Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Career advice millennial workers would give their younger selves

People working in an office.

monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto

As a millennial, you are a part of a generation that makes up close to 40 per cent of the Canadian work force.

And while a tough job market might have you feeling discouraged about your prospects of securing meaningful employment in your chosen field, many millennials who share your attitude toward work and life but were born in the earlier part of the generation are now well-established in their careers.

I talked to five of them – two entrepreneurs, an advertising executive, a non-profit digital-marketing executive, and a lawyer – and asked them to share the career-building advice they would give their younger selves.

Story continues below advertisement

Here's what they had to say:

Go above and beyond

Tyler Turnbull, 33, chief executive officer of FBC Canada, a global marketing and communications network:
"In the early stages of your career, be willing to do anything to help the business and your team. Getting coffee, photocopying, couriering documents – all are critical to early success because you never know what a small task may lead too. Be open to everyone and help wherever you can – it will come back 10 times over throughout your career."

Chris Yung, 33, associate at Stikeman Elliott, a business law firm:
"Take ownership of your work. Junior employees often have the scope of their tasks very specifically defined, and when that happens it's easy to figure that it isn't really necessary to understand the bigger picture, or to get involved in aspects outside of your area. But the best junior employees take an active interest in how their own work fits into a bigger whole. If you show engagement with the bigger project, you'll find people will want you more involved."

Rumeet Billan, 33, president and chief executive officer of Viewpoint Leadership, a learning and development firm:
"Constantly challenge your assumptions and learn from people from different departments and industries. Even though I don't work in animation, I once signed up for a tour of a top Toronto Animation studio. I learned their processes and was able to then apply what I learned to my own business in the education sector. The experience made me more efficient and effective in my own career."

Alyssa Furtado, 32, co-founder and chief executive officer of RateHub.ca, a financial comparison platform:
"If you're ambitious and looking to learn as much as possible and move up within a company, look for ways that you can help your company grow after you've mastered your specific role. This is especially true in small business and startup environments where there is never a shortage of work to be done. Create amazing challenges for yourself and take the initiative to work on new projects – you'll find that you end up carving your own path and driving your own success. Don't just do the role and the job you've been given, do the work of the role you want. Soon, it will be yours."

Be professional

Story continues below advertisement

Andrea Lazor, 34, director of client services at Grassriots, a digital agency servicing non-profits:
"I found that the No. 1 quality that helped me progress in my career, especially in the early days, was attention to detail. Be meticulous, don't send e-mails with spelling or grammatical errors (including internal e-mails), and triple check all your numbers. This will save your boss a lot of time and ultimately earn you at least one quick promotion."

Find mentors

Chris Yung, Stikeman Elliott:
"Try and find mentors at different levels. At my firm we've formalized this for our students. A junior mentor is basically a colleague with just a little more experience than you, a year or two, someone you're very comfortable with and can bombard with so-called "dumb questions" (no such thing). A mid-level mentor has maybe three to five years of experience more than you, and can offer lots of immediately practical advice. Senior mentors are those who have been around your work for many years, and they can leverage that experience to offer "big picture" perspectives."

Be bold

Andrea Lazor, Grassriots:
"I got my first agency job by e-mailing the president of my "dream company," thinking at the time that my e-mail would surely go into a giant pit of unopened e-mails from years past. A job posting didn't exist, but my e-mail somehow got forwarded to the account services team, which happened to be in need of support. A couple of interviews and less than two weeks later I was offered a job as an account executive. If you know where you want to work, don't wait for a job posting. In my experience, timing is everything and many jobs get snatched up before they are posted."

Chris Yung, Stikeman Elliott:
"Starting out can be tricky, because you don't have experience to draw on and you can have a lot of doubts about your judgment calls. But in retrospect I think I was overcautious. Keep your seniors informed on what you're doing so they can intervene if needed, but in the end I think it's important to have confidence in one's self (which in turn instills others' confidence in you). Remember that everyone started on the bottom of the learning curve."

Story continues below advertisement

Tyler Turnbull, FBC Canada:
"Have a point of view and don't be afraid to share it. But be sure to make it count by learning everything you can about your business. Be curious about everything and write, debate, share and be passionate about what you do."

Take reasonable risks

Rumeet Billan, Viewpoint Leadership:
"After completing my undergraduate degree, I felt pressure to look into graduate school right away, but I decided that I wanted to pursue a few continuing education courses before considering a graduate degree. This went against the norm of what my peers were doing, but it was the best decision I could have made for myself. The courses that I took had an impact on my personal and professional growth as an entrepreneur: Don't get caught up with credentials or the title of your role. Instead, get caught up with the experiences you will be exposed to. These are the experiences that will open doors and broaden your perspective."

Andrea Lazor, Grassriots:
"Though I absolutely love where I ended up, if I could go back in time, I would have tried something riskier early on – maybe a more creative path, or perhaps starting my own business. Even though I know it's never too late, the longer you wait, the harder it is to step away from a career that you've put years into."

Alyssa Furtado, RateHub.ca:
"If you're hoping to start your own business, start as early as possible. There's a surprising amount of sacrifice required both of your time and money to launch something you're passionate about. As you age and add a life-partner, mortgage and children to your life, those sacrifices become more difficult. If your true passion is to start a business, the reward is so worth it so start now."

Enjoy the journey

Tyler Turnbull, FCB Canada:
"If I could go back in time, I would have stressed less about every meeting and enjoyed the journey more."

Lauren Friese is the founder and former CEO of TalentEgg, a campus recruitment website. She is now at RBC focusing on the employee digital experience.

Report an error
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.