For Millennials By A Millennial: Our Most Marketable Skill for Success
You probably can relate to my general story: I was born in 1980’s suburban America, rocked bike shorts and computer class, started booming when the internet did, went to college with an iMac, and got a job in a cool software company. I feel privileged to have been raised with access to a fantastic education that integrated technology into its curriculum and encouraged critical thinking. I grew up with global exposure and a constant access to information, and I learned to take advantage of the era of knowledge to learn, make new friends, and entertain myself. Many Millennials grew up in a similar situation, lucky for us. We’ve had a huge leg up to prosper in our careers; however, we are missing out on tapping into a key component for success.
In my current role in global recruiting, I look through job applications from 20 and 30-somethings every day and I frequently help review Millennial-aged friends’ resumes and cover letters. Regardless of the background of the candidate or the role they are applying for, I see a consistent theme: we overemphasize technical skills and ignore the value that soft skills in communication play into fruitful results. For example, listing a specialty in Microsoft PowerPoint? Most of us used PowerPoint in high school, if not before, and you would be hard pressed to find a professional not fluent in the entire Microsoft Office Suite these days. But, knowing how to add a slide animation is much different than knowing how to deliver a powerful presentation that moves people to action. Emphasizing skills in blogging and social media? Running a Facebook fan page is second nature now as we come from an era of Live Journal and MySpace, where personal portfolios are a dime a dozen. But building expertise and winning trust with an audience are valuable results of a well-executed online presence that are too rare today.
Efficiency in tools and processes is the less interesting and less competitive part of the equation to become a stellar job candidate; nothing can replace being an effective communicator in any industry and role. In my former company, we developed an education program that focused on just that — leveraging techniques to “pitch” at every touch point with stakeholders and customers for the benefit of their companies and our own. Every point of contact in any situation is an opportunity to teach, coach and encourage dialogue.
In your job hunt, take advantage of every step of the process to demonstrate your strengths as a communicator, from your Linked In profile to the interviews. I too am on a path to developing my communication proficiency, and I’ve found these processes to be helpful:
1. Think about new ways to find insight from past experiences.
Remember, information is different than insight. Reflect on the real-world implications of your former internships, fellowships, jobs and extracurricular activities. Move beyond your list of duties and ask yourself: What was my impact on the organization? What was the impact on my life? What can I do better now that couldn’t do before the experience? Layer your findings into your resume then use the interview to highlight the breakthroughs through examples and stories.
2. Learn how to customize your message to impact different audiences.
Recruiters in the most progressive companies ultimately want to be shown how you will improve yourself and consequently, their company. A well-rounded candidate is most compelling if they can make a cohesive story out of all of the bits and pieces of their past to support this idea. Tailor experiences to resonate with your prospective employer. Ask yourself: What problem does X industry solve that I’m excited to tackle too?
3. Get good feedback.
As an interconnected generation, we know how to find people. Be vulnerable and take advantage of your network. Resume reviews are helpful, but now try pitching your story in front of a test group. Have the successful change makers and leaders in your field become your sounding board. The more you talk through your history and insight, the more you discover your most powerful points.
As Millennials, we have been blessed with a toolkit for success. The world needs exceptional communicators with technical competencies, and so do the companies you want to work for. Let’s show ’em what we’ve got.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
Kaitlin King is the founder of Talent Ninja, a social enterprise empowering emerging-market Millennials in their career journeys. Find out more about Talent Ninja here.