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Arment Dietrich

Saving the Millennial Workforce from Bad Perceptions

By: Arment Dietrich | April 25, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Molli Megasko

I love 60 Minutes just as much as my grandma does, but unlike my grandma I’m only 28.  So you can imagine my distress when they aired a segment on the Millennial generation shown in an unfavorable light.

This is my generation they are talking about and I am upset about their generalization.

According to them, we are selfish, sheltered, spoiled, coddled by our parents, and ill-prepared for a demanding workplace.  The episode goes on to some extreme examples of moms calling bosses to talk about their kids’ annual review and organizations changing their management style to fit the “emotional needs” of people my age.

Yes, I had a rocky first year of work out of school. It was not filled with my most proud professional moments. But I’ve spoken with many Baby Boomers who have told me they to have felt unprepared for their first jobs.  So why the harsh perceptions? 

I’ve held steady jobs way before I could even drive.  I’ve been promoted with every job I’ve ever held.  I was even promoted while holding a four-month summer position at Panera on college break.  So is it just a few bad eggs or are we really that “entitled?”

I’ve been pretty pissed off about this recently and finally felt empowered when I saw this quote posted on the Newera Social Marketing Facebook page;

I’m part of that generation known as Millennials, and even if we don’t know whether social security will be around when we retire, or if we’ll be able to retire, or if we’ll even have jobs to consider retiring [from], we know this: We are hustlers.

– Taken from a Good Culture post titled What Generation Overshare Can Learn from Biggie.

I realize it’s not enough to just be pissed off.  I also can’t change the paradigms of the generations before me.  What I can do is hustle and help my fellow Millennials.

To do this, I’ve joined Kristine Simpson and the Young PR Pros team to help prepare new graduates entering the workforce.  The weekly podcasts include interviews, tips, and advice to help entry-level communicators get a successful start to their career. We talk not only about what to expect, but also what employers expect of them.

One step at a time. Here’s to being proud of the Millennial title that was given to me.

35 comments
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danperezfilms
danperezfilms

And I've read many blog posts written by Millennials generalizing about how awesome they are. Like every other generation, somewhere in between lies the truth. In the end, it doesn't matter what people say about your generation (please just get over it), what matters is how you perform at your job/career. Deliver results and nobody is gonna care what generation you belong to.

Just my two cents...

Maranda
Maranda

As a fellow 28 year old, I think we fall on the cusp between two generations, and the entitled nature is really more of the people in the ages below us.  A great example of this is a family member who, after high school, recieved a full ride to the same college I graduated from, but did not return after her first semester. Why? Not because it was hard. Not because she was unprepared, but because she didn't want to get up at 8AM. Meanwhile, my other cousin who is 29 and a single mother of three, worked herself to the bone for five years to get a degree. 

 

I would be so embarrassed if my mother or father called my boss to discuss my career path. Once I turned 18, it was my business to do what I needed to do. I was lucky to have the support of my parents while in college, both financially and emotionally, but my requirement was to go to school and pass my classes. I hate to sound like an old lady, but these kids these days with their rock and roll music and their brand new cars and their cell phones when they are ten - they just don't know how good they have it. 

kentjulia
kentjulia

 So true Molli. And in fact, I have dealt with the issues you describe first-hand.

 

When I was in journalism school at Carleton University in Ottawa, a prof by the name of Andrew Cohen wrote an op-ed for the local paper (The Ottawa Citizen) complaining about Carleton's journalism students and "their erratic work ethic, their shallow research, their lack of intellectual depth, their sense of entitlement." The school, students and teachers took great offense.

 

Thankfully, another prof at the school - Dave Tait - chimed in and wrote a letter to the paper in response. He said "I’m not sure where [he] is teaching these days, because it sure doesn’t sound like the same school I’m at." He then went on to say: "My concern as a teacher isn’t what my students can do as they come into my hands; it’s what they’ll be able to do once they leave me." Everyone was proud and refreshed by these comments, as you can imagine.

 

But one voice was missing - the voice of the students. Here were two Carleton profs, hashing out a sensitive issue in a public forum, but the subject in question was nowhere to be found. So I wrote to the Ottawa Citizen and thanked the second prof for defending myself and my peers. I also offered up my opinion on the issue - that a few bad apples were absolutely not justification to generalize. I also said that I felt honoured to be surrounded by so many sharp, hardworking and diligent classmates at Canada's most prestigious journalism school. 

 

Thankfully, the debate then died down. I am so happy Tait and I stepped up to defend Millennials - but it's stereotypes like those Cohen wrote about that makes our professional lives a little bit harder.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven"

http://erikhare.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/k-waves/

 

What your generation is experiencing is not unique.  It is unusual, and a bit of a historical anomaly - but these things do happen.  What all of you need is a far better grounding so that you can realize this.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

You were never privy to this information, but I once had a dad of one of our interns call me. He was disappointed in how much his kid was making and that we didn't provide any overtime. He told me I needed to give him a raise or he'd take me to court. You know me well enough to know I was professional, but seriously pissed. When it came time for that crop of interns to compete for a full-time job, he didn't make it. If your parents have to negotiate jobs or salary increases, you don't get to work with us.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

Man, parents just don't understand. 60 Minutes is catering to an audience that is at least 20 years older than people of Millennial generation. Is it any wonder the story has a significant bias towards them? This story has some gross over-generalizations and used the most stereotypical images. Hell, I resent the young people represented in this story.

 

Molli, I'm glad you and @Kristinesimpson are putting together that weekly podcast. I've listed to it and it's some good, useful stuff for first-time communicators.

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

AMEN, Molli! Love this post, and that you're doing something concrete to help Millennials in today's workforce.

 

There are absolutely many members of our generation who are entitled, ungrateful, rude, and bitter. I've had to cut ties with a few friends I grew up with simply because I couldn't listen to any more snide remarks about how much time I spend at work, followed by complaints about their failure so far to find a "career job." There's no shame in working as a service person, but it's a whole 'nother thing if you work as a service person, hate it, feel you deserve something "better," but simultaneously look down on anyone who puts in one minute more than 40 hours in a week or turns down a party invite to get work done. 

 

But you know what? I betcha the exact same attitudes have been present since the beginning of time. There are always people in the world who feel they deserve something for nothing and that the world is no good if it hasn't delivered yet. People who write off Millennials because of the same darn bad apples who've been aggravating their elders since we were all living in caves are missing out on getting value from some of the great things that ARE unique about Millennials.

 

We grew up with technology; it's our "native language." It doesn't scare us, even when it changes suddenly. We don't expect 30 years of service at the same company and a gold watch at retirement. We understand that we need to be lifelong learners to succeed in today's workplace. We don't take much for granted, and we don't expect a routine we can get used to. We're resilient, expressive, open-minded and revenue-focused, because we've had to be all those things in our personal lives just to GET to the workplace, with how difficult it's become to afford college and navigate the job market.

 

Not all of us are any or all of those things -- but people who are open to working with Millennials can easily compose a team of people who are. You just gotta understand that we grew up hearing that if we just kept our grades up we'd get into a good college. If we got into a good college, we'd get a great entry-level job. If we worked hard, we'd advance in the company and retire well. And then when we got old enough for college and jobs, that whole program changed and we had to rewrite that nice little plan on the fly. So if we advocate for ourselves a little more fiercely than you're used to, or if we seem to have our eye on the next thing, it's only because we don't expect today's thing to EXIST tomorrow, much less exist in 30 years and give us that gold watch. Let it go, 'cause if we weren't hustlers for ourselves, we wouldn't know how to get our hustle on for your business--and believe me, we DO know how to do that!

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

Ha! I just wrote a post on Millennials today also! What's in the water? 

 

It's your parents' fault. We coddled you without your permission. We demanded that you all get a trophy even if you didn't win. We demanded you all get special treatment at school. We demanded that all classes be AP so you can all go to Harvard. We expected everyone to see you as the special and perfect child we did, because if you looked good, we looked good. We got you cell phones in eighth grade "for emergencies." In short, we used you as tools to retroactively relive our own childhoods and adorn our disconnected lives with excellence and achievement.  We're sorry. ;)

 

I'm mostly kidding, but not totally. I'm glad there are a few of you out there, like my eldest, who ignored our BS and went out and DID something all by yourselves. 

TheJackB
TheJackB

Gen X here too and candidly I haven't had very many good experiences with millenials. Many of them have fit into every bad stereotype you can think of. But I can think of lots of "older" jerks too.

 

We like labels but the most important thing you can do is work hard so that the "label" you receive is one you are proud of. In time there will be a new generation to pick on and the millenials will become a part of the old guard and there will be much less focus upon them.

JoelFortner
JoelFortner

Mollie, I absolutely love this post. I'm a young Gen Xer, and I come to the defense of millenials regularly because I view the generation differently.  I believe millenials are just like boomers, who are also "hustlers." 

 

It's true millenials suffer from the stereotype 60 Minutes apparently perpetuated, but here's the thing.  As long as YOU don't subscribe to that stereotype, you're in good shape, and over time you will prove the naysayers wrong and go on to perhaps be the next greatest generation. Go kill it.

jenzings
jenzings

I'm Generation X, and basically the same things were said about our generation when we first started in the workforce. If you watch the movie "Singles" from 1992, this was the general caricature of X'ers. My generation was the first that when polled said that it believed there was a greater chance of the existence of alien life than there was a chance we'd see all of the social security benefits we'd earned. We were considered "apathetic and directionless"--sound familiar? Here's the book that was meant to wake us up: http://www.amazon.com/Revolution-Survival-Guide-Our-Generation/dp/0140235329

 

I never let it piss me off. I just worked hard--really hard. That's about all you can do. And never let your mom call your boss to discuss your annual review. :-)

rdopping
rdopping

Hey Molli. I am a Gen X guy........

 

......and I don't care what generation anyone is from. There are lazy so-and-so's in all generations. It's kinda dull (read stupid) to label folks because of their age. I work with Millenials who are real go getters and I work with Millenials that I wonder about whether they are going anywhere at all.

 

My job is to manage people and frankly I try to get to know them regardless of which shoe they fit into. Do I read about and study "traits"? Yep, I do and I find the "traits" help me "understand" some of the societal pressure, desires and motivators are in a GENERAL sense. Actually labelling people is dangerous all around.

 

For me, if you perform, are smart, learn and apply the knowledge to your work then you are ok in my books. And if you make a mistake, GOOD, you just learned something which is more than I can say for a lot of people.

 

Go say hi to my friend Kayla Cruz. http://lostgenygirl.com/2012/04/25/how-to-get-along-with-younger-coworkers/

 

You guys might get along.

Japman_Bajaj
Japman_Bajaj

@ginidietrich @MolliMegasko question is, do millenials (as a generalization) really care what folks at 60 mins (and those like em) think?

jenzings
jenzings

 @ginidietrich That is seriously bizarre. I think I'd be tempted to laugh uproariously, and then pull a "....wait, are you serious?..." out of my hat.

penneyfox
penneyfox

 @jelenawoehr As another Gen X'er  jumping into this conversation - I worked as a waitress for years at night because my day job that I got with my college degree didn't pay enough. I too was raised with this motto - "get good grades so you can get into a good school then get a good job" - and like yourself, had to re-invent the story when the time came for me to get a job.

 

Funny thing was, when I finally made it to the corporate world, it was everything I could do to figure out a way to get out. It was a different world then my parents and now your world is even more different then ours. BUT the same  theme holds true - those that are "resilient, expressive, open-minded and revenue-focused" are the ones who will succeed.

 

Keep on hustling ... and that gold watch isn't all that ....

MolliMegasko
MolliMegasko

 @jelenawoehr Looks like I touched a nerve.  You make great points and thank you for your support!  (Although, I do want a gold watch.)

penneyfox
penneyfox

 @rustyspeidel It's gotta be the water! I did a millennials post two weeks ago too.

 

Biggest thing I pulled from this was the way they look at the world due to their overexposure with social media. Revolutions in countries that seemed like a world away to us are just a click and tweet away for them. I actually think the fact they've been raised with technology makes them even more qualified as they're exposed to more ideas then we (and generations before us) ever were.

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

 @rustyspeidel My pops told all of us kids "I don't get you cars for your 16th birthdays or buy you everything you want or save you from all your mistakes, because when you turn 18 I want you to be able to tell me to kiss off if you want to and never have to come crawling back for anything."

 

It worked.

MolliMegasko
MolliMegasko

 @TheJackB Interesting point.  Although, I keep hearing that this is the first generation that is not working harder than the generations before them and that is what gets on my nerves. 

MolliMegasko
MolliMegasko

 @JoelFortner Thanks, Joel.  However, I want to do more than kill it, I want to change the stereotype.  So how do I do that?  I'll let you know when I find that answer.  

MolliMegasko
MolliMegasko

 @jenzings This is where I fall into the trap, because I want more than that. I get it; Millennials always want more.  But I believe there is more to be done than just working hard, like writing this blog and doing podcasts for the greater good.

jenzings
jenzings

And how could I forget the film "Reality Bites"? That's another "picture" of Xers.

MolliMegasko
MolliMegasko

 @rdopping You are not the average .  Maybe you don't see me as a Millenial, but everyone else does.  It stinks to have age define who you are.

jenzings
jenzings

That's a good thing to point out--I also worked two jobs when I was in my 20's to make ends meet. I graduated from college during the '91 recession and worked for a temp agency because no one was hiring full time employees. I also did volunteer work, which led to my first "full time" job, which did not pay much at all. Was it exhausting? Yes. And I had very little free time to hang out with friends, etc. But it's what I needed to do.

 

Keep on hustling is probably the best advice out there.  @penneyfox  @jelenawoehr 

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

 @MolliMegasko You'll have to ask @ginidietrich about that watch... :)

 

And yep, my talk at BlogWorld is on stuff like this -- so it's a subject I like to talk about obvs!

Kristinesimpson
Kristinesimpson

 @MolliMegasko  @TheJackB It is too bad we are getting that label. All we can do to fight it is work hard and do our best and prove them wrong. 

 

Oh and start a podcast to help our generation follow suit!

JoelFortner
JoelFortner

@MolliMegasko Well by "kill it," I meant go hustle. You'll prosper and change the perception.

jenzings
jenzings

 @MolliMegasko  @JoelFortner You change the stereotype by never being the stereotype. That's all you can do--you can't change the behavior of others, and the only way to change perception is by--pardon the cliche--being the change you want to see in the world.

rdopping
rdopping

Keep chipping away at it and look for those opportunities where there are open minded individuals. There are a lot of "set in their ways" kind of people out there so navigation is tough. Same for me re: education and letters after my name.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

 @MolliMegasko  @rdopping I feel this. It's as if just because we are in or 20s or barely 30s that our ideas don't matter. We want to work hard. We want to help the business grow. But just because it may not be the way things were done 10 or 20 years ago doesn't mean there is no validity to it.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] post today on Spin Sucks from Molli Megasko. Molli writes about how people have stereotypes about Millenials [...]

  2. [...] check out Molli’s blog post on Saving the Millennial Workforce from Bad Perceptions. The conversation is an interesting one, we suggest you follow [...]

  3. [...] irresponsible and simply not as good as they are. A past host of Young PR Pros, Molli Megasko even wrote an article about how she is tired of hearing negative comments about her generation. Instead of sitting back [...]