As Spring begins to bloom, two annual traditions occur: my allergies go nuts and millennials enter the workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of the American workforce is between the ages of 21 and 36. Looking back at nearly a decade in the industry, I want to impart some hard-earned advice and wisdom to these bright-eyed individuals. Seeing as the May issue of SCN celebrates young professional with The Nine, I couldn’t think of a better place to share what I’ve learned in my career thus-far.
First, be bold! AV is all about connecting with younger generations by creating one-of-a-kind experiences at concerts, museums, festivals, retail spaces, churches, and more. As a result, your opinion carries weight in the boardroom—who else knows how to effectively reach millennials more than you do? Every entry-level position comes with a healthy amount of distrust because nothing has been earned, but this should be an encouragement to work hard, take what’s yours, and weigh in on strategic decisions. If you feel you have been heard and understood, but your counsel is not acted upon it’s okay—the important thing is that you were heard.
Next, as you learn the trade and become a skilled worker, it is important that you try new things. Doing things the way they’ve always been done produces the same results we’ve already achieved. While some best practices hold true and are best followed for safety, efficiency, and scope, it is important to challenge past practices. This requires some prerequisite knowledge, and certifications provide an excellent jumping off point, but waiting to know everything means you will never truly differentiate. The earlier you learn from your mistakes, the better…because you will find something new that excites and inspires that much sooner.
The most important advice I could ever give—be a sponge. Learn everything about anything and don’t slow down. A few focused ways to do this: get a mentor, get certified, read books, be persistent, invest in yourself, and make friends.
Having a mentor grows you by injecting others’ experience and knowledge into your career path and pushes you to think from a different perspective. A great mentor will often frustrate you, because they are different from you. Lean into those differences and you’ll reap the rewards.
Certifications teach you the basic principles needed to intelligently work with others. They are not a substitute for experience, but a terrific supplement. Getting AV, IT, project management, and HR certifications will grow your world immensely.
Reading books constantly is also highly encouraged. Turning off the TV and opting to read leadership and development books is a great way to grow yourself. DM me for some recommendations to get started.
Persistence is a rare quality, because it requires confidence in who you are and tough skin. If you need questions answered or are excited about an upcoming training seminar and really want to attend, don’t take no for an answer. Often others are too busy to understand what you are asking for, or even why, but when you persistently ask, it becomes apparent that you are serious, and once people take you seriously, doors will open, The caveat to persistence, however, is timing. Knowing when to push and when to wait is important, and respecting your superior’s time is crucial.
If you won’t spend time and money on yourself why would you expect others to? If your company doesn’t pay for training and testing materials for certifications, don’t let this become a roadblock to a career path. Often showing up with a receipt for a certification communicates that you take yourself seriously and that you are a force to be reckoned with, and can result in a check being written. If not though, you have only made yourself more of an authority and will command greater responsibility, either with your current employer or with another who values the training and experience you possess.
Making friends along the way has been one of the greatest joys of working in the AV industry. Connecting at trade shows, social events, and job sites has introduced me to countless men and women who are at the top of their game. They have all pushed me to be greater and want more though their example, and I doubt I would be achieving success the way I am if I didn’t look outside my own company to see just how high the ceiling could be. Twitter has been an incredible tool to stay connected to many of these folks, and I encourage you to follow #AVintheAM and #AVTweeps online (you can find me @LukeJordanEAVI). If you wake up to 100-plus notifications though, I apologize in advance.
The last piece of advice I have for you—do what you say you’ll do. If you back up your promises, you will stand out, and ,if you don’t think you can, then don’t make a promise. I’ve been rewarded for being honest about our company’s ability to achieve results within a timeline and often that looks like changing the scope to be more realistic or pushing the deadline back. Of course, you have to be willing to lose a job or a client over your principles, and taking risks is a part of greatness, but the last thing you ever want is to be associated with work that doesn’t inspire others to create. Your boss/clients/peers will keep coming back if you hold up your end of the bargain.
Best wishes as you find yourself on you AV journey, and don’t forget to @ me!