Back To Career News

5 Steps Millennials Can Take to Advance Their Career

Topics: Career Advice

Keep your chin up, millennials. It’s always been tough to land a good job.

Over the weekend, LinkedIn’s Campus Editor Justin Chormicle penned a column titled Millennials Face Toughest Economy Since Great Depression. In the piece, Chormicle explores a report recently released by the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which explains “how the lack of high-paying jobs, decline in wages, and increasing debt are severely hurting millennials when it comes to achieving the lifestyles and financial stability that previous generations experienced.”

Millennials at Work

(Photo Credit: itupictures/Flickr)

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Notes Chormicle, “there is sufficient evidence to prove that there are very few employment opportunities being provided to millennials.”

Compounding the issue, “Millennials have entered the workforce during the greatest economic downturn in almost a century… According to recent trends, it appears the national average income of this generation will remain far behind that of prior generations.”


Yes, times are tough. But speaking as a gen-X/millennial hybrid — born on the cusp of the cutoff — has it ever been different?

Says Chormicle, “Although millennials are obtaining an education, many still find themselves under-paid and under-employed….”

Listen: I too had dreams of quick success after graduating from college. Everyone does. But when you start your career, you have to put in the time before you gain the additional skills required to climb the corporate ladder. Most people’s first jobs out of college will be low-paying, and most of them will not require college grads to utilize their full skill set. Odds are, early in your career you will find yourself “under-paid and under-employed.”

Join the club.

Here’s the good news, millennials: It’s always been tough to find a good job. But it’s been done in the past, so you can do it too.

Keep your chin up. Here are five steps you can take to position yourself for success, both right now and for the duration of your career.

1. Regardless of How You Feel About Your Job, Always Do Your Best

Nobody dreams of stuffing envelopes for a living, but if your experience is anything like mine, you might find yourself printing hundreds of press kits, stuffing them into envelopes — oh, the awful taste of envelope glue — and dragging them down to the post office. Hardly glamorous, and definitely not high paying.

There will almost certainly be distasteful aspects of jobs early in your career — again, envelope glue. But it’s important to make a good impression as a dedicated and willing employee; your reputation will follow you for the duration of your professional life, and even if you move on to another employer or profession, recommendations from former colleagues and managers are invaluable in the working world.

2. Seize Every Opportunity to Learn

Don’t assume your education stops when you earn your degree. In PayScale’s recent job skills report, Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy, we noted that only 50 percent of hiring managers feel recent college graduates are prepared for the professional world. That means you’ll need to learn on the job in order to acquire those missing skills.

If you do find yourself needing more knowledge or information in order to climb the corporate ladder, ask someone to teach you. Find a mentor. Seek out experts in your company. Ask your manager if you can take classes or attend seminars — many employers will pay for their employees to further their education—and if your company has a professional development budget, use it! (Here’s another hint: You’re going to keep learning how to be better at your job your entire life, so why not start now? There’s no time like the present.)

3. Make Connections

Like it or not, networking is a crucial aspect of career success. The phrase, “It’s all who you know,” is all too true. Build relationships with people within your company, and anyone else you meet in your professional sphere. Go to meetups and networking events, and grow your list of connections. For some — natural introverts, for example — this will be hard, but consider it part of your job to build these relationships. I promise, you’ll find it gets easier with time.

LinkedIn Logos

(Photo Credit: nan_palmero/Flickr)

These days, having a comprehensive LinkedIn profile is a vital aspect of career success. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, professionally appropriate, and continually updated. Building your list of connections in real life and on LinkedIn could potentially lead to a job in line with your skill set, salary goals, and personal passions.

4. Position Yourself for Success 

Hunting for a new job requires a high level of commitment. Reaching out to apply for open positions or express interest in future opportunities takes time and effort, but it’s crucial to stay “front of mind,” in case a hiring manager suddenly has a position to fill. You never know when the chance to up-level your career and salary might present itself, so it’s important to be prepared for that moment.

If you’re job hunting, keep your resume up-to-date — along with your LinkedIn profile (see above) — and go to interviews prepared to discuss salary requirements by using a free PayScale salary report. If the interview goes well, and you reach the point of negotiating, having data to support your salary expectations can make all the difference when it comes to commanding the salary you expect.

5. Recognize Your Career Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

We all start somewhere. Billionaire Mark Cuban worked as a bartender after he graduated from Indiana University, living with five roommates in a three-bedroom apartment. Global fashion icon Ralph Lauren worked as a Sales Assistant at Brooks Brothers before making his billions.  

Odds are, you’re not going to land your dream job the day after you graduate. The truth is, it might be tough to get any job at all. And you’re going to spend much of your career busting your butt to eventually land a job that aligns with your skills, desired salary, and passions. But keep your chin up; with a combination of hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck — yes, luck will play a role — there’s a good chance you’ll get there. 

Tell Us What You Think

Did you have trouble climbing the corporate ladder, or even getting a foothold on the first rung? We want to know what tips you have for millennials and recent grads! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
0 Comment authors
Jason Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I too am the age of 35, with extreme potential; I know who I am and what needs to be done. “The Five Steps” is exactly what i had to experience on my own! I just read this and I’ve finally found my problem 5 years ago. The problem was exploring myself. Love what you and what makes happy is your potential. Money is not always a goal because money does not make everyone happy. Money is status just… Read more »

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.