Some Notes from an Old Dude to Young Folks

Old Entrepreneur Working from HomeI am seeing several disturbing trends in the Millennial Generation workforce. If the Millennials don’t get their heads on straight in this economy, they’ll be living with mommy and daddy for a very long time. Here are a few words of sage advice, which will probably just get Millennials angry. But they should be listened to.

1. It takes more than a few applications to get a job. Recent statistics (supplied courtesy of Entry Level Rebel) show 55% of recent college grads apply to less than five jobs before giving up and moving in with mom and dad (or staying there). My highly experienced clients can apply for 50 jobs or more before landing. Persistence counts. So does patience.

2. Your social life has to take a back seat. One thing I’ve seen with many Millennials is a constant party, with drinking most nights, regardless of which night of the week it might be. Partying is for the times you have a day off the next day and can recover. If you are looking for a job or have a job, all of your brain cells need to be present with you. This is not going to happen after a night of partying.

3. There are jobs out there. They may not be great jobs. But, even if a job pays minimum wage, it is an addition to your resume. Given the unfair and extreme prejudice against the unemployed, it is better to be working than not. Even if the job is flipping burgers, your resume shows, unlike many of your generation, you had the work ethic to do something. Someone flipping burgers will get a decent job long before someone who is sitting at mommy and daddy’s playing video games or “chilling.”

4. When you get a job, do it. I could name, right off the top of my head, two dozen or more cases of Millennial incompetence due to simply not paying attention. Pay attention when you’re at work! Be there and give more than you’re asked. There are ten or more people waiting to take that “lousy” job. Keep yours.

5. Stop arguing. A Millennial was waiting on us a little while ago in an upper-range restaurant. He ignored us. I finally flagged him down, and indicated that he really wasn’t paying much attention to us. He argued and said he was, where the proper response would have been, “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make sure you get taken care of from now on.” This got him a complaint to the manager and $2 tip on a $60 lunch tab. But I’ve seen a tendency in Millennials to defend everything they do. Rather than a customer service attitude, there seems to be an attitude of “I can do no wrong.” This is not an isolated incident. I’ve seen this take place many times when a Millennial is performing a service for a customer. If criticized, don’t argue or justify yourself. Apologize at once and fix the problem! (And never argue with the boss. You’ll lose.)

6. Stop negotiating! Another Millennial trait I often see is constant negotiation about everything. Listen — in the work world you are not in control. You haven’t paid your dues or earned the right to have any control yet. Our lousy schools and coddling parents have given our younger workers the idea that everything can be negotiated into a better deal. Nope. With today’s economy, most things are “take it or leave it, buddy.” You might well negotiate yourself right out of a job.

7. Listen to your customer. We had an order-taker at Arby’s who just couldn’t get it out of her head, though we repeated it several times, that she had taken our order wrong. After repeating it three times, she simply walked away and we had to repeat our whole order to another (and older) employee. This should not have happened. Listen to what your customer is saying rather than the spooky voices in your head!

I don’t blame the Millennials for being this way. Our school systems and their parents gave these folks an extreme entitlement attitude and few social skills. But if Millennials ever hope to move from their parents’ homes before they’re 50, they will start to change their attitudes about work and life immediately.

Please feel free to invite me on LinkedIn. I accept all invitations from individuals. Also, please join my LinkedIn Group “Getting Employed” for great employment discussions.

John Heckers has over 30 years of successfully helping people with their careers. He has consulted to executives from Fortune 500 companies, five-person companies, and everything in-between.

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