Millennial Toolkit: Three Career-Enhancing Exercises to Try Today

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How actively listening and clarifying our goals can help us in our career

Jane Adshead-Grant is an expert in helping individuals and teams develop their independent thinking through focused attention so that they could create new insights to move forward. She speaks regularly on the topic and has written a book called “Are You Listening or Just Waiting to Speak?”.

I met Jane at this year’s Voice at the Table Conference where she led a very popular workshop on how to create an inclusive culture and design meetings where all are encouraged to participate.

Jane has kindly agreed to share three exercises that can help Millennials enhance their career through listening actively and gaining clarity. I explain below how the exercises help Millennials, but they are equally useful to non-Millennials too.

The Power of Listening Actively

Today’s corporate culture is often filled with back-to-back meetings and as opinionated Millennials, we are used to having our voices heard. But have you ever considered whether you have been making the most effective use of your meetings?

Listening to learn instead of listening to reply

According to Jane, many of us use an ‘exchange thinking’ approach in meetings and discussions, believing that the way we can best contribute to the meeting is through voicing as many opinions as possible. While there is a place for exchange thinking, we tend to interrupt and listen to reply (i.e., already form responses while the other person is still speaking).

Learning to think independently

She suggests that in order to get the best quality thinking, we should try ‘independent thinking’, which requires individuals to think through the answers themselves and contribute to the meeting by asking powerful thought-provoking questions (e.g., ‘What are your thoughts in XYZ?’) and actively listening.

‘Independent thinking’ … requires individuals to think through the answers themselves and contribute to the meeting by asking powerful thought-provoking questions

This approach requires a mindset shift to recognising everyone as equals – while we may have different experiences and backgrounds, we all have equal capacity to think well.

Something to try tomorrow

Exercise 1: Practice Listening Actively

At your next 1 on 1 conversation, challenge yourself to listen to the other person speak for several minutes without interrupting or trying to think of a response.

The Power of Seeking Clarity

Many Millennials are charging full steam ahead into building portfolio careers with an opportunistic approach. However, Jane believes that it pays to be more deliberate in your plans and seek clarity before making important decisions.

Going through the below exercises should help you understand what you stand for, why you set out to achieve that you want to achieve and who you want to become. It will help clarify what you want your biggest contribution at home and at work to be.

Something to try tomorrow

Jane recommends the following two exercises to help gain clarity.

Exercise 2: Mapping out your desired achievements

  • Draw two timelines: one for professional and one for personal
  • On the left hand side, write ‘Now’. On the right hand side, write ‘In 10 Years’
  • On both lines, write down your desired achievements (e.g., for personal, this could be: marriage, moving to different country, children etc.)
  • Notice where on the two lines you have drawn your ideal achievements and where they may conflict.  If they do, reflect and consider your priorities and then choose how you may adjust the time line to accommodate your aspirations.

You may also want to share the results of this exercise with your partner.

Exercise 3: Designing the life you want

Reflect on the following questions:

  • What are your values and principles?
  • What is the ideal environment for you?
  • What are your capabilities and skillsets?
  • Which parts of your current life do you enjoy? How can you do more of them? Which parts of your current life do you dislike? How can you stop doing it? (e.g., outsource)

For more advice on communication and leadership, follow Jane’s blog. For more career articles for Millennials, follow us on Twitter @WeAreAcademe.

About the author

May Kwong is the co-founder of acadeMe. We are a women-led start up that coaches millennials and young professionals to identify their purpose and navigate the workplace effectively. We love talking about the power of feedback and building networks.


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