The Kids Are Alright: Advice For Helping The Next Generation Become Great

June 14, 2013

As summer begins (allegedly), we find ourselves again in the energetic season in which we tend to have a new batch of fresh young talent joining our ranks. Along with that comes the continued growth and professional development of the folks who were entry-level colleagues around this time last year.

No matter how good these young folks are — and, blessedly, Fast Horse has a track record of attracting some rather exceptional ones — they can’t navigate this wild world on their own. It’s up to us, the folks who’ve been around the block a few times, to help ease the pain and light the path. In many ways, people in my approximate position, having been around for several years but who haven’t yet risen to the glorified senior ranks, are best-suited to provide a lot of that guidance, as we offer a mix of solid experience while still being very close to the day-to-day work these invaluable younger colleagues will be doing. And we remember vividly the growing pains.

With that in mind, I offer this armchair-quarterback advice for anyone looking to help a budding professional play to win.

Be a friend
Have some new folks in the office? Take them out to lunch. Buy them coffee. Go grab a beer. Do weird things like talk to them. Get to know them and help them get to see what makes your place to work a kick-ass place to work. (Hint: The “opportunity” to build endless media lists or spend day after day making phone calls to overworked reporters is not appealing to anyone.) Help them navigate the ins and outs of the office and the people and the history and the habits.

Be a listener
It isn’t easy being “green.” Everything from compiling recap reports to managing client relationships to, often, even just having a real job is uncharted territory for your entry-level colleagues. They will inevitably need help or just need to vent. Let them know you’re willing and able to help them solve problems, let them get stuff off their chest, give them a chance to air their concerns or anxiety. Most important: Never make them feel like having questions or concerns or anxiety is anything but normal.

Be a coach
You might not know it when you look at the wildly successful career I’ve had thus far (tongue planted firmly in cheek), but I didn’t know shit from shit when I started working at my first real job in marketing. And even after five years at the first gig, coming to Fast Horse brought out some of those same feelings. New people need guidance, and you, as the wily vet, need to maintain appropriate expectations — which should be high but reasonable. And you should expect to spend time teaching and guiding. This includes providing strong, fair, purposeful criticism of the work they’re doing.

Be an advocate
Be there to help. Stick up for them. Get them involved in projects. Give them chances to learn and to succeed. Help them help you.

Either that, or you could just do all the work by yourself, right?