon had to say reflected my own experience with young colleagues and put my thinking on the subject into overdrive.
In my last post, I discussed the importance of practicing patience and squelching the desire for instant gratification. I believe that the need for instant gratification is a byproduct of the reliance on technology to meet all our needs the moment instantaneously. But it is not just the ability to get what they want when they want it that has shaped young workers, it is the way in which technology and more specifically, communication through technology, has hampered their ability to form meaningful relationships with colleagues. They are so plugged in that they fail to realize that the strongest and most beneficial professional relationships are formed in person.
And so, my advice is simple: put down your smart phone and engage with colleagues. If you don’t you will miss the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships and gain valuable insights. These relationships will not only be of value to you personally but can certainly help you navigate and excel in the work place. Take time before a meeting or at a moment when you find yourself alone with a co-worker to connect with them. Instead of checking Facebook or sending a text, talk with your colleagues and spend a few minutes getting to know them – especially those whom you perceive to be radically different from you.
As you enter your career, you will come in contact and work with all types of people, many of whom came of age in generations other than your own. As such, they have different views of the workplace and how to communicate. So, rather than spending 20 minutes crafting a precisely worded email, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and engage with your co-worker one-on-one. Things are often misinterpreted in written communication and can be better understood through conversation.
Finally, through conversation comes innovation, exploration and collaboration. I daresay the best work is not done through a series or texts or emails but happens when people are in a room, communicating and working together without the distraction of a phone or laptop. It is in those moments when true innovation and collaboration will occur and by being a part of that, you will surely make your mark.
Don’t forget soft skills, like interpersonal communication, are still very much in high demand. At the end of the day you work with people, not technology.