AMY LINDGREN: Tips for millennials on how to handle 6 “firsts”

Amy Lindgren

The demographic group called “millennials,” born between 1981 and 1996, currently falls into an age range of 22 to 37 – which cuts a broad swath in terms of the workplace.

For example, it would not be unusual for 30-something millennials to have already managed teams, supervised departments, or even run their own enterprises – while it would be difficult to find a 22-year-old with those experiences.

Even with such differences, millennials do share this: Most are in the first quarter or third of their overall worklife. For many, that means they have yet to face some of the big “firsts” of working, including first job reviews, promotions, layoffs, etc.

If you fall into this demographic, read on for tips on handling a few of the more common career firsts. Then, dig a little deeper in each case to find resources for even more advice. These are situations that do not occur frequently, so it pays to be ready.

First Job Review. For this “first”, take your lead from the organization. When a review is scheduled, ask HR, your manager, or a trusted colleague to explain the process and what the reviews are used for. For example, will future assignments or raises be based on your review?

Once you have this background, go over your work to find examples of things you’ve learned, things you’d like to improve, and things you’re proud of achieving, as well as your goals for the position. This will help you participate in the process more fully.

First Promotion to Management. For many, it can be difficult to shed the “worker bee” mentality and assume the role of boss over former teammates. It’s not a fit for everyone, which makes the process even more confusing: Are you struggling because it’s new, or because it’s not right for you?

Your best path to success is to find a mentor, either internally or outside the company, to help you navigate the early stages of the transition. Share some (but not all) of your concerns with your boss, and learn the new job before you decide if management is a good role for you.

First Call from a Recruiter. When a recruiter tries to “head hunt” you away to another job, don’t say yes and don’t say no. Instead, ask for a time offline to talk or meet briefly. Your goal is to cement the acquaintance, as recruiters can be very handy people to know.

Once you’ve learned about the opportunity, only move forward if the job actually interests you. Otherwise, providing the names of qualified friends will earn you a place of honor in the recruiter’s contact list and help ensure you’re in the loop for other opportunities.

First Resignation from a Job. For this first, start by humming the chorus to “Respect,” the R&B song made famous by Aretha Franklin – because even when you’re leaving a bad job, you need to respect that someone took a chance and hired you.

In that light, your manager should be the first to hear this news (not your colleagues, customers, etc.). Write a brief note or email (to make it official), but provide few details on your reasons (because this can mutate into too much information). Thank your boss for the opportunity (whether or not you feel grateful), and state when you plan to leave. Then ask for a meeting to wrap up last details.

First Layoff from a Job. If you’re laid off, you’ll want to ask questions and gather as much information as possible. Talking with someone outside the organization can give you perspective on what to ask, but the short list includes details on whether there will be severance, when you can have a letter of recommendation, what assistance the company provides for finding new work, etc.

It’s common to be asked to sign something, so plan on requesting a copy to review at home (and share with an advisor) before you complete this step.

First Career Transition. At some point, you’ll likely question whether you’re working in the right field. While job loss can trigger this reflection, the issue can also assert itself in unexpected ways even when you’re successfully moving forward in your career.

Rather than pushing the issue aside, your best bet is to start the conversation with a mentor or career coach. Career transitions that happen gradually as your thoughts emerge are generally less stressful than those that erupt with the snap of the final straw in your job.

A good lesson to learn at this stage is that in careers, as in most everything else in life, change is easier when you’re going from one enjoyable thing to the next.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at alindgren@prototypecareerservice.com or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.

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