Some people say I got lucky, and I'd even say that I was in the right place at the right time to get to where I'm at today. But I know I've worked hard, and deserve everything I have. I've been working for a global e-commerce company for a little over two years. I got an internship with three months left of my final year in college.
Some of my friends were chilling on their fathers' dimes, and others were freaking out that they didn't have any job offers out of school and would have to move back home with their parents. I was good; I had already been living at home and commuting to school. Not to mention, I had an paid internship that took up most of my free time and I was making money.
I have a BSBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, so I don't personally believe in free labor. The day after I graduated, I started full time as an account manager and made myself my boss' right hand man. Ten months later, I was offered a promotion in business development and took it.
In my company, this role gave me the opportunity to directly facilitate relationships with our clients. I've had dinner with employees of Facebook, been to the impressive headquarters of EA Games, worked with NFL athletes and members of the cast of "Mob Wives."
I've went to numerous conferences and meetings in California, and have visited our global headquarters in Germany twice. I was chosen to go to these places over other colleagues who have been with the company for the same, if not longer, than I. All the while, I was managing the digital marketing of my family's business, building the foundation of my own blog and having my words published to readers from across the globe.
I've learned a lot over the past few years I've been out of school, but it's only because when I see opportunities, I run with them. Don't wait for good things to happen to you. Create opportunities for your own personal growth and improvement. It's something you can always strive for because it's a task you'll never perfect, no matter how much time you spend trying to figure it out.
I really want to share some of the lessons I've learned early in my career that you can only know by experience. They might seem like common sense, but if you put these into practice, you might see a change in how you're utilized across the office and how often people will ask for your feedback.
Here are 10 ways Millennials can kill the corporate game:
1. Set up your 401(k) as soon as you can.
Don't waste one minute. It's free money. I went with the Roth because I'd rather have the government tax it now when I can't see it, instead of when I'm old and want to withdraw money. I want to make it as easy for myself to handle.
2. If your company offers to send you to an event or an appointment, always go.
You better get your butt on that plane, train or ship. Sometimes you need to start out doing brunt work, like sitting solo at a booth on a convention floor, while your colleagues brush elbows with big wigs, eat little finger sandwiches and take pictures with Katie Couric.
3. You should stay at your first job out of college for at least two years.
This holds true no matter how bored you are, how awful your boss is or how long your commute is. I've heard this from college professors, from vice presidents of companies and everyone in between. This should be common knowledge by now. Being employed somewhere for that long after college shows commitment.
You'd be surprised how many grads get degrees, land a job and quit after six months because they "don't like it." You don't like making money or building a foundation for your career? Maybe you just don't want to be an adult and will forever miss Thirsty Thursdays.
4. Utilize your LinkedIn account to network.
Connect with anyone in your company, even if that person works 3,000 miles away. You need people to learn your name, and if they have a picture to associate it with, then you're even more ahead of the game. Connect with clients and anyone you've worked with externally as soon as you exchange an email or a phone call. It's not creepy because it's networking.
Imagine you're ready for the next step in your career and you know you want to work for Nike next. How the hell do you get a job at Nike? You have to know someone and you have a connection on LinkedIn who's working there and can get your resume on someone's desk. That's how you get a job at Nike. It's not about what you know; it's about who you know.
5. Come in early and stay late.
Find out your boss' schedule and make sure to come in before him or her some days. Your boss is not going to send out an email to the entire company commending you or even applaud you. But he or she will notice, even though it might not feel that way.
Bosses notice everything. They know which employees come in at 9 and leave right at 5 just to get a paycheck. Care about your work.
6. You should always get drinks with your co-workers at the end of the day.
The first reason you should is because you got an invitation to the inner circle. They like you. They really like you, so don't mess it up. Second reason is you learn so much more about the company's structure when people are drinking and hanging out after hours. You learn who likes who, who hates who, who's doing a good job and who's on his or her way out.
Finally, you know the guy who talks way too loud and refuses to leave his desk to take his calls even though all four conference rooms are open? He's not that bad. He's pretty funny and he always buys the table a round. Caution: Make sure you know your limit with alcohol consumption.
You don't want to be known as the person who got hammered at the holiday party, and proceeded to give himself a sobriety check by butchering his ABCs. Drink a water in between beers. Instead of getting a sh*tty reputation because you had one too many drinks, let your work do the talking and let that be what you're known for.
7. Be a sponge.
Never put both headphones in your ears. If you're in an open office, you can hear the collaboration by the minute. Listen to pieces of conference calls, sales pitches and designers talking about whatever programs they use.
There's always more to learn. Ask questions. Speak up. Give feedback. Make yourself useful to others outside of your department as well.
8. Know your role.
If you've been with the company for less than two years, I wouldn't tell the director of sales that the whole department has been doing everything wrong. The company was here before you, and most likely will still be around long after you. If you have an idea, share it, but try to not step on too many toes.
We Millennials aren't as welcomed into the workforce as Gen-X was. We're known as lazy, sarcastic know-it-alls. All I'm saying is don't limit your growth by having a big mouth.
9. Be honest.
You're having your annual review and your boss asks you where you see yourself a year from now. If you see yourself far far away from the desk you sit at now then share that. It's scary but you'll be damn proud of yourself. Your boss will be, too. More often than not, they're blindsided with two weeks notices.
Don't think that speaking up and saying you're not content in your current position is something bad and will get you fired right on the spot. Tell them you're thinking about starting to look for another job because of genuine reasons. These reasons could be you feel like you haven't learned anything new in months or you don't see any more growth for yourself within the company.
If something can be changed to keep you happy and make you stay, I bet nine times out of 10, your boss will try his or her best to do that for you. It's cheaper for the company to keep you than to spend time and money training someone new. Time is money.
10. Always negotiate your salary and bonuses with every review you get.
Make sure you have the reasons and numbers to back up why you deserve more money. A really interesting article about negotiating salaries came out recently on The Huffington Post. It had great tips, but gave a disheartening statistic, "As women executives, many of us are aware of the troubling statistics that show that as few as 7 percent of us negotiate our salaries."
I guess as a whole, women don't think they should negotiate because they trust their employers to pay them what they deserve. Ladies, since when does life work like that? Never. If I got what I thought I deserved, then I'd be married to Orlando Bloom and I'd spend my days with wine in one hand and a bonbon in the other while he rubs my feet.
Oh, and I'd have the body of a Victoria's Secret model and eat cheeseburgers and buffalo chicken calzones every day and not get fat. You only get what you deserve by working your butt off and fighting for it. When I graduated from college, I didn't negotiate my salary and it's one of my biggest regrets.
Don't let employers take advantage because you feel you haven't proven how worthy you are. Negotiating will show you have guts. You're fresh out of school and employers haven't been in school for a while. You could teach them a thing or two. Believe that.