Dear America - I'm a Millennial, and I'm not broke.
I'm really annoyed with reading articles every other day about how privileged Millennials feel and about how broke we are compared to Generation X.
I am a Millennial, and I'm not broke because I set goals, and work my butt off to achieve them.
Plain and simple.
I am not afraid of hard work. I am not afraid of opportunities. I have worked for some really amazing companies in my 5 and a half years in the workforce, and over the last 3 years, I've watched my salary increase by almost 40K.
Am I rich? By no means. Am I poor? Absolutely not.
But, I am successful in terms of what it America tells us it means to be a Millennial.
When I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, fresh out of the University of Georgia, I came into the real world with the expectation that I would have to work 5 years in the hole. At least that’s what they prepared us for coming into the workforce in the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.
That’s not a bad way to prepare - expect the worst, go get the best. That’s how I operate. Money isn’t going to just fall into your lap. So you have to make a point to go get it. However, that’s not a mentality I have always had, but it is a mentality I have adapted and gained through experience.
The average salary increase within a company is 3%. Let me tell you why that didn’t work for me.
I started my career working for the greatest television network in the world, and it seemed glamorous to the outsiders, but I was only making $31,500 in August 2010.
With a 3% increase in salary year over year, had I stayed on that path, in 2016 I would be making: $36,517.112.
No offense to people who make that much, but that’s not where I saw myself 5 and half years into the workforce. My first step was deciding early on that I only wanted to spend 3 years in the hole.
I took it upon myself to utilize my resources to secure my promotions steadily over the next few years. Here's how.
#1 Use your company resources
In every position I’ve held since working in TV, I’ve made sure to connect with people in positions that I wanted to hold. I asked them to mentor me, and invited constructive criticism. This has been integral in every promotion I’ve had.
Find someone of influence, and stay in constant communication, and use this person as your cheerleader. My mentor in TV was a Coordinating Producer. I shared with her my goals, my ideas, and my fears. She helped me to establish a trajectory for my goals, she helped me implement my ideas on live TV, and she helped me to tame my fears, which ultimately led to me creating a backup plan for leaving TV altogether.
I was up for a promotion, but the team of leaders did not want to give it to me, but having my CP as a cheerleader proved effective. She pushed back 3 times! She kept pushing back because she believed in me! Thanks to her, I was able to secure a promotion.
#2 Set goals.
I set goals in everything I do. The car I wanted to drive. The home I wanted to purchase, the neighborhood I wanted to purchase it in. The job title I wanted by 30. The salary I wanted before hitting 30. The amount of money I want saved by 35 (when I retire). Literally, everything.
Set your sights on what you want, and write it out, and don’t stop until you achieve it. Okay, okay, so I know you are thinking this won’t work. Here is my secret (not really a secret): set your goals in increments, and set them concurrently. I want this title, and this pay, by this age. You have an attainable goal and a proper timeline for achieving it. But set increments to monitor your pace, so you can adjust if necessary.
Example: Suppose I am a 23 year old Public Relations Assistant, making $35K. And say that I want to be a Public Relations Manager making $75K by age 28. Then, I need to make a milestone goal in between that time. So I set the goal that I want to be a Marketing Coordinator (or some mid-career role) making $50K by age 25. That puts me in position to hit an attainable milestone before hitting my ultimate goal. That keeps me on track, and I have noticeable progress to keep me motivated.
So back to you, what happens if you don’t achieve the $50K by the time you are 25 (or whatever your goal is), then assuming that you have been diligently working to achieve your goal, you make adjustments. You should be much further along than you were at age 23, and you make adjustments to accommodate your mid-term goal, and that will keep you on the right track for your long-term goal.
#3 Grow with your friends (and your significant other)
We are all familiar with the cliché statements “You are the company you keep” or “Birds of a feather, flock together.” These statements have never been more evident to me than during my transition into adulthood. Complacency is the key to mediocrity.
If you are stuck in a dead-end job and have friends who are stuck in dead-end jobs, who’s going to push whom? You will all be sitting in the same complacent state of mind, because you don’t have people around you actively pursuing being better. My friends at the time were (and still are) chasing their dreams—in law school, leaving the security of the finance industry to return to school to teach, etc. Watching my friends pushing to be better has always encouraged me, and still encourages me, to be better. I have in depth conversations with my friends about being better quite often. You have to elevate your mindset. If your friends can’t keep up with your pace, then it may be time to find new friends. Finding new friends because of growth is not a bad thing. If you don’t have friends who are smarter than you in some way, you are doing yourself a major disservice.
#4 Don’t be afraid to seek new opportunities
Every drastic jump I’ve gotten in salary increase has been because I decided to pursue new opportunities with outside companies. It’s 2016, and most companies don’t offer pension anymore. So what’s keeping you there?
In my opinion, many prospective companies, don’t expect to see long tenure at previous companies anymore. Of course, some tenure at a company will show that you don’t intend to walk away tomorrow, but that you are willing to invest time to make the company better. 1-2 years is a good period of time to feel a company out and see if it’s for you.
#5 Don’t be afraid to take chances
In all that you do, never be afraid to pursue your goals.
I left my dream company, and moved home with no job because my heart wasn’t in it. I had no experience in Marketing, and little to no connections in Atlanta, even though that was home. But I knew that breaking into marketing was the ultimate goal. I put my faith in God and my blessing of the gift of gab. I had to take all of my experiences and make them fit for the role I wanted. Here I am, less than 3 years from when I quit the security of my first job, sharing my experiences. It’s never too early, or too late. Just go out there, and do it!
#6 Work for it
Plain and simple. You want it? Work like you want it. Nobody else is going to get it for you, so your work ethic is a reflection of how bad you want it, how fed up you are with complacency, how strong your desire is to be better and achieve what you want.
All of this good old-fashioned advice, might be why Generation X was doing so much better than us when they were our age. They worked hard. However, we have so much more technology at our disposal and so many more opportunities available. We are much more fearless than our previous generation, and much more independent. Understand that, and utilize it. Use your Millennial resources, but don’t be afraid to work like you’re part of Generation X.
Not Broke in 2016