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As a young professional, your most valuable asset is your career.  While you can watch endless videos on the benefits of making Roth IRA contributions or owning real estate, at the end of the day if you’re making $400,000 instead of $70,000 before reaching the age of 40, you will have the opportunity to build real wealth faster.

As the owner of an investment firm, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of very success Millennials that have either successfully grown a business or have climbed the corporate ladder much faster than their peers.   Even though these elite young professionals all have different backgrounds, personalities, and skill sets, I have noticed that there are 4 things that make them similar and I’m going to share them with you today.

They Take Risks Early & Often

Think about the last time you left a job; whether it was to take a job with a different company, start your own business, or take a new position within your current company, you probably spent days or maybe weeks in mental turmoil asking yourself questions like:

“Am I making the right decision?”

“What if I get to this new company and the position is not what they say it’s going to be?”

 “Should I risk going out on my own and starting a company?”

We have all been there, and it’s awful.  All you can think about is, “What if this does not work out the way I expect?”.  What I have noticed with this group of successful millennials is that they are able to recognize the uncertainty in those situations, but still choose to jump forward without ever looking back.  They are like cats in the way that no matter where they land down the road, the one thing they feel certain about is that they will land on their feet.

This is not just something that they do once or twice, but rather multiple times throughout their working careers. In general, the young professionals that really surge forward are the ones that take risks early on in their careers.  Starting a business or making a big career change when you are 25 with no mortgage and no family to support is typically easier to manage then taking that same risk when you have a mortgage and/or family to support.  We have seen young professionals start businesses and in year two or three the business nearly goes under, but they somehow held on, pushed forward, and they turned it into a wildly successful business.  There is no perfect age to take these leaps, but it’s just acknowledging that without a lot of advanced planning it becomes much more difficult to take these risks as your personal expenses grow.

Sense Of Purpose

When you talk with this group of successful Millennials, they all have a very strong sense of purposes. Now, sense of purpose does not necessarily mean that they have life all figured out.  Many of the professionals in this elite group will jokingly admit that they have no idea what the future holds for them, however, they can tell you at length what they love about their career and their explanation will often sound very different than if you were to ask their coworkers what they love about their job. 

Example, we have a client that provides custom software to companies and they have rising star on their team.  Looking at this employee’s resume and position within the company you would say “Ok, typical software developer, coder, very techy, etc.”  However, this employee has taken it upon himself to post videos to social media everyday as he builds robot armies, provides free strategies for solving problems using custom software, and he has amassed a huge following of tech fans wanting more. 

This was not something that his supervisor asked him to do or a task that is at all part of his job description.  Nope, he is sincerely passionate about helping companies to solve everyday problems using custom software and he puts it all out there for the world to see.  Such a clear sense of purposes that has allowed him to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary.   The tip here: figure out what you love and try to incorporate it into your career.

They Say “No”

This is kind of an odd one, but I have noticed this trait to be common among successful younger business owners and executives. They know when to say “No” to an opportunity.   For most professionals, the power of “No” comes later on in their careers after they have seen enough opportunities turn into complete train wrecks. Most younger professionals do not have 30 years of battle tested experience in an effort to execute their growth plans, they dine at what I call “the buffet of opportunity”. 

When you start a company or lead a team of executives, usually the main goal is to grow the company as fast as possible, so when you are presented with 3 growth ideas, you may decide to chase 2 or all 3 in an effort to grow the company.  Sometimes that’s ok, but what I have seen these successful Millennials recognize is that by committing all of their resources toward what they feel is the single best opportunity they are able to either succeed or fail FASTER.   A concept that was identified by Elon Musk of Tesla.

I was able to identify this trait through the actions of one of our clients. A young business owner that had a company in the energy sector and the company had been experiencing double digit growth for a number of years.  Since they had cash and they were looking for ways to grow the company, instead of just selling their product and then hiring third party contractors for the install, they decided that they could produce additional revenue by handling the installation themselves.

Two years after that decision was made, I was having breakfast with the owner of the company and he said that decision almost bankrupted the company.   While they were very good at producing their product, they were horrible at running construction teams and managing the liability associated with the installation process.  He said, “I should have just said no and stuck to what we were good at.” 

That experience made me aware of the Power of No being used by other young business owners and executives.  We have had clients that have said “No” to:

  • A large new client because it would tie the fate of their company to that client
  • Joint working relationship with other companies
  • Providing services related too but not associated with their core business
  • New investors in the company
  • Selling the company

All of these decisions are tough decisions to make, but I have noticed that our most successful young professionals are not afraid to look opportunity in the eye and say “not today”.

The L-Factor

An executive from Yahoo named Tim Sanders wrote a book a number of years ago called The Likeability Factor. The main idea of the book is people choose who they like and they tend to buy from them, hire them, and purposefully spend more time with them.   It may not be a surprise that many of the successful young professionals that we see growing businesses and sprinting up the corporate ladder have what Tim Sanders calls a high “L-Factor”.

Think of the clients and co-workers that show up at your office door and you know it’s going to be a fun and engaging conversation.  Those are the high L-factor people in our lives.  It’s been shown that those High L-factor executives tend to survive layoffs time after time because even though their actual position may be getting eliminated, the powers that be sometimes find a place for that person to land for no other reason than they liked them and wanted to keep them with the company.   

While I’m sure all of us can think of someone that is in a position of power that has an L-factor of zero, there are far many more business owners and executives that have made it to where they are today because they are likeable.

I feel like I could give you endless examples of instances where I have seen likeability play out in favor of successful young professionals, but I think everyone understands the general idea.  The one thing that I will point out though that is also in Tim’s book is that any level, you have the ability to raise your L-Factor.  Likeability is a skill like listening, negotiating, or public speaking.  It comes very natural to some people, but others have to work at it. 


Michael Ruger

About Michael………

Hi, I’m Michael Ruger. I’m the managing partner of Greenbush Financial Group and the creator of the nationally recognized Money Smart Board blog . I created the blog because there are a lot of events in life that require important financial decisions. The goal is to help our readers avoid big financial missteps, discover financial solutions that they were not aware of, and to optimize their financial future.

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Investment advisory services offered through Greenbush Financial Group, LLC. Greenbush Financial Group, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through American Portfolio Financial Services, Inc (APFS). Member FINRA/SIPC. Greenbush Financial Group, LLC is not affiliated with APFS. APFS is not affiliated with any other named business entity. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.