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Tess Brigham


As a twenty-something (a.k.a. Millennial, Generation Yer) you are probably already aware that you are not only the largest generation alive today, at over 85-90 million people in the U.S., but you are also the most educated generation in history.

At first glance this seems like wonderful news. Right? I mean you are not only the majority of the population but you have the smarts to rule the world! (Oops that might be going a little too far…sorry I’ve been watching too many superhero movies with my son.)

My guess is that you probably don’t feel like you are anywhere near “ruling the world ready” at the moment. With 85-90 million other well-educated people to compete with, it can feel like you are drowning in a sea of sharks either competing for the same position or maybe even trying to get your job now.

So how do you stay afloat (last sea/shark metaphor- I promise) in today’s working world? How do you stand out in the crowd and make sure that you are not only set up for the future but get the recognition you deserve today?

In the past 20 years I have had the opportunity to work in a number of different industries, in a bunch of different offices for a wide range of bosses. While I am not going to bore you with all the things I have learned in the last two decades, I do want to share with you the two most valuable rules I have gained: be nice to everyone and do more than what is expected of you.

1) Be nice to everyone

What do I mean by “be nice to everyone?”

Don’t bring child-like or what I like to call “middle school mentality” to the workplace. Everyone that you come in contact with is a person just like you and deserves your respect. Yes, everyone. You need to be polite and respectful towards: the person who brings your mail, the person who answers the phone, the person who comes in after hours to clean up, the UPS driver, the water delivery person, the bike messenger, everyone.

Every job is important and has a purpose and meaning. The mailroom person may not be as educated as you and may not be making as much money as you, but he or she provides a service at your company. They make your job easier and they help you in ways you don’t always see.

You don’t have to become best friends with everyone and organize every last birthday party. Say hello. Smile. Say “thank you.” Ask how their day is going. Is the bike messenger sweating to death? Ask if they would like some water. Treat others how you would want to be treated.

But Tess, I’m a rising star, I don’t have time to stop and say hello and get water! I will say that the people at the top create the culture and tone of a company but that doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for your own behavior at work. What a happy, humane working environment? It starts with you.

On another note, you never know where you will end up in your career or who you will encounter again. The guy who used to delivery sandwiches may be working on a million dollar app in his spare time. He may be in a position to advance your career or help you in some way. I am not saying you should be respectful just in the interest of getting ahead but if that’s the motivation you need… 

2) Do more than what is expected of you 

We all need to get our assigned work completed each day but once we are finished with that, the ball is in our court. Do you just check out and start surfing Facebook or do you challenge yourself? Do you wander aimlessly or do you say to yourself, “what now?” No matter what kind of job you have or the type of company you work for, there is always more to be done.

Why do more? The most obvious reason is that bosses do notice those that are working harder and delivering higher quality work. You will get noticed and most likely you will get rewarded with a raise, promotion or both.

But there is another hidden reason why you should do more than expected. You need to start having high standards for yourself and the quality of your work. Setting high standards means that you care about yourself and your work. This attitude or work ethic will only help you on your journey to achieving your goals, reaching your potential and getting you where you want to go in life.

Work is a big part of all of our lives. You can decide to jump in, learn a lot and grow every day. Or you can turn your nose up to people “beneath you,” do the bare minimum, try to “get away with doing as little as possible” and “work the system.”

The choice is yours. From my experience those who choose the latter tend to find the workdays long and tedious and never find the true meaning behind their work.

Yes, you are one of 90 million, but you can stand out and above the rest by practicing these two rules.