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It can sometimes seem like young professionals just can’t get a break. If we’re confident, we’re too arrogant. If we expect more for what we offer, we’re jumping the gun. If we choose not to stay at a dead-end job—or simply a job that doesn’t align with our passions—we’re seen as flaky job hoppers. Many of these stereotypes exist in the workplace, causing a clash among generations.
But, just because a stereotype doesn’t apply to all doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of truth. We all know those peers who don’t help dispel the myths, walking off jobs just because they’re upset or showing up late, improperly dressed or unprepared for an interview or meeting.
A recent study released by Bentley University found that nearly 70% of corporate recruiters say that their company has a hard time managing young professionals. The survey also found that recruiters indicated that recent college graduates are harder to retain, lack a strong work ethic and aren’t as willing to pay their dues as previous generations were.
Thirty-five percent of managers and recruitment professionals said recent grads they hired should get a “C” grade or lower in terms of being prepared for working. Work preparedness, in the survey, was defined by one-quarter (23%) of business decision-makers and 18% of corporate recruiters as related to “work ethic,” and nearly one-quarter of business decision-makers (22%) and corporate recruiters (24%) include “personal traits,” such as adaptability, having a good attitude, being respectful and maturity in their definition of preparedness.
And 64% said that their business’ daily productivity suffers because of recent grads’ lack of preparation.
As a young professional, I’ve had my rebel moments, but I like to count myself among those who are trying to defeat the odds and show that young people are a priceless addition to any company—and to the world at large. Here are three ways to debunk these negative notions about us and truly stake your claim on your industry:
1. You can’t afford to be average. Be excellent. So, they don’t think you’re prepared? Show and prove. Do your research. Consult with the leaders at your company over a quick coffee or chat. Take initiative that the average person wouldn’t take, but be sure you have advocates when doing so. I once knew an intern who had memorized the Black Enterprise magazine masthead and could compose a full brand analysis of the online Career section alone. This was all done without asking. If you show that you know your stuff, people are forced to respect you.
2. Leave that college mentality at home. Rock your Sasha Fierce, grown-folk career persona. Many successful leaders know when to turn on their office/professional persona and how to separate the person they are among friends or behind closed doors. We all want to be ourselves and stay true (ie. keep it real) but, if you’re just starting out in your career, think about the return on investment of modifying your behavior while still remaining authentic. How do you do that? Watch the mannerisms and ways of doing business as the leading people in your industry. (I stress the “in your industry” aspect because some ways of doing business in terms of formality, can vary from profession to profession.) Also, you can check out leadership resources at your alma mater (workshops, courses and lectures) or look into Toastmasters. Gaining a knack with this takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes.
3. Mentor your peers to help all of us advance. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. If you’re an exemplary young professional who has won the hearts and minds of senior professionals and influencers at your company, take another peer under your wings who may not be doing as well. True, one should focus on their own advancement, but it doesn’t help any work culture if one young professional is doing well, while others are not. For some leaders, one bad seed can represent all. You can’t save everyone, but if you see promise in a former classmate, coworker or younger careerist, take the time to encourage them and provide resources for them to improve.
Do you agree that millennials have issues with preparedness in the workforce? #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.