Sentari Minor is Gen Next’s Regional Director for Arizona, overseeing the development and engagement of local leaders in order to drive global change. Minor speaks nationally on professional development, board governance, nonprofit leadership, venture philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and capacity-building.
There are innumerable articles on the topic of young professionals, and a lot of very focused research has gone into what makes us tick. A recent Pepperdine University MBA article, “The Importance of Millennials in the Workplace,” identified compensation, flexible work schedules, and the ability to make a difference as the top priorities and values of the demographic; not far behind were the ability to trust leadership, benefits, and professional development opportunities.
If you are a Millennial, these insights are neither new nor revolutionary: they simply describe your professional needs. As a young professional myself, I’ve sought out roles where I was challenged, felt buy-in from leadership, was appropriately compensated, and, above all, able to grow professionally. If you are currently trying to navigate your own career journey as a young professional, you may still be trying to reach a place where these needs are fulfilled. To help you get there, and, in the meantime, fill some gaps your employer isn’t able to, I believe that these three steps are essential:
Build a “personal board of directors.” In a blog post I wrote for YNPN Phoenix, I stated, “Skills matter, competencies are key, and expertise will always elevate you, but at the end of the day: People invest in people.” Building a network of folks who know you and can attest to your skills is invaluable as you ascend in your career. Not only can they verify your value, they can be great sources of advice and direction. Use your network to create a personal board of directors: a select group that you go to for everything in your career. These should be people you can trust to be honest with you, and who you can be vulnerable with.
Seek meaningful professional development—emphasis on the meaning. The only way to grow is to expand the set of tools in your on-the-job arsenal. While there is no shortage of webinars, seminars, and conferences pitched to young professionals, my advice is to seek out opportunities that will impact your growth in a meaningful way. Ask yourself, “Is this going to help me get my next job?”, “Will I leave with something new that I can apply in my daily work?”, or, perhaps most importantly, “Will this help me do what I do better?” If your answer is an immediate “Yes,” then it’s probably worth attending. If you hesitate, skip it—and save yourself the money and time.
Know and share your personal brand. Whether you like it or not, you are a brand—so you must treat yourself like one. Fortunately, it really is as simple as knowing who you are, and how you want to articulate yourself. Create a personal value statement and personal mission statement, and get familiar with your core competencies. Seek out the work of thought-leaders who share your principles, then curate their content in your own social media feeds to support and share your personal brand. Every young professional should have a robust LinkedIn profile, complete with everything you’ve detailed about your brand. (For an example, check out my own LinkedIn profile.) You can also support your personal brand through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, showing how your personal and professional lives are aligned around what you believe in.
If you are dedicated to a career working for good, I also encourage you to attend the 2017 Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Conference, taking place August 11-14 in Atlanta. It will be a unique opportunity to build your network with hundreds of peers and sector thought-leaders, while picking up meaningful new skills and helping develop your personal brand. To learn more about the conference, and why I think it’s the best bang for your buck this year, find my further thoughts here.