If you’re like me, graduating from college and landing your first job is one of the most exhilarating, self-fulfilling, albeit nerve-wracking and anxiety-ridden times of your life. Reaching your goal of getting hired is not often a quick and painless journey, but a process that begins long before you don your cap and gown. These days, academic advisors put so much emphasis on what it takes to get a job, there is little, if any dialogue about what happens after you’ve actually got one.
Forbes recently posted the article “5 Way Young Professionals Want to Be Led.” Upon reading this piece I came to a realization, that the leadership styles of others was never a topic I had discussed with my advisors or even explored myself. During the job hunt, I spent so much time and energy focusing on me and what I had to do to get hired, I never considered things like how I wanted to be led by others for more success.
The “top five” findings of the article were the result of a roundtable session with 15 young professionals voicing their opinions on the dynamics of their workplace. The main desire was advancing in the workplace while influencing the culture. Although I agree with the motivation behind the study, I wondered why these five values were only allotted to young professionals? Doesn’t everyone want to be empowered, trusted and challenged in the workplace? That being said, I found it more useful to develop my own short list of how I want to be led as a young professional, a recent graduate, a new hire and an individual.
Be available, be involved
As someone fairly new to my organization, the PR industry and the professional atmosphere in general, I find there is value in using my co-workers as a support system. They are people I can learn from, look up to and ask questions. When younger or newer folks need guidance, good leadership is about being open and available. If I feel like my concerns are unwanted, I’m not going to feel comfortable approaching anyone. On the contrary, just knowing my co-workers and leaders welcome my questions, I am much more willing to reach out if I’m feeling stuck. As a result, my performance will benefit and I will continue to grow and develop professionally.
Give me the freedom to thrive
Allowing employees their freedom is a big one because it could mean the difference between a productive environment and an unproductive one. Giving people freedom shows that they are respected, trusted and valuable to the organization, and that their personal lives are just as respected and important as their work life. Of course, these are things that must be earned and not taken advantage of by the employees. In my experience, having the freedom to create the schedule that works best for me has allowed me to thrive in my organization and made me a much happier, and thus more productive employee.
Challenge me, allow me to explore my weaknesses and strengths
Breaking into the world of PR, I didn’t initially realize the amount of work that went into providing comprehensive and exceptional work for our clients. I soon found that public relations requires having many different skill sets, some of which I was quite good at and others I’m continuing to develop. Strong professional skills can only be identified by challenging new employees. Give them different tasks as a way of letting them explore their strengths and weaknesses. Being someone who wants to advance in my career, as I assume most do, I appreciate projects that take me out of my comfort zone. To me, everything is a learning experience and a step toward becoming a more well-rounded individual and employee.
Open the channels of communication
The foundation of great leadership is great communication. Leadership should be something that is discussed openly within an organization, not some strictly hierarchical and unspoken agreement. Obviously, there are individuals in an organization with significantly more power and influence than others, but allow employees to develop their own leadership skills by using the higher ups’ knowledge and experience as a platform for constructive discussion. Create a safe space where you can spark a dynamic discussion about what works really well and what can be improved internally. This could be one-on-one or in a group setting.
Above all, find mutual trust
This may be the most important piece to the puzzle, as it is required for all the above points to work in unison. Obviously, there is a small level of mutual trust established when an organization agrees to hire someone new, but trust also has to be earned so it can continue to grow. Prove that you are trustworthy and ask for the same in return. Being able to trust one another creates a much safer and more productive environment. It’s an environment where everyone should be happy.
Ultimately, your success comes down to you and what you’re willing to do to make it happen. It’s extremely important for your boss and co-workers to empower you and lead you in the right direction, but you shouldn’t only rely on them to do so. Utilize your organization as a support system. Learn from their examples, ask questions and be vocal about what you need in return to find your own success and increase the success of the company as a whole. No matter which generation you identify with or what career path you are on, don’t forget to answer the question, “how do you want to be led?”