Talking to Millennials has quickly become one of my favorite activities. I’ve been talking to them for over 11 years, however, especially during the last three years, Millennials have kindly spent hours with me, explaining their points of view and the challenges that are part of their jobsearch. Some of their concerns are common to all jobseekers, some are unique to their situation and the employment market. That said, I’m noticing some interesting trends that give me reason to have hope that this early-career generation is going to make a significant and positive impact here in the U.S.

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Common (yet still irritating) jobseeker woes:

Some of their concerns about the hiring industry and hiring processes are commonplace with mid and late-career jobseekers. The leading complaint will come as no surprise: the current screening technologies. The Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) make the hiring process impersonal and sterile. The very thought of being screened for a job by a technology application has all the warmth of getting a root canal by a robotic arm.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

I find that many jobseekers, applying to employment opportunities through the online applicant tracking systems (ATS), and getting nothing back, often feel invisible, unwanted, and insignificant. This, in turn, destroys hope.

When a jobseeker receives any kind of activity from a human being during their job search, it can be an encouragement. It doesn’t matter if it is by email, phone, Skype, or an actual face-to-face meeting. One jobseeker said, “I would be encouraged by a rejection letter…at least I would know that there was someone out there that may have looked at my application.”

Case Study: Jobseeker takes all the risk

Last week a young jobseeker applied to a position at a small start-up ice-cream company. Great excitement was generated, simply by the fact they were willing to talk to him! The job paid $10 an hour and wouldn’t be full time. But at least his existence had been acknowledged. His life somehow became meaningful and he repeatedly said, “I’m just so glad that they were willing to talk to me.”

Hard ending: They were willing to hire him (uh huh, for $10 per hour, 20 hours a week) IF he would make a 6-month to 1-year commitment. That changed his perception and the excitement quotient plummeted. I can’t imagine a company doing this. They are asking their employees to take all the risk. They did not guarantee my client 6 months to 1 year of compensation if the company, a new startup, went under. The same client informed me that in his last job, he was promised training that never happened. Again, no investment by the company.

Meaningful work

This next item may come as a surprise to some readers, however, I’ve found that jobseekers at all levels of their career are seeking jobs that have meaning.

My sense is that earlier in our nation’s history, a job was a means to an end. People looked for jobs that could support their families and their lifestyle. For some, that meant time to coach baseball and take a two-week vacation with the family. For others, it might mean a more lavish lifestyle.

Today, my mid and late-career clients have spent most of their careers in employment situations in larger companies. More often than not, they tell me they want a job where they are making a difference. They seek employment that has meaning.

The Millennials say the same thing, “I want a job that does something good.”

Millennial trends and the results:

The following observations are just that—observations over the last 10 years and especially the last three years.

No. 1: Millennials like “new stuff”

Millennials, for most of their lives, have been inundated with “new.” As I ask about their development years, their educational experiences, the toys they played with and what activities they did with friends, I’m seeing a fairly consistent parade of “new stuff” that educated, entertained, and captured their attention.

I’m not able to statistically trace cause and effect here, however I notice that Millennials lean towards jobs that have variety and are less drawn to jobs that include repetition. Sitting at a desk all day long is not inviting. This includes those people with training and education for jobs that include primarily desk-work, such as graphic design. They enjoy “cutting edge.” Their enjoyment of available information and “new stuff” makes Research and Development very attractive.

No. 2: Many Millennials want to know “how” things work

…and often times, once they know how it works, they are less interested in it. In other words, once they have it figured out, they are ready for “something new. “
This often translates into a need for variety in the work environment; short-term rather than long-term projects. (Employers take note!)

No. 3: They learn and work independently as well as in teams.

Without exception, my Millennial clients want a work environment that includes both team collaboration and independent work. They want to make a personal contribution. I ask my clients to go through a rigorous process so they understand the balance that is their optimum work situation. E.g. 60% Team collaboration, 40% individual contributor or vice versa?
Most work environments require both skill sets.

No. 4: They want face time with their team.

I’m not talking about technology. Technology allows for connectivity, but it isn’t the same as team collaboration. This generation is interested in the process as well as the result. They are quietly competitive and thrive in face-to-face work activities.
There are companies, that employ Millennials, that are re-thinking the work environment to accommodate “quiet space” and team interaction areas. (Smart!)

No. 5: Millennials want to understand the bigger picture AND they want to be heard.

This leads to Number 6…

No. 6: They value the ability to be influenced.

They stand ready to hear proactive arguments that will influence them.
Another word for this is “flexibility.” This is a highly desirable trait and mentioned on most job postings. What is different is that Millennials ask for the same in return. They expect the opportunity to present their point of view in the hopes that their colleagues will be willing to be influenced —including upper management. (I bet many readers will see where this might cause some raised eyebrows.)

No. 7: Learning and growing are critically important.

This generation wants to manage their career, therefore; employment that leads to growth and promotion is especially valuable.
A company that offers growth opportunities, educational advancement, and promotion structures will develop loyal, hardworking employees.

No. 8: “Management” has a different meaning

I believe that Millennials see management very differently than their older counterparts. They see managers and supervisors as having different responsibilities and respect their decision-making tasks. They aren’t disrespectful, but they don’t see people in higher positions as having a better or higher status.
Personally, I believe this is how it should be.

Why Millennials Will Make America Great Again

For eleven years, I have worked with clients that, more often than not, come to my office, broken and exhausted from their former employment. This includes those who have been laid off and those who come seeking a change from their current employment situation.

Millennials often come with a certain amount of disillusionment that, given their situation, I find reasonable. (To read more, please see the last eight blogs.) However, I see traits in them that give me an enormous amount of hope for our nation.

They want interesting work that does something to make the world better. Even though work and life is fluid, i.e. integrated. They still want time out. They want that “work-life” balance that many of their parents didn’t have. Studies repeatedly show that “time-out” brings greater productivity and creativity to the work place.

All of these come together to create an exciting picture of a workforce that:

  • Is quietly competitive and brings methodical determination and unique solutions.
  • Is flexible and works well in a variety of environments.
  • Enjoys and values learning and wants to develop expertise.
  • Has a keen penchant for excellence.
  • Brings a natural awareness of the client or customer.
  • Wants to make a valuable contribution and asks for appropriate recognition and compensation.

Millennials are our best competitive advantage!

I believe we have reason to hope. I believe that the best competitive advantage here in the United States is this Millennial work-force. I charge companies, leaders, and managers with the responsibility to nurture and cultivate these rising colleagues. I believe that through them we have the potential to bring the change that will restore this nation.

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Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.

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