Millennials are inheriting a better job market than we’ve had in recent years, but they still have a challenging landscape to deal with. For starters, they are entering the workforce with record amounts of student loan debt, and therefore need to find good-paying work to sustain them. Beyond salary issues, they also have stereotypes to overcome — the idea that they are self-centered, overly reliant on technology, and have feelings of entitlement.
We connected with Nigel Dessau, author of Become a 21st Century Executive – Breaking away from the Pack, for his take on how millennials can overcome these unique challenges and make a name for themselves in the working world.
How can young job seekers set themselves apart and overcome some of the stereotypes that hiring managers might believe about millennials?
Hiring is an expensive and time-consuming approach. Employers look for many things but two questions they will ask themselves are: do they have the skills and can I retain them?
Having practical experience and common sense will be very important to the recruiter. If you come across ‘all college and no knowledge,’ they may look elsewhere.
A company who is about to hire you is also about to invest in you. That means retaining you is a huge issue when they hire. If you look like you will be high maintenance, then you may be difficult to retain, so don’t come in with too many demands. We all know they ‘would be lucky to have you’ but you don’t need to tell them.
Why should young workers seek out mentors to help guide them? And how can they find the right person to do so?
We all need mentors and multiples of them. You should think through what gaps you have in your capabilities and find mentors that fill them. Some of them should be inside your company and some outside. Inside, ask your manager or leader who they could connect you with who could mentor you. If the company doesn’t do that sort of thing, then see if you can start it. If they resist, then you may just have learned something about your employer. Make sure internal mentors are from different departments or areas – that should give you the broadest input.
Outside the company, look to build a network for yourself with groups and professional organizations. This is a great place to find people who can mentor you. Remember your college or even your parents may know people.
Mentors are often not for life. They fill different roles at different times of your life. I always think about it like personal relationships. You start dating before you get married. With mentors you should start slow and get to know each other. People who have good content are not always people you connect to. Take the time to find the right mentors.
What should millennials know about workplace communication, and how it might be different than what they are used to in our digital age?
Instant communication and email are the backbone of the digital age. They work very well when you know the people you are communicating with can understand the context. They work badly when you do not know the people well. It does not matter how many emojis you use, messages will always be misread and misinterpreted. If you have something important to say, it’s better to say it. Pick up the phone or walk down the corridor if you can, particularly, when you need to get feedback or understand something.
Any tips for finding success within a company that has different generations working side by side?
The key lesson of influencing people is about adapting your style to theirs, not expecting them to adapt to yours. Across generations the same is true. If you want to engage, persuade or influence someone, look at it through their eyes. Think about what is important to them and what they care about. A good rule-of-thumb is this: If someone doesn’t understand something you say, it’s your fault for not explaining it in a way they can understand, not theirs for not understanding you.
Nigel Dessau is the creator of 3 Minute Mentor website, which provides significant career guidance in three minute videos. His book, Become a 21st Century Executive, is based upon episodes and concepts found in the 3 Minute Mentor.