I’m only addressing this generation because there are more of you in the workplace than any other generation, and, at this writing, the 75 million of you (surpassing the baby boomers numbers of 74 million) are beginning to begin settling in to your careers. As with previous generations, you’re going to change jobs more often early in your career (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and you need to be aware of some of the issues you are facing relative to getting a job. Please PAY ATTENTION!!!
So, I’m going to discuss some of the perceived traits that you, as a millennial, have and how they impact, for better or worse, your job search.
Your expertise and reliance on technology
Most of us would agree that 99% of the advancements of technology are good for business. However, in the real world of getting a job, being “connected” is only of value if it can get you an interview. Somewhere along the line you’re going to have to have real-world conversations with people, i.e. interviews in order to get a job. Many of you rely on “just text me” to communicate. You cannot get a job by just texting. Speaking with people face to face, learning to look them in the eye and expressing yourself verbally in more than 140 characters is going to be necessary. This takes practice if you are not used to it.
It is said that you have been raised to believe that everyone gets a trophy for participating and that has given you confidence. Well, in business most people DO NOT get trophies. Now it’s true that the first step in being successful is actually showing up, but you don’t get confidence by simply being there. I have no problem with confidence but it needs to be tempered with humility. As Dizzy Dean (google him if you don’t know who he is) was quoted as saying, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” So, let your successes and accomplishments give you confidence. But, realize that your confidence will be interpreted as arrogance without performance.
It is said that you all think you can do this well. If you research the studies on the subject of multi-tasking, you will soon discover that success at it is not only a myth, but it is actually a deterrent to quality work. So, don’t go into an interview touting the fact that you’re good at multi-tasking. Any interviewer with any brains will discount you if you say this as one of your workplace attributes.
Friends come first
Try convincing a prospective employer that your friends are more important than the job you are applying for and you will continue to be unemployed. A few years of working in the real world, a spouse, a mortgage, a car payment, a couple of kids and the realization that it is likely that their college tuition per year is going to be more than you make in one, your friends will be far down the priority list. So, don’t embarrass yourself by even mentioning how important your friends are in the same breath as your needing a job.
Play then work
Common sense should tell you that communicating anything like this in an interviewing situation is disaster. But I have recently had candidates of the millennial generation say things like, “Well, my personal time is very important to me,” and by never bothering to explain what that means, be quickly eliminated from consideration. In fact, since your generation has a reputation of this trait, you better be damn sure you communicate in the interviewing process that work has an extremely high priority in your life.
Focus on involvement and participation in teams
Okay, being a team player is important. Everyone in business has to be able to get along with everyone else. However, you better be able to perform on your own, by yourself, individually regardless of what the team does or doesn’t do. It’s true that interviewing authorities are going to be interested in your ability to work in a group setting. No company wants a maverick that’s going to piss everybody off. However, if your focus on involvement is more important than your individual performance, this isn’t what business is about. You’re going to be accountable for your own performance. The team will take care of itself if each individual performs their duties well.
Don’t worry about failure
You guys got this notion when everybody got a trophy whether they won or lost. But, in the real world you damn well better worry about failing. This doesn’t mean that you’re not going to fail. In fact, you’re going to fail a lot. But not to worry about it, as though it was no big deal, will keep you living at home and certainly without a job. Be aware that you have to put failure in the right perspective. (Read the quote by Michael Jordan about failure.) Learning from your failures is what’s important, but to blow it off as though you shouldn’t worry about it will not get you a job.
Respect my skills
Wake up! No one is going to automatically respect anything about you, especially your skills, unless you can demonstrate successful performance applying those skills.
Connection to parents
This trait can be a good thing but also not so good. It’s not so good when your parents continue to let you live at home rather than forcing you to get out on your own, no matter how difficult or painful it may be. It’s not good when your parents keep giving you advice about the job market and what kind of a job might be available to you when they have no idea what the job market is really like. I’m sure they love you, but encouraging you to take nothing less than a VP job won’t help you. (Obviously, I’m being facetious when I say this. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had well-meaning parents give advice about the kind of job their prince or princess ought to get, regardless of their knowledge of the job market.)
It is good when mom and dad insist that you get off the dole by taking the best job you can find and go to work. They need to realize that the door to opportunity opens from the inside. No employer is going to automatically love their children the way they do. But that has nothing to do with the job or the opportunity that might be available to you.
They want to ‘develop’ themselves
There’s a part of this trait that might be viable. If you begin to look at job opportunities from the “outside”, judging them by how you can personally “develop”, you are going to have a rough time. There might be a slim possibility that you can judge a job during the interviewing process regarding how it might provide personal growth. But most of the time, most companies aren’t really that interested in your personal growth and will neglect to talk about it during the interviewing process.
It is more likely that after you get a job, you will figure out for yourself how you can personally grow. It is not likely that the incentive for this is going to come from your job or your employer. It’s going to come from you, intrinsically. Finding ways to grow personally in your job should be a lifelong endeavor. The sooner you develop it the better.
You don’t have to worry about this trait too much. You’re going to get plenty of it, especially if you don’t perform very well. The needing of constant feedback however, can be a deterrent to your success. Constantly asking your superiors, “How am I doing?”, is simply annoying. In the job search process you’ll get pretty damn quick feedback. Either you get a second interview after your first interview or you don’t. Either you get a job or you don’t. Pretty simple! After a while… a very short while… either in looking for a job or performing on one once you have it, you’ll get plenty of feedback. You won’t have to seek it. After all, feedback is the breakfast of champions.
Personal relationships with boss or co-workers
This is a nice, idealistic thought and they can be great if you can find them. But, one, there is no way of knowing in an interviewing situation whether you’d be able to build a personal relationship with the person you’d be working for, and, two, be aware of this, that person you are interviewing with, who would be your direct boss, who might be close and caring could leave their job and the company in a heartbeat. Don’t go overboard with personal relationships at work. If you get good, valuable ones, that’s great, but remember, this is business not marriage.
I’ll google it myself
We all know you’re independent and feel like you can find things out on your own, either on the Internet or by asking friends. However, the organization you are interviewing with or working for has made a tremendous number of mistakes which result in policies, procedures and “this is the way we do things” practices. Please refrain from thinking you need to reinvent the wheel or enlighten the whole company with your discoveries. Don’t be so stubborn as to not stop, listen, and learn what goes on in the company before you start “changing” it.
Your helicopter parents might have raised you this way and the college or university you attended may have gone out of their way to make you feel special (You really were special to them. You paid them more than $33,000 a year in private school tuition, almost $10,000 a year in tuition for an in-state public college or university and almost $25,000 for out-of-state tuition at a public college. And these figures do not include room, board and other kinds of fees. Pay me that kind of money over six years, which is how long the average college graduate goes to school and I’ll be more than happy to tell you that you are special.)
To most companies that are going to interview you and hire you, you aren’t special until you perform. You aren’t entitled to a job, a paycheck or continued employment. You aren’t entitled to a pay raise or promotion until you earn it. Working is a privilege, not a right. The mantra of these organizations is that, “If you do your job, you get to keep it!”
View work as something to be done between weekends
Approach interviewing and a new job like this and you’ll get to have one permanent, long weekend.
“I’ll market myself to the highest bidder”
And, parenthetically, “I can leave in a heartbeat, you know!” This is the height of solipsism and egocentricity and unless you are the center of the universe, which you are not, or a draft pick in the NFL or NBA, in this job market you probably don’t have another “bidder.” So, stop this silly business, take any reasonable job you can and work your ass off.
Some of you are just beginning your career. Some of you are in your late 30’s and have learned all of these lessons which the marketplace has taught you. The longer you’re in the workforce, the more you realize that all of these “generational characteristics” melt away and we all advance and decline in our job search and our professional life based on the same rules.
One last thought which only applies to the male millennials – You’d make a lot better impression when you interview if you shave. Just a thought!