Recently named to Forbes prestigious 30 Under 30 list, Rhonesha Byng knows what she’s talking about when it comes to success in and out of the office. Millennials, listen up! This fellow Generation Yer knows how to play (and win) the game.

Dear Millennial,

A wise woman recently told me, the secret to personal branding is simply putting your best foot forward each and every day. This woman just so happens to be the queen of branding, PR, and social media. Aliza Licht. Google her! She shares this sentiment  plus so much more in her book, “Leave Your Mark” (which I read cover to cover in three days), and she reiterated this when I had the honor of interviewing her in front of an audience of enthused millennial women during a recent #HerAgendaLive.

Eager, ambitious, passionate and hardworking are words I use to describe our generation. However, as millennials, when it comes to putting our best foot forward as up-and-coming professionals our intentions can often be misinterpreted. Sometimes it’s not our fault, often our negative perception as an “entitled, lost, lazy” generation precedes us. Other times? We mess up…point blank.

We want to be the best and produce out of this world work at all times. Growing up, we were told we could be anything we wanted and we took those assertions to heart. Still, at times while our intentions may be pure our execution hurt us. This is especially true for those of us who are just beginning in the working world. When it comes to building, balancing and leveraging relationships there are subtle rules and nuances we must learn and apply.

If you want the promotion and professional acknowledgement you may very well deserve, consider these tips and reminders to ensure you get noticed, supported, and called out for all of the right reasons.

1. SPEAK UP

In meetings, don’t be afraid to contribute thoughts and ideas. If you sit silently, seasoned professionals on your team interpret your silence as lack of interest. It’s smart in initial meetings to sit and observe, but don’t allow silence to become a habit. As millennials we usually want things perfect before we present them — wrong! You are part of a team, present your thoughts to the team for feedback, and collaboration opportunities to build or revise ideas.

2. BE PREPARED

When you ask, “Can we meet for coffee or lunch?” what seasoned professionals hear is the clock ticking. Be specific about what you would like to discuss and then be ready. Instead ask, “I know you are busy but I wanted to know if we can meet over coffee to discuss X? I’d truly value your feedback and insight.” If you usually meet with the person in a corporate environment, be mindful of office culture and dynamics even outside of the office. It is also essential to have specific questions in mind. Lastly, you should come to the meeting prepared with ideas. At the end, provide ideas about what you can do to assist.

3. MASTER YOUR CURRENT ROLE FIRST

When you say that you have a lot of ideas…and all the ideas you’re pitching are facets of senior level positions. Meanwhile, you barely know where the copy machine is and don’t have a login to your email account yet?

Hmmm… I get it. The tasks and responsibilities you’re executing today on the surface level may seem menial or minuscule, but you must realize that every task, no matter how seemingly small is major to the person you report to as well as  your fellow team members.  In a day and age where every head affects headcount, insurance costs, desk space, etc., every role matters. You may not always feel it, but you are essential. As an entry level employee or intern your goal should be to demonstrate your competency and capability to handle the smallest tasks. View it as an opportunity to  build (and earn)  trust, respect, and credibility from your colleagues through flawless execution of those tasks. Focus on the task at hand keeping your “big” ideas in mind for a timely and deserving pitch.

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4. PATIENCE AND PURPOSE

“My name is X and I am a dancer, a teacher, a director, a host, a brand consultant, and a social media strategist…” what seasoned professionals hear when you say that you do a million and one things is that you are unfocused — especially when your experience doesn’t reflect your titles. Listen, I know you don’t lack focus, you’re just multi-passionate (many of us are). However, the first step to delivering a compelling message? Know your audience.  When introducing yourself to others, remain mindful of your environment and your key objective in speaking with the individual. Is it to land an informational interview? To obtain an entry- or mid-level role within his/her group? Let that be your guide. Patience and pacing are important to keep in mind when thinking about where you are in your career and how far you have left to go. If you’re a twenty-something, recognize that you have time. Your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Vanessa De Luca, the Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine didn’t begin her career in publishing until age 30. Oprah, who is now a media mogul, started out as a broadcast journalist. Where you are is valuable. Appreciate it and know that it’ is a stepping stone for where you’ll go next.

5. PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION

When your boss says: “Hi, X, do you have X?”

This is not good. Why? What may seem like a simple circle-back is actually likely indication that you failed to follow up and communicate effectively. (It is your responsibility to follow up and update your supervisor.) When you are asked to get something done, get it done before the deadline and communicate when it’s complete and if you need more time to complete it, ask at least two days before the deadline. You don’t want your boss to wonder whether or not a task is complete. It’s also great to have a record of task completion. Your boss shouldn’t have to remind you of tasks. And oh! Lastly, please don’t think that your boss forgot what they assigned to you just because they didn’t ask about it.

6. BE PROACTIVE

An ‘I didn’t know,’ answer could translate as incompetence. If you don’t know something, if it is discoverable, proactively find out via google, via a friend or colleague, via any means necessary, before being asked. Doing so indicates that you not only have drive but that you have a keen desire to learn.  

7. FOLLOW THROUGH

When you say, ‘I didn’t have time,’ what most seasoned professionals will hear is that it was not a priority for you. This can cause tension if the project was actually urgent or a priority for your team member,supervisor or colleague.

What you should do instead, say, if your tasks and responsibilities are overwhelming is schedule time to meet to determine how to prioritize the items. This way you can set a realistic timeline and everyone has a clear understanding of deadlines.

8. PROPOSE SOLUTIONS

When you point out a problem, couple it with a potential solution. It’s highly possible that the issue you’re bringing up has been an issue in the past. Use it as an opportunity for you to create something that works well for everyone. Also view this as an opportunity to showcase your leadership capabilities and problem solving skills.

9. EMAIL ETIQUETTE

Email etiquette is crucial. Consider your email a direct reflection of how you will be perceived. The tone, font, color, greeting and closing, and subject line are all important. Since you’re reading this, I hope you understand the basics of having a professional email address as in HotGirlintheAtl@gmail.com won’t cut it.

Openings: Never say “Hi there.” It’s too informal and familiar. Always. When in doubt, opt for more formal openings. Even if the other person is more casual in tone or even seemingly brief, it doesn’t give you permission to match their style.

CCing: Before emailing your supervisor’s boss or a client (for anything even if it’s just to ask them for coffee) check in with your direct supervisor first. Then be sure to copy your supervisor on the correspondence. Transparency is imperative so that you don’t give the impression that you are attempting to overstep boundaries. (Ahem, boundaries matter.)

Timing: Yes, we live in a digital, 24/7 world but work/life harmony is and should be everyone’s goal. To that end, sending an email at 1 AM is unprofessional. Furthermore, while you think some may perceive that you are up late and working hard, most will likely think that you are unable to finish tasks in a timely fashion or you are doing too much. To maximize your time, use plugins like Boomerang to schedule emails.

Length: Include only necessary details not your life story. Emails should be concise and specific with your ask or request. Think to answer the following questions; who? what? when? where? why? and how?

Contextualize: Context may provide a bit of background to help the reader understand relevancy to the question you are posing. If there is background information like attachments, be sure to include them in email should the person need more information/context.

Copy and paste: While a helpful feature for extrapolating text, it is not your best friend for emails. If text is lifted from a previous correspondence without customization, you may look lazy or incompetent.  How would the recipient know? Most emails change in color scheme or formatting when he message is copied or pasted. As someone who has hit “send” before the email is fully crafted, it is better to draft the body in its entirety before putting the email address of the person you will send it to in the “ ‘To’ Field”.

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10. Last thing…DON’T ASK PEOPLE TO BE YOUR MENTORS

When you meet seasoned professionals you admire, there may be an impulse to ask them to become your mentor. You may feel as if this is your one and only chance to connect with them. This is not the case. If you’re doing your best work and working everyday to improve your craft, you will come in contact with professionals in your industry that you look up to on more than one occasion. When you meet them, it’s okay to politely ask if you can keep-in-touch and follow up. Then tactfully and respectfully cultivate the relationship and keep your social networks and LinkedIn up-to-date with your latest projects and accomplishments. Become someone with undeniable potential and poise. In doing so, mentors will organically align with you because they see you as someone worth investing in. At the same time, even as a young professional know that you have something of value to offer higher-ups, so don’t hesitate to ask them what they may need and how you can help them. Your willingness to help them goes a long way.

Sincerely,

Rhonesha Byng

A #Beautyfullreminder:  Just say “no” to overnight success and “yes” to learning, listening, growing, and hard work.

Rhonesha of Her Agenda_150918_025Rhonesha Byng is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur. She provides insight and thought leadership to and about millennials. She’s the founder of Her Agenda a digital hub of information and inspiration dedicated to support ambitious millennial women. Instagram: @HerAgenda and @NeshasAgenda.