The Brave Millennial: An Empowering Space for Young Women

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"I firmly believe that our generation has the ability to change the world for the better," says Laura Youngkin, the founder of an exciting new project called The Brave Millennial. Beginning this past year, Youngkin set out to do just that. I had the pleasure of speaking with this inspiring woman to find out more about this project and even get a bit of life advice. Simply put, The Brave Millennial is an up-and-coming research and events-based project by and for millennial women. It is intended to be a safe space for millennial women to share their stories and be supported in whatever they need to talk about. The inspiration for this project stemmed from Youngkin's own life experiences. The year 2015 saw major transitions in Laura's personal and professional life, and she realized that her peers were struggling through similar aspects and changes in life as well. Says Youngkin, "I just wanted to give back to my peer group, or influence others in some way. So I just started thinking about how I could do that. And that was really how it developed." From there, Laura created a website and social media pages, as well as started planning cross country events, to promote the project's messages and start conversations.

Some of the main ideas of The Brave Millennial might be initially surprising. Laura emphasizes in a positive way that life doesn't always take the path you might expect, but this can have wonderful results. She left her beloved job at Disney to start her own business and this passion project. She also explains that being too prescriptive can be too restrictive. You may think you have a set life path, but it will likely take a different (and exciting!) direction. In fact, this is where the inspiration for the name The Brave Millennial comes from: being unafraid of taking risks, stepping into the unknown, and being okay with it. 

The future of this project is not set in stone, but promising. Youngkin explains that this year is, "phase 1 of what this project is, and I am really just doing so much research. So people are taking surveys, coming to events; I'm hosting conversations and listening...the goals are really to listen, learn, and assess the need. I want to be able to eventually promote and tell positive stories about my peers, but I also want to highlight any needs or barriers, and invite industry experts to come and contextualize those challenges in a broader sense and advise beyond what I can say.” In doing so, Laura hopes to make this project really relevant and helpful for millennial women.

As a young millennial woman myself, about to enter the professional world, it was comforting to hear a woman with such a strong educational and professional background express understanding and concern with some of the same problems I have found myself recently experiencing. And that is exactly what this project aims to do: bring women together in a welcoming, helpful and understanding space.For additional information about this project, be sure to check out The Brave Millennial website, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest news, events, and interesting posts!

Want more of a taste of what The Brave Millennial is all about? Read on for Laura's top 10 tips for graduating women.

1. You define your own success; be patient about achieving your goals.

The first year out of school, whether that’s college, grad school, etc. is tough for everyone, even people who move immediately into jobs in their field. It takes time to build a career, financial health, and your personal/professional identity. Your adult life is not going to magically “start” the year after graduating. Don’t put pressure on yourself to compete with your peers. Everyone is going to develop in their own way over time. You do you.

2. Learning doesn’t stop after college.

Make reading (books, papers, articles, etc.) a priority and a practice. Push yourself into new experiences that will require you to build and stretch your skill-sets: both your hard skills and your soft skills.

3. "Don’t get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life."- Dolly Parton

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being someone of “value” in the workplace, that we lose perspective on everything else (family, relationships, your own health and self improvement). Practice setting boundaries with yourself, and learn to say NO! Developing that good habit now will serve you for years to come, and will also help you avoid burnout, which is becoming a major issue for strong, intelligent, driven women of our generation.  

4. Find advocates in addition to mentors.

We all need and benefit from having mentors, so make sure to develop and nurture those relationships. But try to find a few mentors who are also champions and advocates of you and your work. These advocates can not only guide you professionally, but help you find, create, and build upon opportunities. You attract advocates by your actions and performance! Perform well and develop authentic relationships with colleagues and people you respect and admire. The best mentoring relationships are a two-way street.  

5. Learn how to negotiate.

Negotiating skills are some of the most important communication skills you can develop. Whether you’re buying a car, being hired for a new job, or collaborating with co-workers—negotiating is a part of life. I recommend reading Fearless Negotiating by Michael Donaldson. His “wish, want, walk” method is simple and effective!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, in whatever aspect of your life.

It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t mean that you’re not capable… But sometimes you can’t do things on your own, and you’d be surprised at how supportive your colleagues, friends or family will be if you just ask! Remember, none of us accomplishes anything alone.

7. Opt out of toxic relationships.

Be mindful about the company you keep. As we grow older, it is okay to become more selective about who we spend quality time with. It’s okay to say goodbye to relationships that unhealthy or that don’t serve you. Dating someone who doesn’t treat you well? Have a friend you can’t trust or rely on? Letting go of these relationships can be hard, but it is oh-so worth it in the long run.

8. Call your parents.

If your parents, grandparents, whoever raised you are still in your life, make time to call them. These relationships mature as you grow older, and they can be very rewarding in your young adult life. Your parents have been where you are and can offer a surprising amount of support and wisdom if you give them the chance.

9. Keep your social media cleaned up!

I can’t stress how important this is. What you post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. is a reflection of you, and oftentimes it's permanent. Recruiters use social media to check you out in the hiring process. Time to untag/delete any party photos from college! Smart, articulate, accomplished young women can end up looking irresponsible, immature, and unprofessional because of party posts. Social media is a great place to express yourself, but be mindful of your internet image.

10. Learn how to manage your personal finances.

Take an online course, read a book, ask your parents—do what you can to learn about how to manage and maximize your personal finances. Avoid getting into unnecessary credit card debt; it might be tempting to splurge on a fancy purse, but it will cost you more down the road. Live within your means, save what you can, and don’t avoid checking your bank account—you should be tracking it every day!

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About The Author

Senior Communication Major at UMass Amherst

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