Who remembers what it was like starting out in your career? Think back to that time and the rollercoaster of the newness of everything - equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking.
While every generation has to deal with what we’d now call disruption, imagine navigating a career launch amidst a rapidly evolving workplace marked by the upheaval we’re currently witnessing in the world of work. This is the reality facing Gen Z and younger professionals today. While the uncertainty can seem daunting, with the right guidance and support, these emerging leaders can develop the agile skills needed to succeed in the future of work. As experienced professionals, we have a duty to shepherd the next generation and invest in their potential and it's time to share our hard-won knowledge and elevate the rising stars of tomorrow.
On this International Youth Day, here are 11 impactful ways you can help young(er) workers build skills, find opportunities, and maximize their potential.
Promote Continuous Learning
With rapidly evolving technologies and automation transforming many jobs, ongoing learning is essential. Encourage young professionals to regularly enhance their skills through courses, certificate programs, hands-on training, and real-world experiences. Share insights on high-demand skills like data analytics, coding, and UX design. Support younger workers in assessing their capabilities and developing expertise in high-demand roles.
Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion
As we look to the future of work, it's crucial that we prioritize diversity and inclusion. By creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace, we can tap into a wider range of perspectives and ideas, which can ultimately lead to better outcomes. Encourage younger workers to embrace diversity and inclusion, and provide them with opportunities to work with people from different backgrounds. By doing so, we can create a more tolerant and accepting workplace that encourages collaboration and creativity.
Champion Workplace Training
Beyond self-directed learning, advocate for robust workplace training initiatives targeting younger staff. Skills building should be extensively incorporated into onboarding and ongoing development programs. If current offerings are inadequate, push leadership to invest more resources in systems like learning management platforms, skills gap assessments, and role-relevant training. The more younger workers can upskill on the job, the better.
Offer Hands-On Guidance
Don't just tell young professionals what skills to learn - show them. Provide hands-on guidance, such as walk-throughs of software, observation of client meetings, or co-working on presentations to help them master new abilities. Let them shadow you to observe how you apply a particular skill set or technology. Walk them through tasks collaboratively to pass on knowledge. Give meaningful assignments that let them put new skills into practice. Immersive guidance accelerates capability building.
Introduce Growth Opportunities
Expose younger workers to projects and roles where they can gain experience and new abilities. Proactively present them with opportunities to join cross-functional initiatives, collaborate with senior team members, take on client-facing work, manage people, lead projects or volunteer groups, and tackle new responsibilities. Growth accelerates when people are given real, meaningful opportunities.
Share Your Network
A robust professional network is invaluable for advancement and opportunity. Help connect younger workers with your network by making introductions, inviting them to networking events, and recommending them for open positions in your broader connections. Provide advice on networking strategies and how to cultivate impactful professional relationships. Your connection can open many doors.
Offer Advice and Feedback
Have open conversations with younger professionals about their skills gaps, career goals, and plans for growth. Provide constructive feedback to help them improve and avoid potential pitfalls. Share your experience and lessons learned at various career stages. Offer to review resumes, practice interviews, look over presentations, and assist with other career-boosting preparations. Your wisdom can help them excel.
Be a Mentor
One of the most profound investments you can make in young professionals is formal mentorship. Commit to being a resource they can turn to for guidance, accountability, honest feedback, and support. Make yourself available for regular check-ins and to answer questions. Introduce them to other experts in your network. Share insights and connections that help them gain visibility and opportunity. Quality mentoring accelerates growth.
Advocate for Advancement
When you see younger workers excelling, you can make the most difference by being their strongest advocate by providing recommendations for promotions, raises, awards, etc. The validation from you, an experienced professional, carries a lot of weight. Your belief in them helps build their confidence and reputation.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
While it is important for younger professionals to work hard, it is also important to encourage a healthy work-life balance. Encourage them not to overwork themselves and to take breaks when necessary. Encourage them to take care of their physical and mental health by eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest. Setting reasonable expectations and not overburdening younger staff.
Provide Opportunities for Collaboration
Collaboration is a great way for up-and-coming professionals to learn from their peers and gain new perspectives. Provide opportunities for them to collaborate with their colleagues both within and outside of their departments. Encourage them to share their ideas and knowledge with others, and to seek feedback and input from their peers via cross-team projects, feedback groups, job shadowing, and more.
International Youth Day reminds us to celebrate the ingenuity and potential of young professionals worldwide, but that future will depend greatly on empowering younger generations with in-demand skills, strong networks, and quality mentorship. By investing your time and wisdom in the next generation, you can have an immense impact on their preparedness and trajectory. Support young professionals in refining their capabilities, provide guidance and opportunity, connect them to your network, and champion their advancement. We all have a role to play in ensuring a bright future of work for youth worldwide.