by Ericka Gordon | 12/21/15
It’s a curse and a blessing to be a millennial in the workforce. It’s a curse because no one takes you seriously. Everyone assumes you don’t know what you’re doing and even worse, that you don’t care to learn. Well, I’ve got four years of higher education that suggest otherwise. Matter of fact, as a millennial, the struggle to convince someone you’re worth hiring is enough to make you consider going back to school to learn even more. But, it’s a blessing because everyone wants to know your thoughts. No one can deny the fact that millennials’ opinions are relevant. If millennials’ opinions weren’t relevant, I wouldn’t have been asked to write this column. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Here comes that sense of entitlement.” But does it count if it’s true?
As a millennial who’s new to the workforce I am aware that I don’t know everything, but my shortcomings are far outweighed by my drive. For whatever reason, people don’t seem to value our ambition. It’s all about how much experience we have and in what setting we received it. Throughout my job search I’ve had a lot of working people tell me, “all it takes is that one person who’s willing to give you a shot,” while in my mind I’m wondering, “why won’t you be that one person?” As a manager it’s important to remember where you came from. I think a lot of people in positions of power in the workforce have forgotten how they got there. They’re asked to share their success stories all the time, but they just view it as an opportunity to talk about themselves. They don’t really remember their struggle. They’re too caught up in the now to take a moment and give back. Do for someone else what was done for you. Be that mentor for someone just starting out. Instead of requiring three-plus years experience for an entry level job so you can hire someone who was trained elsewhere, hire someone with a year’s worth of experience and invest in them. Train them yourself. Be that “one person” everyone talks so much about. I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised with the result. We’re a very hungry generation. We want to work and we want to learn as much as we can about our chosen industry. We want success.
Please, forgive us if we seem too anxious to get said success. You have to remember we live in a time where visuals of other people’s success are at our fingertips all day, every day. Business moguls and celebrities are giving us peeks into their lifestyle in ways that weren’t possible before. Our peers are becoming millionaires by playing video games, applying makeup or simply being well followed. It’s a tough act to follow and whether we realize it or not, I think it causes us to put misguided pressure on ourselves. We feel like failures because, at 24 years old, we can’t afford a multi-million dollar condo in the center of downtown. So, yes, we do have a problem with the need for instant gratification, but everyone’s got their flaws right? If you give us a chance and put us in an environment that genuinely encourages and cultivates growth, millennials will rise to the occasion and flourish.
I intern at a start-up. We’re very small and the most amazing, unexpected thing happened to me a few weeks ago. We’re trying to land a huge account that would be a game-changer for the company. As my boss was writing up the proposal he turned to me and my co-worker and began asking our opinion on the budget. My internal response was, “We’re talking about a lot of money here, you don’t want my opinion on this.” He started breaking things down and really explaining the nuances to us and before I knew it I heard myself speaking confidently about more money than I could dream of. The experience I received in that moment was invaluable. At a more standard company, higher-ups wouldn’t have even considered allowing me to sit in on that type of discussion, let alone ask my opinion. It gave me the sense that I’m really making an impact and contributing to the company’s success, which is a big deal for millennials. Like I said earlier, we want to be taken seriously. We can add great value to a company, big or small, if given the opportunity. Trust that you’ve made a good decision in hiring them and empower your employees. Give them the space to stretch their wings and make a real, measurable difference in the company.