Millennials have been brought up to celebrate everything, even failure. From kindergarten graduation ceremonies to cheers of support for a child who strikes out in a T-ball game, everyday achievements were lauded. Unlike previous generations, millennials won awards for participating, but not necessarily winning, sports events and other extra-curricular activities.
I am often asked if this “celebrate everything” approach to raising children will be a problem when they reach a working age. I don’t. Instead, I think the workforce will benefit from an influx of younger people who have been raised to be comfortable with taking chances and accepting that failure sometimes occurs as a result. In a country and a corporate environment that so badly craves innovation, embracing a generation that isn’t afraid to take reasonable chances – ones that are backed up by sound thinking and research – is exactly what we need.
While promoting a “celebrate everything” attitude seems at odds with historical workplace culture, which famously celebrates top-down, negative leadership, many employers have woken up to the fact that positive leadership is more productive leadership. They have already shifted from a culture that discourages and punishes errors to one that celebrates them. This makes sense: Why would parents, teachers and athletic coaches continue to “celebrate everything” if it didn’t work?
These companies, clued in to the potential of a positive workplace, are helping to foster the next generation of Canada’s reasonable risk takers – the principal players in the innovation economy we so badly seem to need.
For millennials, this means that the “don’t be afraid to fail” spirit that we’ve been brought up with can help us be innovative – and even irreplaceable – employees and leaders in the workplace, especially in an environment that we’ve been warned may feature plenty of “job churn.”
Here are a few ways that millennials can productively fail, innovate and thrive early in their career.
Be reasonable in pursuing risk: Just as you wouldn’t approach the plate at a T-ball game blindfolded and with your shoelaces untied, you shouldn’t pursue unreasonable risk in the workplace either. Risk-taking is most effective when it is well-researched and well-reasoned. For example, preparing a video resume for a job in advertising is a reasonable risk. So is pitching a well-researched idea to your manager or boss. Winging it in a meeting with a client because you think you have strong improv skills, on the other hand, is not.
Learn from failures: One of the greatest gifts of taking reasonable risk is that there are valuable lessons to be learned that can help you and/or your employer adjust, improve or innovate. Your video resume may be rejected by the first employer you send it to, but the feedback you receive can help you adjust your approach for the next time. The idea you pitched your boss may not work, but if you demonstrate a willingness or even eagerness to receive constructive feedback, you will not only gain knowledge and understanding of your job, company and industry, but you will likely be among the first people he or she turns to when they need help with something new.
Persevere: It’s easy and incredibly common to lose your comfort with failure as things start to get real, and especially if you work in an environment or are searching for a job in an industry that hasn’t adopted an innovative culture where it feels safe to take on reasonable risk.
My advice? Keep plugging away. While career stability in the past relied on picking a job or profession and sticking with it, stability in the future will come from your ability to thrive in an environment of change. This is exactly what a “celebrate everything” approach promotes.
Lauren Friese is the founder and former CEO of TalentEgg, a campus recruitment website. She is a keynote speaker and consultant on millennials and the future of work.Report Typo/Error
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