Networking Expert’s Tip of the Month – February


Stop bashing Gen Y workers!

Reprinted from the Lindsey Pollak Blog

I try to read everything in the news about Generation Y and careers. This means I regularly find myself plodding through frustrating stories about how the Millennials are “entitled,” “coddled” and “disloyal.” Friday’s article on MSNBC.com is yet another maddening example.

When did the Baby Boomers mantra “Don’t trust anyone over 30” turn into “Don’t trust anyone under 30”?

Why, during the worst economy in over 60 years, would anyone tell our youngest workers—our future leaders—that they are “not special” and “woefully unprepared”? If we said this about any other type of worker, it would be discrimination. Why is it okay to bash young workers?

I acknowledge that many Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 90s) are not as prepared as previous generations when it comes to some very important areas of work, such as writing skills and professionalism. I would argue in return that they are significantly more prepared in such very important areas as technology and globalization.

And yes, many young workers like to change jobs frequently. But this is a natural and understandable result of growing up in a time of unprecedented economic expansion, the dot com revolution and rounds upon rounds of corporate downsizings. Millennials know they’ll never work at one company for 30 years and retire with a gold watch. They’re not disloyal; they’re realistic. And, when they find a company that has adapted to the new realities of the workforce, such as Zappos.com, they do stay.

It’s important for a news outlet like MSNBC to report that younger workers have been especially hard hit in the economic downturn. It’s another thing entirely to basically blame it on the young workers. Criticizing Millennials is a total waste of time and energy. Instead of disparaging the young people quoted in the article, why not offer them some tips to land jobs, or balance the piece with some stories of Millennials who are succeeding despite the recession?

Most of the organizations I know that employ Millennials have some complaints. But, those employers tell me, once they provide some coaching and adapt their training and management practices a bit, they are generally thrilled with the productivity, creativity and hard work of their young workers. I’ve seen the same with the Gen Ys I know and work with.

I’ve seen:

young people, like Marissa Davis, who are starting organizations to solve social problems

young people, like BusinessWeek’s best entrepreneurs of 2008, who are starting profitable ventures

young people, like Aaron Schock, who are running for Congress — and winning

young people, like Nuzhat Karim, who are working diligently to contribute to the success of their employers.

What is the point of this rant? It’s this: I challenge anyone who wants to criticize young workers to do three things:

1) Talk to a Millennial and ask that young person how he or she sees the world.

2) Tell that Millennial how you see the world.

3) Repeat.

Stop bashing Generation Y. We’re all in this together.

~ Lindsey Pollak, Networking Expert, Campus Calm

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