3 Essential Truths Every Millennial Considers When Looking For a Job

millennial

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

As the head of eCommerce for Levi Strauss & Co., I have the opportunity to work closely with millennials everyday. And I consider it a perk. Because more than the generations that preceded them, millennials are genuinely interested in collaboration and finding new ways of working.

At LS&Co., we have a culture that encourages testing, trying new things, and pushing the “rules” a bit to move quickly. With open communication and a promise to gather and adapt to feedback quickly, this system works well. We recognize that mistakes will happen, but we learn quickly from them and it is the evolution that follows that is most significant.

Millennials have been characterized as career-driven with an urgent desire to learn, grow and progress quickly. They look for real-time feedback, ongoing mentorship, and continuous career development. And yet, surprisingly, as open as they are to innovation, change, and moving fast, they sometimes think that there is a prescriptive approach to career advancement. Millennials tend to want a clear plan – one that outlines what they need to do, along with a list of recommendations on how exactly they get there.

But the problem with anticipating and abiding by a preset career plan is that it rarely brings the professional development or career ladder millennials seek. In fact, too often it can be restrictive, rather than enabling. That’s because most opportunities come your way when you are open and flexible. Advancement works best when you know generally where you want to go, but you are open to several paths and options that will get you there.

As I look at my career over the past 25 years, it seems to be driven more by “what ifs” than “must dos.” I knew where I wanted to go, but the path required flexibility and a willingness to open doors. As much as we want to believe we are in control, random or unexpected opportunities are often essential to our development. The key is making sure we’ve done what we can to be ready for those opportunities.

So, in thinking about career development, I offer millennials (and others), these three essential truths:

1. Be open to changing focus. When I started my career, the Internet was just emerging, so running two global brands’ eCommerce sites could not possibly have made my aspiration list. But, I knew what skills would be critical to what I wanted to do and I watched for roles that would build those skills.

Applying to college, I was convinced I wanted to be a journalist, but an internship opportunity at a brokerage firm led me to become a finance major. I started my career as a financial auditor, moved into retail consulting then strategy and international markets. From there, I refocused again and moved into information systems which led to eCommerce and, eventually, to my current position at LS&Co. It’s a far cry from journalism, and even finance, but one thing has built upon another and it’s a trajectory I’m both proud of and satisfied with.

2. Consider moving. I’ve moved five times in my career. From the Midwest to the South to the West, these weren’t planned relocations. Each move presented an opportunity that couldn’t be dismissed. I tried to avoid the move to Bentonville, Arkansas until a friend convinced me to view the move as a short-term option that would broaden my background and not demand a lifelong commitment. That move enabled subsequent career opportunities which pushed me to new transitions and new opportunities and so on.

Moving doesn’t necessarily require relocation or a new company – it can also be a shift in focus. I thought that I never wanted to work in IT. Yet, when I found myself working closely with the CIO of Walmart to design an IT architecture that would support the diversity of Walmart’s international growth new doors opened. This project gave me the opportunity to dramatically grow my leadership skills, moving from leading a team of 12 people to a team of 1,200 people

3. Trust and engage your professional connections. My major opportunity shifts had one theme in common — they were facilitated by people I knew. After earning my MBA, a mentor from my previous finance role brought me into consulting, which led me to acquire retail experience. My move from consulting to Walmart transpired because the Walmart CFO was a former consulting client who was promoted to CEO of Walmart International. He convinced me to move to Bentonville and to lead strategy for Walmart’s international business. Moving out of my strategy role came from my relationship with the CIO, and so on.

So for all the wise and hungry millennials out there it’s important to remember that a career path is not a prescriptive journey. It’s a path with several forks. The key is to make sure you’re headed in the right general direction, developing your skills and relationships, keeping as many options as possible open to you. Be open to change, leverage your experience and trust your network to help open new doors.

How are you guiding your millennial workforce? Or, are you a millennial trying to map out the right steps to get ahead? Have you followed a straight path? Or as you look back on where you’ve gone, are there some surprising twists? Share your career guidance or observations in the comments.

About the Author: Marc Rosen is the Executive Vice President and President of global eCommerce for Levi Strauss & Co. He is responsible for leading the company’s global eCommerce business to drive new growth, consumer loyalty and sustainable profitability. As a member of the company’s worldwide leadership team, he also helps to determine the global direction for LS & Co.

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