To Millennials in the Workplace: Seven Things You Need to Know
Disclaimer: There are some broad sweeping generalizations at play here. Keep in mind we compiled this list to help, not humiliate. Millennials are supposed to be driven by feedback, right? Don't worry, we also poke at our old, technologically inept selves, too.
There have been many articles recently floating around the interwebs about Millennials in the workplace, as they are in and hovering on the edge of becoming part of the professional world. Working with Millennials isn't the nag that many people believe it to be ... that is, if you address the issues that are generationally attributed head on, honestly, and with respect. Being that we have at any one time up to nine Millennials in the office at once and are not a big fan of mutiny, the Gen X'ers (along with our Millennial counterparts) developed this guide for you to implement at your office or in your Millennial life:
- Ribbons for everyone? Your parents duped you. Author William Deresiewicz, in a recent Salon interview, had these harsh words to say: "They are intellectually underpowered and full of themselves, because they've been told their whole life how wonderful they are." That's called "entitlement," by the way. Turns out, not only is there not a ribbon for everything you participate in, but many times, there isn't even a ribbon for being "the best" at something. Meritocracy has failed you. Gen X found out through movies like Reality Bites and Fight Club that we are not special unique snowflakes and, unfortunately, you have to find it out in the work place.
- Helicopter parents aren't just ruining college, they are ruining your life. The professionals you work with do not care what your parents think you should be earning, or what hours they think you should be working, or the ... do we need to go on? We didn't think so. Part of your job as a new professional is to educate your parents on the jobs you apply for, the major you studied for, and the space you work within. This isn't their punch in at 8 a.m., one- to two-martini lunch, punch out at 5 p.m. reality. This is 2014. We work from anywhere and have the flexibility to live on our own schedule; in exchange, we have to get work done when work needs to be done. In a creative industry, we are more project-based than "put your time in"-based. Please let your parents know that.
- Millennials are connected—selfie anyone? Millennials are indeed the most connected generation in history and are connected all over the world by e-mail, instant messages, text messages, and the Internet—but that doesn't mean that these "skills" translate line-by-line to the business place. Extra time and some patience are needed to acclimate a generation of texters to the nuances of a well-constructed e-mail, using a subject line appropriately, being concise as opposed to flooding inboxes with dozens of one-liners, et cetera. As to the use of social media in the workplace, with Millennials, once they warm up to how to use a voice that is not their own, they can be set free to flourish and surpass their older counterparts in the social sphere. Now, can we get them to analyze big data and make a case for business and strategy? That remains to be seen, in our experience. This might be an "experience" not "training" situation that we just have to wait out. We are hopeful.
- Structure. Structure. Structure. This one is for the employers. Did I mention Millennials need structure? Reports have monthly due dates. Some jobs have fairly regular hours. Certain activities are scheduled every day. Meetings have agendas and minutes. Goals are clearly stated and progress is assessed. Define assignments and success factors with, not for, your Millennial. Millennials need to see where their career is going and they want to know exactly what they need to do to get there. Millennials await their next challenge—there better be a next challenge. Stagnant is not a word they will cling to, nor should they.
- Listen and write; write and listen. In our office, we realized that Millennials weren't fulfilling many of the steps of a multistep process after step two or step three and that is, in our experience, based on lack of listening and writing down what was said. Totally curable! Millennials: If you aren't listening for the details, a lot of times you miss out on the best parts—the details, the bits and pieces that make PR pros so amazing and magical! We find and execute the smallest detail perfectly; that's what we are paid for. If you are distracted when someone is outlining the need, you may miss the entire point of the project or process. So do yourself a favor and redevelop those interpersonal skills, and complete the feedback loop in the communication process. (Remember COM 101? See, it's useful, after all.) With a few sound follow-up questions, heck, you might know and really understand what is being asked of you. Wouldn't it be amazing to leave a meeting and feel like you know what is needed of you and how to fulfill it? We thought so.
- Think, research, ask. You see, you may have trained the "thinking" portion of your creative mind right out of you by having to perform against, or on, standardized tests that show that you know what to regurgitate back. But have you learned the material? We claim, "Hell, no." So when this happens, which invariably, it will, we beg of you to think, research, ask. In that order. First, think: Did you learn this information already? If so, how should you apply it in this instance? Second, couldn't come up with a reasonable solution after thinking? Don't sweat it—you have more resources at your fingertips than ever before. You know, when we were walking up hill to school both ways without shoes on in the winter time, we had a lot of time to think about things. Now, you just spend seconds thinking, so spend more time researching for the answer if it doesn't immediately come to you. Finally, and it's critical that it comes last–-ask. We will likely want to know the process by which you came to us for this ask. Where did you start? What did you learn before coming to us? Did you even try? All of these are really important to us as we are trying to reprogram a generation of students with instant access to data since falling out of the womb. We will help you through the process of course. But first, what have you done so far?
- Get a mentor. We love you. We want you to succeed. We take you very seriously, as you are the future! We secretly want to be you. The most powerful and optimistic generation in eons and we get to work with you. It's a joy. Honestly, we want you to be well-prepared and to help hone your craft, so ask us to mentor you or grab a drink with us every so often and keep us updated on what all you are doing. We have what you need: time on the planet, experience, etc etera. However, we can't fix the world without you. Let's work together, shall we?
Written by Adrienne Wallace, the project/digital director for 834 Design & Marketing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.