20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get

I started Docstoc in my 20’s, made the cover of one of those cliché “20 Under 20” lists, and today I employ an amazing group of 20-somethings.  Call me a curmudgeon, but at 34, how I came up seems so different from what this millennial generation expects.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and I see this generation making their own.  In response, here are my 20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get.

Time is Not a Limitless Commodity – I so rarely find young professionals that have a heightened sense of urgency to get to the next level.  In our 20s we think we have all the time in the world to A) figure it out and B) get what we want.  Time is the only treasure we start off with in abundance, and can never get back.  Make the most of the opportunities you have today, because there will be a time when you have no more of it.

You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated – Congratulations, you may be the most capable, creative, knowledgeable & multi-tasking generation yet.  As my father says, “I’ll Give You a Sh-t Medal.”  Unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are simply wasted potential.  There’s no prize for talent, just results.  Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success.  (Tip: read “Talent is Overrated”)

We’re More Productive in the Morning – During my first 2 years at Docstoc (while I was still in my 20’s) I prided myself on staying at the office until 3am on a regular basis.  I thought I got so much work done in those hours long after everyone else was gone.  But in retrospect I got more menial, task-based items done, not the more complicated strategic planning, phone calls or meetings that needed to happen during business hours.  Now I stress an office-wide early start time because I know, for the most part, we’re more productive as a team in those early hours of the day.

Social Media is Not a Career – These job titles won’t exist in 5 years. Social media is simply a function of marketing; it helps support branding, ROI or both.  Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue.  It’s not an end in itself.  I’d strongly caution against pegging your career trajectory solely to a social media job title.

Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person.  It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.  And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home.  Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.

Be the First In & Last to Leave ­– I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career.  You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove.  There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility.  You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do.  Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.  (Watch: Millennials in the Workplace Training Video)

Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes – You should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career.  But you shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution.  Stop trying to justify your F-ups.  You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes, and committing to learn from those experiences.

You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked –Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have.  This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career.  Working for someone that demands excellence andpushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success.

A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing ­­– 1-year stints don’t tell me that you’re so talented that you keep outgrowing your company.  It tells me that you don’t have the discipline to see your own learning curve through to completion.  It takes about 2-3 years to master any new critical skill, give yourself at least that much time before you jump ship.  Otherwise your resume reads as a series of red flags on why not to be hired.

People Matter More Than Perks – It’s so trendy to pick the company that offers the most flex time, unlimited meals, company massages, game rooms and team outings.  Those should all matter, but not as much as the character of your founders and managers. Great leaders will mentor you and will be a loyal source of employment long after you’ve left.  Make a conscious bet on the folks you’re going to work for and your commitment to them will pay off much more than those fluffy perks.

Map Effort to Your Professional Gain – You’re going to be asked to do things you don’t like to do.  Keep your eye on the prize.   Connect what you’re doing today, with where you want to be tomorrow.  That should be all the incentive you need.  If you can’t map your future success to your current responsibilities, then it’s time to find a new opportunity.

Speak Up, Not Out – We’re raising a generation of sh-t talkers.  In your workplace this is a cancer.  If you have issues with management, culture or your role & responsibilities, SPEAK UP.  Don’t take those complaints and trash-talk the company or co-workers on lunch breaks and anonymous chat boards.  If you can effectively communicate what needs to be improved, you have the ability to shape your surroundings and professional destiny.

You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops – Adding “Proficient in Microsoft Office” at the bottom of your resume under Skills, is not going to cut it anymore.  I immediately give preference to candidates who are ninjas in: Photoshop, HTML/CSS, iOS, WordPress, Adwords, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, Final Cut Pro – regardless of their job position.  If you plan to stay gainfully employed, you better complement that humanities degree with some applicable technical chops.

Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter – It’s who you know more than what you know, that gets you ahead in business.  Knowing a small group of folks very well, or a huge smattering of contacts superficially, just won’t cut it.  Meet and stay connected to lots of folks, and invest your time developing as many of those relationships as possible. (TIP: Here is myNetworking Advice)

You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek.  You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be.  Their free guidance and counsel will be the most priceless gift you can receive.  (TIP:  “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Mentors”)

Pick an Idol & Act “As If” – You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does.  I often coach my employees to pick the businessperson they most admire, and act “as if.”  If you were (fill in the blank) how would he or she carry themselves, make decisions, organize his/her day, accomplish goals?  You’ve got to fake it until you make it, so it’s better to fake it as the most accomplished person you could imagine.   (Shout out to Tony Robbins for the tip)

Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts – Your generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters:  all breadth and no depth.  Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover.  All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others.  Make sure to read a book a month  (fiction or non-fiction) and your career will blossom.

Spend 25% Less Than You Make – When your material needs meet or exceed your income, you’re sabotaging your ability to really make it big.  Don’t shackle yourself with golden handcuffs (a fancy car or an expensive apartment).  Be willing and able to take 20% less in the short term, if it could mean 200% more earning potential.  You’re nothing more than penny wise and pound-foolish if you pass up an amazing new career opportunity to keep an extra little bit of income.  No matter how much money you make, spend 25% less to support your life.  It’s a guaranteed formula to be less stressed and to always have the flexibility to pursue your dreams.

Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It – Over time, your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business.  It’s the invisible key that either opens or closes doors of professional opportunity.  Especially in an age where everything is forever recorded and accessible, your reputation has to be guarded like the most sacred treasure.  It’s the one item that, once lost, you can never get back.


source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/07/23/20-things-20-year-olds-dont-get/


A case study – Beer market – 10 years ago


The Carlsberg brand has been present in Vietnam since 1993, with the setting up of the South East Asian Breweries in Hanoi. The brewery has been producing its flagship Carlsberg brand, as well as developing a local brand, Halida.

Regionality of the Vietnamese Beer Market

Like many product categories in Vietnam the beer market does vary strongly from north to south. Whereas drinkers tend to be ‘bingers’ in the south (consume maybe only once or twice per week but in large quantities) northern consumers tend to be ‘tipplers’ (consume small quantities but  on a daily basis).


This is also reflected in brand usage with the preponderance of local brands in the mainstream segment (bia Hanoi in the north and bia Saigon in the south). Within the premium segment there is greater adoption of the more aspirational Heineken in the north, whereas Tiger, in addition to Heineken,  has a strong franchise in the south.


However overall Ho Chi Minh City has a much greater sales volume (approx. 70/30).


The Premium Beer Market

The premium beer market in Vietnam is primarily a repertoire market with consumers changing their brand depending on occasion and  location. The Carlsberg brand competes with Heineken and Tiger beer, both owned by  Vietnam Breweries Limited (VBL). These two brands effectively dominate the premium segment, partly due to their long presence in the market, and also due to their consistently high levels of marketing effort and spend.


Whereas Heineken is positioned as international, for businessmen, classy and  successful, Tiger is positioned as an international Asian brand and takes on a more masculine brand personality. Heineken has been  positioned as more premium than Tiger, warranting a higher pricing level. However a key issue for VBL has been how to avoid cannibalising its two key brands. There are now strong indications in the market that Tiger is acting more as a feeder brand for Heineken in the south, whereas consumers are by-passing Tiger completely in the north. This weakening of the Tiger franchise may represent an opportunity for Carlsberg.


Heineken, despite its brand strength,  has been attempting more recently to try to shed its more aloof, stuffy image by introducing elements of humour and ‘twentysomething’ into its communication.


Carlsberg, however, has been struggling to gain share from these two dominant players, along with Foster’s and San Miguel. Carlsberg has gained significant levels of trial, especially in Hanoi, but has struggled to convert this into repeat purchasing. This is mainly driven by its unclear brand identity; although consumers have an idea that it is European, premium and brings

European football to them, this positioning has not been communicated strongly enough  and has not been strong enough to gain regular brand usage.


Foster’s has also suffered, partly due to its later entry into the market, but also due to its struggle to communicate the relevance of the brands core positioning of ‘Australianism’. More recently the brand has surrounded itself with a sense of  slapstick humour, but this in itself seems unlikely to lift the brand into the consumer repertoire.


San Miguel on the other hand has adopted a different approach. It has recognised that it is unlikely to have the resources to tackle Heineken and Tiger head on; thus it has adopted a niche market position, for consumers who are independent and looking for a brand with something different. Exactly what they are looking for which is different has not yet been communicated but, nevertheless, it represents an interesting and different approach to the beer market.

The key driver for beer consumption inn Vietnam is to engender a sense of companionship with others. All beer brands (with the noticeable exception of the recent re-positioning of San Miguel) communicate a sense of sharing with others, this may be more a social occasion, in the case of Tiger, or more a sense of business facilitation, in the case of Heineken.

Carlsberg’s Task

Carlsberg must recognise its main task is to gain a foothold in the premium beer drinker’s repertoire. At present most consumption is driven by ‘push’ factors from promotion girls. In fact these may well create a negative impression for the brand since it is a brand being ‘forced’ upon them. The key is to encourage consumers to revisit the brand (by inducing re-trial) and thus get the brand into the repertoire.


There is no clear evidence that Carlsberg has a negative brand image, but more that the brand needs to explore what the core brand essence consists of, and how this can be exploited to create strong, relevant and unique brand associations.


This document outlines a research roadmap to develop the Carlsberg brand along the above guidelines in Vietnam.


The question is “Is there any question coming up to your mind on this case?”


Lan man.

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