Maybe Millennials Have it Right?

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This started as a typical rant against the younger generation of workers. Self-entitled and lazy, these ‘kids’ who expect a participation trophy (paycheck) and a big title just for showing up. A gross generalization you might say? Allow me to present four recent real examples of my experience with millennial employees:

1. Two employees essentially made up their own titles and ordered business cards because they ‘needed’ those EVP titles to be successful.

2. A guy straight out of school wanted three times what we were offering him for an entry level position because he had experience working at his college radio station.

3. A young lady sent in a resume last week with a cover letter saying she wanted to be ‘on air at our station.’ We are a broadcast PR firm.

Ok, maybe that was an oversight…but it gets better. She included OUR company as a former employer on her resume and, bless her heart, she spelled our company wrong. She also misspelled the names of some of the celebrities she worked with at ‘KF Media.’ I’m certain we have never worked with popular TV personality Steve Harley.   

card.jpg4. The cherry on this millennial sundae has to be THE resignation letter that redefines resignation letters! An adios from a young lady that had been here exactly one full day. She was hired for an entry-level position, a job that isn’t glamorous by any means, but is an excellent foot in the door. We had been clear on what the job was before she started. When she showed up (late) and the job didn’t meet her expectations, she was extremely disappointed.

The conversation went something like this:

Her: Yeah…I just don’t think this is where my passion is. I thought I would be working with celebrities and going to places like New York and LA. Not sitting at a keyboard.

Me: Well, to get to the point of traveling and working with celebrities, you have to learn the business and there is no better place to learn it than in this role. As we told you, that position is open because the person in it before was promoted. He’s been here less than a year and will now start traveling.

Her: OK, but I was talking to the guy that does marketing here. I like what he does. Can I work with him?

Me: No. He’s got that covered. Our only available job, for someone without years of TV or PR experience, is your current position.

Her: Ok, well here is my resignation letter.

The college graduate then pulls out her resignation letter. It’s on pink construction paper with a white inlay glued inside. It’s written in multiple colored markers with a decorative border. She hands it to me and says, “everything I do is with love.” In part, the letter states, “I would like to take this time to pursue a job that meets my interests’ and she hopes we can continue to make great accomplishments in the realm of media.”

So, the bad millennial rap isn’t totally baseless. They can be a frustrating group to manage. But, after really thinking about it, maybe these folks under the age of 37 are the ones getting it right. And we are looking at the work environment completely wrong. They have seen their parents stressed out on the career hamster wheel, coming home late at night and giving less than their best to their families because the best was left at the office.

millennials-workshop.jpgPhoto courtesy ITU Pictures

So, maybe they have figured out it doesn’t have to be so hard. Let’s take a look at Exhibits 1-4 in a different light:

1. Labels and titles are arbitrary. Why not call yourself a senior executive? As long as you can deliver on what you claim, who cares what is on your business card? Generation X was told to dress for the job you want. Maybe now it’s time to give yourself the title you want? Just be careful if you are next in line to hire someone and think the ‘senior’ title denotes skill level and experience…you might be overpaying for a mid-level talent. Don’t be scared to ask for the tools (or titles) needed for you to feel confident and get the job done. 

2. If you aren’t going to be happy doing a certain job for a certain wage, don’t take it. It takes strength to walk away from a sure offer and continue your search for a perfect fit, but ultimately, know your number and hold out for it if you can. 

3. OK, that resume was a train wreck and the lesson here is to make sure you do your homework and spell Steve Harvey correct. Accuracy permeates across generations. 

4. Arts and crafts are always fun. Seriously, this young lady knew what she wanted and simply wouldn’t settle for less. She marched to her own drum and wasn’t going to settle for a job she didn’t want, even if it could ultimately get her where she wanted to go. That’s risky, but kind of awesome. Her resignation card made with love was unique, and we are still talking about it and her months later. Not many resignation letters make that kind of impact.

From research we know that millennials typically value purpose over money and most have an entrepreneurial spirit that sometimes makes it hard for them to fit into a 9-to-5 environment. Technology has also contributed to millennials desire to value flexible work hours and a social work environment.  Gen Y and Gen X professionals like myself have experienced some of the frustrations millennials value. At the same time, these recent events allowed for reflection. Maybe I was misguided for years or at the very least closed off to the notion millennial can provide value?

Nevertheless, it’s important to take a step back and remain open-minded and see others’ points of view. Talent and hard work can cross generations. There are many avenues to obtain success and millennials typically take a different road than I’m used to. However, I’ve seen millennial coworkers help propel our organization to the destination of success, and so despite my recent encounters, I’m encouraged to work with more in the years to come.

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