Another day, another Boomer blogger lumping all Millennials into one composite person… talking about how best to “lead” Gen Y as though they aren’t already in the room.
While Millennials continue to deal with these broad stereotypes, they are also painfully aware of their workforce reality: the majority of them did not, and will not, have a job waiting for them at graduation.
And yet we blame them for not wanting to follow in our incompetent footsteps? To be different? To try something new?
Yes, the Economy Still Sucks
No, not enough of this year’s graduates learned from those from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 – many of whom remain unemployed or under-employed. Yes, the job search process has improved, but is still difficult. And yes, student loan debt has again reached staggering levels.
However, many in Gen Y – having seen promises made and broken by preceding generations (as well as by our political and business leaders) – now, finally, recognize that quick fixes do not exist.
And… Now That College Is Behind Them…
They know they will have to work their butts off.
Clearly, Gen Y isn’t the only birth generation suffering through what is called a “post-recession” economy. Their parents – perhaps convinced by their own parents – learned to be good employees and work for the same company for decades. Searching for some sort of security, many joined labor unions. Others strove for residency or tenure within their professions. Almost all were willing to start at the very bottom of their generation’s corporate ladder.
Decades later, their nest eggs gone and (theoretically) at the end of a prolonged recession, these Boomers revert to what they know best: get another job. Today, many are working at McDonalds, Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Gen X follows closely in their footsteps, and now – without a change in mindset – will have to remain in the traditional workforce much longer to afford retirement.
On the other hand, many of the “new” Millennials – the second half of their generation that has never known work in a good economy – are creating options for themselves. Despite everything we often hear to the contrary… those that have finally adapted, are those still under control.
Perhaps unwittingly, and most certainly out of necessity, many Millennials – especially those who have learned from their slightly older colleagues – are developing a plan that doesn’t include working for someone else in some arbitrary form of the old “9 to 5”:
1) Early in their college years, Gen Y is securing relevant internships and volunteering for service organizations (Experience and a degree? Move to the top of the hiring list!).
2) They deliberately work and learn (the old “apprenticeship” model?) within sectors projected to be hiring at graduation.
3) They build personal relationships with their employers and mentors, emphasizing a solid work ethic, energy, passion, and results (and built-in recommendations).
4) Many have embraced our new reality, that W-2 based positions will soon become the minority method of earning a living; they embrace contract work – and the role of “SuperTemp” (or, more precisely, as “Subject Matter Experts”).
5) While earning a wage or studying, and instead of being couch potatoes in their “off” time, many are working on side gigs that combine their passion and entrepreneurial spirit to create their own jobs (no waiting for, or counting on, someone else); many have no interest in ever working for themselves.
Add personal branding and constant networking – particularly through social media – and the Millennials just now entering college may never feel the effects of a poor economy.
This is not a “Jack and the Bean Stock” style magic bean, or a get-rich-quick scheme. These steps are not the easy way out (quite the opposite). Perhaps born from the “entitlement” issue that keeps rearing its bipolar head, this is an attitude specific to new millennials…
“We deserve a good career, and we’re going to find a way to make it happen.”
Millennials, as a whole, may not understand the significance of this achievement. Many within their own ranks don’t yet know that this “Career 2.0” is already a repeatable, scalable success mechanism. They will… and when they do, they’ll text and tweet it until their fingers bleed.
In the meantime, here’s a thought for all the “old guy” bloggers and their link-bait posts: Could you, in any right-thinking world, ever write about a specific race, nationality or religion the way you write about Gen Y? Can you imagine if a blogger ever said:
- “Those white people… they sure are impatient.”
- “Irish people never stick around, they get bored too easily.”
- “We have to manage Catholics different… because they are different.”
This would be considered intolerable. It simply would not happen.
And yet, we feel it is okay to talk about Millennials in this fashion? We continue to lump 80 million people into one sweeping generalization? Let’s start treating everyone as we would like to be treated… as individuals fully capable of independent thoughts and actions. To do anything less is a disservice to the members of Gen Y, ourselves and our organizations.
About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.
Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors,” HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and CareerBliss’ “Top 10 Gen Y Career Experts.” Mark is currently working on two new books: “A World Gone Social: How Business Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM, June 2014) with Ted Coine and “The Ultimate Guide to Internships (And Making Your College Years Matter Again)” (Allworth, September 2014). Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!