The missing ingredient for young professionals…

Somehow April is upon us. Not quite sure how that happened…It feels like just yesterday that I saw everyone on Facebook was making New Year resolutions. Right? Nonetheless, over three months of 2014 have finished and as we enter April, it is getting close to graduation. When college kids must use what they’ve learned and take on the real world. But is what they learned enough to truly succeed?

Sure. They’ve busted their butts getting good grades and awesome internships, but do they know how to think critically? Can they recognize a better way to do something? After being in the workforce for a few years now, I think this is a skill that isn’t taught enough to properly prepare students to truly reach their career goals. Too many people come in and simply accept the way things are and keep working. But they shouldn’t be; they should be thinking, “Does it make sense to do this?”

While college graduates shouldn’t question every single thing, they need to be able to see big picture and also recognize what can be improved. The truth is, the people who have worked in the same place for a number of years have a harder time recognizing the need for improvements sometimes because they are jaded. To be honest, it’s the ability to think critically, which sets will set people apart within an organization.

A company hires people to do a certain job, but the people who can not only do their job BUT also improve their role is way more valuable than someone who simply does the job. Companies are looking for ways to be more efficient and if young professionals are able to recognize a deficiency and save or make the company money, they’ll be rewarded. Promise.

Thinking critically doesn’t mean giving your boss feedback with everything he or she says, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for as many detail as possible. A lot of times, with first jobs, you’ll help out with a part of job here, or part of a job there, and you don’t always get to see the whole picture. Don’t be afraid to ask your boss about the rest of the project, so you can see the value of what you are doing and understand everything that’s going on.

Two pieces of advice to read before you try to think critically and improve your company:

1)      Don’t jump right in and offer ways to change things. Slow down and observe. Listen. Learn what is really happening and see if there is a reason for it. Remember, people have worked hard in creating the atmosphere and process, which you are suggesting needs a change. Show respect and be thoughtful. You want your ideas to be respected and have value. Go for quality, not quantity.

2)      Act like you’ve been there before and keep going. So…you’ve done it. You’ve shown that you can think outside the box for the good of all. Now what? Nothing. Keep working. Definitely celebrate in your personal time, but in public, don’t make a big deal out of it. No one likes a show-off. Be humble. You may not hear it, but you will gain more respect by just pressing forward.

As the year continues to push forward and graduation creeps closer and closer, please remember to think critically. Don’t be a drone. Just don’t do your job; add value.

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