Episode 190: February 8, 2013
by Lisa. B. Marshall
In Part 1 of this mini series, I talked about the traditional perceptions of Generation Y as coddled, spoiled, demanding, and even lazy. Unfortunately for many in Gen Y, it’s an uphill battle to overcome these stereotypes and earn the respect they deserve at work.
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Generation Y, you are a talented bunch. You know more about technology than any generation before you. You’re well-rounded, confident, and know what you want out of life. You have the ability to change the perceptions or misconceptions about your generation in the workplace. Here are 9 tips for making a strong early impression and proving your value:
Tip #1: First Impressions Are Extremely Important
From your very first day, make a great impression. Research shows it takes anywhere from three to thirty seconds to make a first impression. That’s not long! Your posture, facial expression, handshake, and clothing are all evaluated in that short time. Be charming and humble by practicing and delivering thoughtful self-introductions. Use proper posture whether sitting or standing, smile naturally, shake hands firmly, and show that you’re listening and paying attention to details.
Tip #2: Build Rapport by Showing Genuine Interest in Others
Ask your co-workers about their experience, hobbies, family, and areas of common interest. I’m not saying you need to socialize all day long at work and you don’t have to be friends outside the office. But the best way to have someone respect and like you is to respect and genuinely like them first. A commonly overlooked and highly effective way to do that is to work to discover things you really do like and respect about each other – and that requires some proactive socialization. I discuss how to do this in much more detail in my new book, Smart Talk.
Tip #3: Prove Your Independence
Generation Y is perceived as being tied to their parents and dependent on them, even in adulthood. Your parents may want to be involved in your career. Set boundaries with them. Fill them in on what you’re doing, but don’t bring them to orientation. Don’t let them call your manager for any reason. Tell them you’ll answer their texts after work. It may be fine to bring your family in one day for lunch, but wait until you’ve been there awhile and have had a chance to make an impression on your own.
Tip #4: Interact with Boss, Colleagues, and Customers Face-to-Face
This is especially important when beginning a new job or when handling any sort of disagreement. Sometimes it seems like in-person conversations are a lost art, but they’re an important part of building respect and making sure what you’re saying isn’t misinterpreted. There’s a time and a place for email, texting, and other electronic communication. But if what you need to say is important, say it in person if possible. If you work from home and can’t meet in person, videoconferencing can be the next best thing.
Tip #5: Prove Your Worth by Delivering Results Fast
This can be intimidating when you’re brand new, but delivering good results will get you noticed. Study your environment, learn the technical aspects of your job, find projects, and ask to get involved. Let your manager know you’re eager to get started. It takes hard work to make yourself unique and indispensable. Results count more than experience. Early positive results will go a long way to paving the road to success.
One word of caution: If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t just guess or make bold assumptions. Check in regularly to make sure you’re on the right path. Your goal is to produce results that make your company successful; not to make extra work for your team because of rookie mistakes. It is important to ask for help when needed and to meet regularly with your manager and you may even want to find a mentor (see next Tip #6).
Tip #6: Find a Mentor
Approach a respected professional and ask them to help you navigate the business and be your advocate. Mentors (and particularly sponsors) who already have established power can provide guidance and pave the way for you. Many companies have a mentorship program, but if yours doesn’t, you can ask your manager for a mentor or find someone you look up to and feel you have a connection with. My colleague Get-It-Done Guy has a great episode on Choosing a Mentor.
Tip #7: Be Diplomatic
Focus on the positive even when expressing disagreement, be open to other points of view, and remain relaxed and calm. Coworkers may be expecting you to be arrogant or disrespectful (those are typical Gen Y traits). Being respectful and positive will go a long way to change that perception.
Tip #8: Eliminate Disfluencies
Disfluencies are any words that interrupt the flow of our message or distract our listener. The most popular disfluencies in American speech are “like,” “um,” “ah,” “you know,” “whatever,” and so forth. These all take away from your professional demeanor and may cause your audience to tune out. Practice speaking without disfluencies at home. If you want to be taken seriously, save the “valley girl” speak for a night out with friends.
Tip #9: Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Always take responsibility for your actions. If you make an early mistake, take the credit for it and let your manager know what you’ll do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t point fingers or try to share blame.
You may be reading this and thinking “Uh oh, it’s too late!”
It isn’t! Improving your image takes some work, but it can be done.
Recovering from negative impressions takes one and half to two times longer than creating a positive impression. It takes a consistent demonstration of all of the above (and more). It may require a fundamental shift in attitude as well as someone advocating on your behalf.
It can be done, but takes effort and understanding of wide range of communication skills and techniques. It is the reason I wrote my book Smart Talk – to help professionals in any field recover from communication challenges or create positive impressions. Often we don't know what we don't know until we run into hot water. If you’re up for a challenge, consider taking the Smart Talk Challenge. Complete the challenge you just might win yourself an Apple iPad mini!
You can buy my new book Smart Talk on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and anywhere books are sold. Pick up a copy today!