5 ways millennials can become better strategic thinkers


Chris Rooney

Entry-level digital professionals have received quite a bit of abuse lately, particularly that we allegedly feel entitled to be “digital strategists” just because we belong to our specific generation.

What can we do to counter those concerns? We can put in the work to become better strategic thinkers.

Here are five ways millennials can become better strategic thinkers in the digital space:

1. Hack your brain to think in terms of opportunities.

recent Forbes study noted that millennials are more “irritated, tired, and anxious” about their careers than other groups. Perhaps that’s partly due to “taking work home” in the sense that mistakes or criticisms you get on the job affect your thoughts more than they would later in your career.

In your 20s, you’re still learning how to handle negative emotions that might come from failures or criticisms. But let’s be realistic—an honest mistake or constructive criticism isn’t the end of the world.

Try “hacking” your brain to approach hurdles opportunistically rather than negatively. So what happens if you made a mistake on a project at work? As long as the mistake was honest, you now have a crucial new piece of data to refine your approach for next time.

2. Control information overload.

If you work in digital public relations, you have your finger on the pulse of all the latest digital trends—from new social media platforms to tech news to the latest tweets from your favorite celebrity.

Millennials spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes on digital media every day. With mobile as an increasingly important channel for information, we’re constantly absorbing data, forcing our brains to triage large amounts of information all the time. That leaves little room to think proactively and creatively.

Try to get away from the computer once in a while. John Cleese of Monty Python fame describes a solution in a hilarious 1991 speech. Making time for the open mode gives your brain the opportunity to become a producer of innovative ideas rather than simply a consumer, which is an essential part of moving from digital tactician to digital strategist.

3. Learn from your mentors.

A common criticism of our generation is that we act as though we’re entitled to success. The backlash against a recent Cathryn Sloane article is a perfect example. But despite our “native” comfort with social media and digital media, we have to learn the industry and business skills that only come from experience.

Millennials in digital careers can jump their careers forward in a big way by making the effort to build strong relationships with their mentors. Ask smart questions, and use the advice they offer you—the best advice comes from experience.

Most important, give back—the greatest relationships are two-sided. They’re investments in both parties’ futures.

4. Cross-pollinate your interests.

You might think that so much work is on your plate that you barely have time for interests outside work. Maybe you even compartmentalize your life—work and play should stay separate, you might believe. Think about this: Some of the greatest innovations of all time have resulted from people “cross-pollinating” different interests: Physics and engineering combined to start computer science, for example.

Your outside interests are completely valid in a digital career. Read widely about linguistics (my personal interest), blog about classic films, and absorb life outside the workplace. You never know what kind of innovative ideas might come from an unexpected place.

5. Think in stories and narratives.

Think of the best storyteller you can remember. Chances are it was a friend, a colleague or a family member. It was someone you knew who told riveting stories. They didn’t speak in business jargon, “leet” speak, or texting slang. They spoke like real people telling human stories.

Whether you’re copywriting for a multi-platform campaign, pitching an idea to your team, or engaging with a brand’s community, the essential underlying thread is storytelling. Learn to write like a human being—the way your favorite storytelling uncle speaks—and you’ll get your ideas heard.

We millennials have vast resources available to us in the form of information, access to thought leaders, and few barriers for getting more strategic ideas out there. All it requires is that we put in the elbow work in the way we think about our world, and that we discipline our thinking about how we approach opportunities.

How have you worked on becoming a more strategic thinker in your career?

This article first appeared on EdelmanDigital.com.

Advertisements

5 ways millennials need math post-college

Image

Caitlin Mooney

Andy Cohen said it best in his new book, Most Talkative: “my brain has a tendency to go blank when I see an Excel spreadsheet.”

I’ll never forget the horrified look on my math teacher’s face when I jumped up and down in his classroom after he told me I got a 66 on the Math B NYS Regents exam. To him, that was a terrible grade. But to me, I was done. I passed. I earned my advanced regents diploma. Check.

It’s not that I can’t do math. It’s just that I have no interest in it. Numbers don’t speak to me like words do. My senior year of high school I opted to forgo all free periods and lunch because my guidance counselor insisted I take pre calc, but I wasn’t willing to give up journalism, creative writing, contemporary lit, or advertising and design.

Needless to say, I am an excellent example of the stereotype that your brain is either wired for math and sciences, or language and arts. I only had to take one math class to fulfill my bachelor’s degree and upon graduation I thought I’d never have to solve math problems again.

If the foreshadowing in this post isn’t obvious enough, I’ll come out and say it now: as a communications professional, I have not escaped the grips of math.

In entry-level positions, especially at small agencies, you’re somewhat of a glorified intern in the sense that you’re expected to be a doer of all things, a jack of all trades. As a result, you end up learning the ins and outs of the agency and a sampling of everyone’s job (i.e. invaluable experience). While you may be done with the Pythagorean Theorem and graphing calculators, here are five ways math may creep into your life again:

1.  Grad school

If you decide to go to grad school, chances are you’ll have to take the GRE. It’s like taking the SAT all over again except you can’t use a calculator on the math section (at least you couldn’t in 2009). I actually had to reteach myself how to do long division.

2.  Accounting

It’s important to review client budgets and estimates to keep the agency on track for all projects and campaigns. I’ve also learned how to complete payables and general ledgers.

3.  Media buying

Remember that fun equation GRP = reach x frequency? Learn to love it. Also learn how to solve for the CPM, CPP, CPC, CTR, and analyze all of those numbers in an excel spreadsheet. (Are your eyes glazed over yet?)

4.  Living on a budget

If you’re in an entry level position in the communications field, chances are you’ll be living on a budget. To keep yourself organized, you may want to create a spreadsheet to help you solve for x in x = paycheck – (rent + groceries + student loans + car payment + health insurance + happy hour).

5.  Timesheets

OK, so this isn’t too tough, but it’s an adjustment to think about your day numerically and keep track of what you’re doing down to the .25 of an hour.

Do you fit into this stereotype too? What advice do you have for new grads?

Follow Caitlin Mooney on Twitter @caitlinmooney.

What I learned at Likeable U

Image

Caitlin Mooney

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to the Likeable U social media conference in New York City. Naturally, when my boss asked me if I’d like to attend, I immediately said yes. Had I ever been to a large conference before? No. Would I be able to navigate my way through the city? I’ll find out. Could I hold a conversation with my boss on the 2.5 hour train ride? I’ll just ask a lot of questions. Sign me up!

I’ve always had a clear sight of what I wanted to do. It has been my dream to work in PR/advertising and I’ve never swayed from the plan. I’ve been driven, constantly curious and always hungry for more. (Do you mean, like, physically hungry or hungry for the job? #Girls).

Millennials need to be hungry for the job, hungry for knowledge, and hungry for success — or they won’t find it. In college I became so competitive because I knew that if I wanted to succeed in this industry, I had to stand out. But it was also because I surrounded myself with people that inspired me and naturally pushed me to succeed. You need to find the people that share your passions and dreams and spend your time with them. They will be the ones that keep you motivated when school and work get tough.

What I loved most about the Likeable U conference is that I felt like I was surrounded by “my people.” The social media nerds, grammar police, perfectionists, and creatives. I felt like I was home. While waiting for my train in Penn Station, I felt like I had recharged my creative batteries.

During the conference, Peter Shankman said, “If you don’t have haters, you’re not doing enough to change the status quo.” Society likes to see other people fail, rather than build them up, which @dknyprgirl also touches on in her blog post “Girl Crush.”

The reason these two things resonated with me is because in grad school and the “real world,” the competition stops being friendly. When you do well, no one wants to give you a high five or buy you a beer. This industry, and the job market right now, is cutthroat. There are always going to be people that want to see you fail, but don’t let that deter you from being the best. Instead, surround yourself with the people that challenge you, support you, and most importantly, inspire you.

Work hard, find your people, and stay hungry. You’ll go far.

Follow Caitlin Mooney on Twitter @caitlinmooney.

9 musts for every communications grad

Image

Robin Farr

In a recent post, HubSpot blog listed 20 things every marketing student needs to know. Great advice, so we’re going to spin that for all you communications grads about to hit the streets.

Here are nine things every communications grad should know (or do), broken down into stuff for right now, for when you start your new job, and for the rest of your life.

Right now

1. Learn basic HTML. Seriously, it will help you. You’re going to have to build content at some point, or at the very least fix something that’s gone sideways. Years ago, before I even planned to work in communications, I asked my husband to teach me how to make a website. He was a grump and made me learn HTML instead of using whatever website-building program was big at the time, but it’s been a very handy skill to have in my communications work. (Just don’t tell him I said that.)

2. Get active on Twitter. Chances are you’re well acquainted with Twitter already, but if you aren’t, get on there. You’ll find great connections and tons of resources and learning opportunities. A degree in communications from Twitter University is the best pretend degree you’ll ever get.

3. Having a blog isn’t really experience. Having a blog is great for a lot of things—writing, staying up to date on social media trends and technology, making connections, etc.—but developing and promoting your own content isn’t the same as being the voice of an organization.

When you start your first dream job

4. Communication is about more than writing. You have to be a good writer, which I listed as an essential skill for corporate communicators in an earlier post. But I’ve known too many communications newbies who think that working in corporate communications is all about writing. You also have to be able to develop a solid communications plan. You have to roll it out effectively. And being able to handle issues management doesn’t hurt either (see No. 7). Communications is also about more than sharing information. It’s about engagement, dialogue, building trust—all those warm fuzzies.

5. You’re going to hear “no.” And you thought the B you got on your final project was bad. Part of communications is being able to plan (see No. 4), and sometimes your latest brilliant idea will land with a resounding thud when it gets to the desk in the corner office. Sometimes people won’t want to word things the way you do. Sometimes (gasp!) they won’t want to communicate something when you know it’s important. Just expect it (and try not to take it personally).

6. Meet the important people in the company. That doesn’t necessarily mean executives. When you start, figure out who knows what’s going on, who can get things approved fast, and who is a communications champion. These are all very helpful people to know.

7. Proofreading is good for the soul. This is true whether it’s your own writing or someone else’s. Just do it.

For the rest of your life

8. You can never really know how people will react. This ties into the aforementioned issues management part of the job (see No. 4). Companies do things all the time that their audiences—whether employees or customers or the general public—don’t like. The message can be taken the wrong way even when intentions are good, so here’s my advice: Be clear. Be thorough. Be prepared to respond.

9. Don’t be afraid to be creative. I’ve seen way too many communications efforts that are so dull you’ll wish you were back in the lecture hall. Please, please don’t contribute to that. Creative is good, trust me. So there you have it. Whether or not you’ve walked across the stage yet, you’re officially ready for your career in communications. Congratulations, and good luck out there.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Jessica Levco

As a millennial, you’ll find that people are always giving you advice—whether you asked for it or not. I wrote down some of my favorite lines I’ve picked up Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Greatest Generation.

What have you learned from your elders?

On careers: Find something you like doing. If you don’t, it’ll be hard to wake up in the morning.

On birthdays: After you turn 25, your brain cells start dying faster than they get created. Remember that.

On drinking: After three shots of tequila, stop. Just stop.

On cooking: You’re better than Ramen Noodles.

On children: Your body won’t always look this way. Just wait ‘til you start having kids.

On traveling: If you’re going from Chicago to San Fran on the Amtrak, you better get good and loaded before you go.

On money: Don’t blow all your money on bottled water.

On exercise: Run a marathon now. It’ll just hurt more later.

On relationships: There’s always another boy around the corner.

On aging: When you get to be 95, it’s either going to be the booze or Excedrin that kills you. Maybe both.

(Image via)