Today’s post is from guest contributor Casey McGoff. Casey writes often at caseymcgoff.com on how young people can find alternatives to college and be successful after opting out. Check out his previous contribution to the Praxis blog.
As millennials, most of us don’t have any real, tangible, marketable skills. The one thing we might know how to do is write effectively, but, in my opinion, a lot of us aren’t very strong writers, speakers, or overall communicators.
I’m certainly not, which is why I write on this blog. I am trying to make up for what I didn’t learn in high school.
So how do we walk into companies and offer value, since we don’t really know how to do anything valuable?
I don’t consider myself an incredibly valuable employee. I am at the bottom of a very talented totem pole. But everyday I learn a little bit more. And everyday I become a little bit more valuable.
Soon, I will be indispensable (that’s the goal, anyways).
How? There are a few thoughts on how to add value when you don’t know how to do anything:
1) Forget passion or “fit”. Work on whatever’s in front of you.
I thought I would get into sales and marketing with this new company. Then I arrived and it turned out the company doesn’t need that at all. They need someone in operations, managing and optimizing the labor force and increasing product output.
Did I ever see myself managing a bunch of workers in a factory? No. Definitely not.
But I didn’t let that stop me. I just jumped in. Now I am learning a lot, diversifying my skills, and starting to see myself in a new light. And I’m learning Spanish!
Forget what you think you will be good at. Forget what you want to do. Find out what the company needs, jump in, and work really hard… get really good at it. Then, move on to something else. That is the fastest way to learn, period. Not in a classroom.
2) Realize that no one knows what they are doing and be confident.
A long time ago, my dad told me that half of working professionals are crazy, and the other half are incompetent. I am starting to see what he meant.
It’s like back in high school when you saw someone at a party who you thought was really cool and/or attractive. You were too scared to talk to them. Years later, you find out they thought the same thing about you.
It’s kind of like that with the professional world.
You think everyone around you is so talented and knowledgable… some are, for sure. But a lot aren’t very far ahead of you.
Realize that you are more prepared to hit the real world than you think. And spending 2, 3, or 4 more years on a college campus isn’t going to make you any more ready.
Get into a company and start producing value with confidence in your own abilities.
I always think I am underprepared. Not good enough. Too inexperienced. But none of that is true. You are only a few google searches away from a basic understanding of any topic. Jump into things without fear and learn what you can. You’ll be surprised how quick you catch up with the “adults”.
3) Work really, really hard (even with the menial stuff).
I do some very menial work at my new job. I’m talking very menial. But I also handle some important stuff.
I give equal attention and effort to both.
Be known as the guy or girl who goes 100% with whatever you are doing. It helps to make up for a lack of experience.
A few years back, I had a job as a stagehand at a very popular venue. I was the only stagehand who had no experience. I had begged them to give me a chance. I worked hard and kept my head down and kept getting more shifts. Eventually, the manager called me in and asked me how I thought I was doing. I told her I still didn’t know that much about the gear, but I tried to make up for it by always being early and working hard. She agreed and gave me a raise.
Today, I am making more than any stagehand (although I’m not rich by any means), and those same guys are still working behind that stage. Sometimes I run into them. The fact that they thought they knew a lot really held them back, because they thought they didn’t have to work hard. In my opinion, that’s the problem with a lot of college graduates. But that’s the subject of another post.