Sticky workplace situations will inevitably come up all through your career. But earlier on, with less experience under your belt, it can be tough to figure out how to resolve them. Questions like how do you ask for a raise and when? Should you confront a coworker who’s constantly putting you down? We’ve all been there.
Knowing how to best handle yourself in each scenario can make or break the way your colleagues and managers view you, which can translate into how much you’re paid or whether you’re promoted. To help you navigate through some common workplace conundrums, we tapped Dan Schawbel, millennial career and workplace expert, for his advice on what you can do now to be taken more seriously at work.
Q: Should I let my coworkers know how young I am? I feel like it might help me in some ways but hurt me in other ways.
Schawbel: You should never let your coworkers know how young you are - unless they ask. And the reason is because it is less about age and more about the actual results you deliver. That's what's really going to push the company forward and what you’re going to get compensated for.
Q: When you start your first job, do you have any leverage to negotiate your salary?
Schawbel: When you start your first job, you should start building a business case of why you should make more money and get a promotion. It takes about six months to be a fully functional employee, and to start achieving some sort of business results to prove your worth. Document everything, especially the results that you bring to the corporation. Whether you increase revenue or decrease costs, you're able to prove your value and your worth and that gives you a case to make more money and get more promotions down the line. If you don't document it and just ask for casual compensation boosts or promotion, forget about it. It’s not going to happen for you.
Related: What are millennials really doing with their money?
Q: What's an appropriate time to leave the office when work has been finished for the day?
Schwabel: If you have extra time before the working day is over, find other people in the office that need help and help them. That way, you're over-delivering, you're building new contacts, forging stronger relationships, and creating more value for yourself which will be invested over the long term.
Related: Here's why the first day of work makes you want to crawl under your desk and die
Q: I hate it when coworkers call me "Sweetie" or "Honey" or any pet name, it's so infuriating. How do you get people to stop that?
Schwabel: Go with the straightforward approach. You have to set them aside, to not say it in front of a group, and tell them that it's distracting you from being productive and hurting your working relationship. They may not even realize what they’re doing and that it was bothering you. If you don't ask them to stop, and they keep calling you pet names, it’s your fault.
Q: If I’m being teased about how young I am, how do I put my foot down without coming across as arrogant?
Schawbel: If you suffer from ageism in the workplace, you want to prove them wrong. They might try and play you into the generational stereotypes of being lazy and narcissistic and entitled, but forget about that. Be a good teammate by providing value, making their lives easier by doing work that no one else wants to do. And if that doesn’t work, take your colleague aside, make them understand how you feel and how it's hurting your productivity and affecting your work performance. If that still doesn’t work, it’s okay to let your manager know.
Q: I want to increase my skillset and want to ask for training, but I'm afraid of looking like I don't know anything. How do I go about handling this?
Schawbel: You are accountable for your own learning and training. There are plenty of low-cost or free training resources like Udacity.com or U-2-me.com, to educate yourself. And you should also be proactive in the workplace by trying to get your manager to sponsor a class or two, attend a conference or seminar, because a lot of companies provide that. Never be afraid to ask for help at work because you won’t seem stupid if you're looking like you want to learn and become better. It's only going to be more useful to your company, helping provide them with more value to their bottom line.
Q: Why doesn't anyone ever give me feedback? How do you ask for feedback and how often?
Schawbel: Feedback is essential in the workplace if you want to improve in anything that you do. You've got to ask for it consistently: after meetings, reviews and projects that you present. When you accumulate feedback you always have to take the criticism and not make the same mistake twice. That's how you will aggressively work your way to the top of an organization. If your manager gets sick of you asking for feedback, they're not a great manager. Remember, the more you improve, the easier you make their life and part of the manager’s role is to help you improve.
Resume confessions of a former recruiter