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Millenials: Get A Work Ethic Or You’re Screwed

One of the driving forces that brought my family and I back from Thailand is the success of my marketing business. I built my web development business to 9 full-time employees, and intend to go further than that this time. I intent to get an office, create an awesome culture, and generally kick ass and take names. Having said that, one thing that worries me as a potential employer is the quality of today’s workforce.

I’ve heard a lot of stories of young men and women graduating from college having a horrible work ethic. The first stories I heard were from members of my MBA class back in 2008 – the people hiring these young people. I learned what the terms “helicopter parents” and “blackhawk parents” meant. It was disconcerting on many levels.

Within the past month I’ve heard even more stories and anecdotes from employers and some recent college graduates about the lack of work ethic and drive the younger generation has.

As an employer my advice to any young person looking for a job is this: get a work ethic or you are going to be totally screwed.

Now let me explain…

What Employers (Especially Me) Want

You've got to earn it

To hold a job that requires you actually think, which is pretty much any modern job, you’re going to have to meet certain baseline criteria:

  1. Be on time, every day.
  2. When you’re at work, focus 100% on your work. Be present and work hard.
  3. Maintain a positive attitude. Not always the easiest thing, but necessary. I personally refuse to work with anyone who has a negative attitude day in and day out. Bad attitudes spread like a virus, and must be treated as such.
  4. If you expect to get a raise, go above and beyond your current responsibilities. Nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it. That takes additional effort.
  5. Take responsibility for your actions when you screw up. This shows maturity. If my 4-year-old daughter admits to messing up more than you do, you’ve got a serious problem. It’s also a matter of trust. If your employer can’t trust you, you’ll be out of the job.
  6. Ask questions. There is always something more to find out about the tasks your assigned, or the projects you’re working on. Find out. It will make a huge difference.

For me, and any employer really, that’s the minimum.

Now this is not a one-sided deal. You should have certain expectations too.

A Dose Of Reality For Employers

Listen up! It's reality time.

Listen up employers! It’s reality time.

I was speaking with my Dad about the current state of our economy and what it took to get and maintain a job. One thing I was surprised to hear him say, which was later confirmed by someone I know in education, is that employers expect college graduates to be able to hit the ground running when they first start working.

This is what we call an unrealistic expectation.

I received my degree in computer science in 2008. I can honestly say that if I was hiring myself at that time (I already had 6 employees then), I wouldn’t have been able to hit the ground running. Not only because I wasn’t taught anything about web development, but we were never taught any of the “soft skills” you need to be successful at a job.

Here’s two things I really needed to know but was never taught:

  1. General business knowledge. If I’m contributing to the bottom line of a business, which employee does, it would be great to know a little bit about business, and how what I was going to do impacted one.
  2. How to work with a team. I didn’t do a group project until my senior year. My MBA was the complete opposite, but more group work as an undergrad would have been a very good thing. Unless you’re a one-person operation, you’re working with others. Teamwork is important.

The bottom line is that employers need to understand that they will need to train new employees. During this time these folks won’t be 100% income producing. However if they are not trained they won’t be able to succeed and produce even more for the company.

Now I hear that companies are worried about training people only to have them leave. And thus we enter a catch-22: employers want employees that can hit the ground running while employees don’t have everything they need going into a job.

Could this be one factor negatively effecting our economy? I think so.

I’ve read that today’s employee will have an average of 5-8 jobs in his lifetime. That means people won’t stay with you forever. Is that a reason not train them? I think not. That’s just bad business.

How My Next Employee Got Hired

Just travel the yellow brick road...

Just follow the yellow brick road…

This coming Thursday I am going to be presenting an employment offer to a young lady. Serendipity seems to have occurred as she is, by all evidence thus far, the polar opposite of what I hear of so many recent graduates. We’ll see over the next few months.

My interview of her, which was our second conversation, lasted a few hours. Within a day I had made my decision, which was based on:

  1. Her actions leading up to the interview
  2. Our conversation
  3. Her actions after the interview

She did send me her resume (which I didn’t ask for) and I did look over it, however no piece of paper can really tell me what I want to know. Hence the long interview.

Here is what she did right, and I suggest anyone looking for employment do:

  1. During our initial meeting during which I told her I was looking to hire someone, she asked for my business card, which I gave her.
  2. That same day she sent me an email. Her email mentioned parts of our conversation, showing me she listened, and addressed each point in my post about what I’m looking for in an employee. She also asked if we could talk again and provided her number.
  3. She immediately scheduled the next time to talk.
  4. When I told her I would be available to speak in person, sooner than the phone conversation we scheduled, we booked it. She also put my convenience ahead of her own.
  5. She was 10 minutes early to our appointment. She dressed well. Much better than me. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
  6. After the meeting she sent a thank you email. She continued to show interest in working with me, and reiterated how she could add value to the company.

A few other things that stood out:

  1. She volunteers for things that are interests of hers that are unrelated to her job
  2. She has a college degree
  3. She was open about why she left her previous job
  4. She reads books, and could easily tell me which one she read last and what she liked about it

So we’ll see if Dempsey Marketing will have it’s first employee (as I don’t count) later this week.

Long Story Short

As an entrepreneur I feel very fortunate. Today’s job market in the U.S. is horrible. Jobs are being outsourced or automated to lower costs and provide stock holders better returns. The education system appears to not be fully preparing young people for today’s jobs. Politicians seem to lack a firm grasp on what it’s going to take for more jobs to be created – there are more factors than they discuss on television.

It’s a hard time to be an employee.

However, jobs are out there. But you have to compete; you have to be very proactive. You don’t have to kiss ass (at least not mine) to cow tow to get a job, however you do have to show you want it and are a good fit.

You may need to gain some new skills, but do it. Never stop learning. Keep moving forward.

And when the opportunity comes, go all in on it.

Comments

  1. Wow. This is an awesome article. I am the offspring of a helicopter parent. We never blame ourselves for much. Ask my husband. My poor boss keeps asking me to get to work by 9:30. Perhaps I should start getting ready for the day as it’s 8:34. You know, I have been stuck in bubble wrap so long, I don’t know anything different. I’m very entitled with an 8 year college undergraduate degree paid for by my mom. I never accepted ANY responsibility for past mistakes or mishaps, even coming to the conclusion (to protect my weak sense of self) that gosh darned it, I must be ADHD. However, the truth is I have a poor work ethic, I have never lived any dreams, as I was too ocused on winning my parent’s pproval through living her own dreams. My parents were involved in my dating life such that they pressured me not to marry a slew f men who were “not good enough for our daughter”. After realizing that NO ONE was good enough for me (or my parents, really), I married a bad boy. Actually, he is great and not th bad, though my parents say I can always move back home following any argument we may have. Well, here I am, doing what I know best… not taking responsibility for myself by blaming my parents (well, mom). My dad knew that she was too controlling, so on one hand I had a parent to please with unrealistic expectations and my dad with zer expectations. So, for the majority of my life I’ve had no one to turn to to provide realistic expectations. This has lead to defeatism for any challenges I’ve faced. I guess developing PTSD from a recent trauma, extensive therapy and ongoing medication is what all I could expect.

  2. I am 27 and completely agree with this article.
    When I graduated high school I didn’t know what kind of degree I wanted. As a creative/artistic type, none of the degrees I was interested in warranted $100k in personal debt.

    I spent my time instead working full time in administrative and management jobs and going to school for my AA degree. I also worked on art projects as a hobby in my spare time.

    For a few years I worked at a large company that hired a lot of recent graduates and I couldn’t believe the poor work ethic, bad attitudes and entitlement I saw in them. I found myself feeling resentful towards them because so many of them were rude and irresponsible, (constantly being late, destructive of company or personal property) and here I was busting my butt going to work at 5am -2pm and class from 3-10 and I didn’t have half the opportunity they did.

    I dont think all or even most of my generations graduates are like this but I have seen a lot of it. A certain hand-holding in high school and college, and then being recruited directly from school and working in a large company with an hr support network and group orientations, reviews and tutorials. Many of my peers can’t follow through with a task or project that isn’t homework. Most design and art graduates I know don’t even have a portfolio outside of what they did in school. And other BA holders I know can’t even split a check.

    But it’s not really their fault that they haven’t been faced with the real world. I feel like some of the bigger employers are looking for a good deal by recruiting from the colleges and by gently raising them in their company, they are creating loyal employees.

    For someone who isn’t enrolled in or a graduate of a 4 year college, these jobs are nearly impossible to get. And the other companies all seem to have read the same Forbes article about keeping their cost low by keeping a high employee turnover.

    By the time my peers had graduated college, I had been working in management positions, nearly finished my AA degree and my hobby became a small business which manufactures and sells retail products. Most of my college graduate friends ended up working in retail, living at home and under a mountain of debt having to move around the country for work. It suddenly feels like they are all exactly where I am except in worse financial trouble and with less/no REAL experience.

    Now that I’ve had some experience in my jobs and my business, I have a better idea of what I want to do. I’m eager to join a real team and have a career where I can grow and work hard with a group that I can look up to and compete with for a company that wants good employees, not just cheap ones. Its a difficult market though no matter how enthusiastic or competent you are. Especially if you don’t have a BA.

    I have been applying for media planner and media coordinator positions since last march when I finished school (I have a UC transferable AA). I’m in LA and am using every last penny of my savings to spend my time applying for jobs, researching the industry and going to networking and education events within the industry. That’s actually how I arrived here. I really appreciate your take on this and it’s nice to see that employers ARE still looking for work ethic. Sometimes it seems all that matters is what the education part of your résumé says.

    I’d appreciate any advice you could offer to someone in my position.
    Thanks

  3. mdcarroll6 says:

    I agree. I’m one of those individuals that can be negative at times, but this serves to be a reminder that hard work eventually pays off, even if it takes a while. But I am learning how much work I need to invest in my business (found out how much I like working by myself) and learning that being positive does go a long way towards helping with that very thing! 

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  5. Robert, as a millennial I thank you for posting this. While it does paint us in a negative light, I can definitely see a lot of similarities between the millennials you’ve worked with and other people my age. There are a lot posts like this being published lately, which makes millennials look bad, but it doesn’t mean that none of it is true. I would also like to believe that all of these posts make the hardworking millennials (like myself) stand out a bit more. 
     
    I have enjoyed the discussion in the comments thus far. I can very much empathize with @kpf1 . It’s hard as hell for people our age to get a job these days, especially right after graduation. It’s a constant uphill battle filled with lots of rejection. The job market is awful. The people who are hiring want candidates with years of experience but aren’t willing to take a chance and actually give someone experience. Similar to what you were saying about employers not wanting to spend time training employees. 
     
    If you’re not lucky enough to have connections that will help you get hired it’s full time work for new graduates just to get a job, never mind having the skills and personality it takes to keep one. I had to do a lot of personal marketing to get noticed and get the job I have now. I still continue to do so. While other people my age are out with their friends on evenings and weekends I’m networking on LinkedIn and reading books about content marketing. I’m always trying to get my name out there and learn more to be more valuable. It’s exhausting but that’s what it takes to make it as a millennial these days.

    •  @mattsouthern  thank you for sharing your experience Matt. Of all the stories I’ve heard, you stand heads and shoulders above many.
       
      I wasn’t trying to say that Millenials don’t have it hard – they (you) do, big time. It reminds me of 2000 when I was new in tech and couldn’t get a job to save my life. It was the same catch 22 many find themselves in now – employers wanted people with experience, but without a job I couldn’t get any.
       
      Ultimately I took a (very low paying) internship at the computer school I went to and was fortunate to have a friend that hired me after that.
       
      Keep plugging away, and tell your friends to do the same. When I started my first business 13 years ago I had no idea what I was getting into and the amount of work it would take. I think people today know just how much work is needed to either get a job or create their own.
       
      None of it’s easy, but we all need to continue moving forward.
       
      Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  6. I like this article, because it is looking from both perspectives. Now, the employment system is flawed, and needs some rework.

    If I am working in a small company I would love to get the part of the equity of the company as a part of the bonus for good performance.

    It’s always hard to neglect the fact that you are working for salar alone.

    Now you have to view it from perspective of someone who is in developing country. Currently I live in Serbia, and if it wasn’t for the internet I would pretty much unemployed.

    Demand for my web marketing services is high, but business owners aren’t willing to pay, nor they are able to pay for what I am able to get as an outsourced labour in USA companies.

    So you can get stuck working for penauts, while delivering good results. Than it is pretty normal not to give all in for someone who doesn’t appreciate you, but on the other hand drives the newest version of BMW…

    For someone with enterprenurial spirit, I have an option of working how much I am paid for, instead of what others think. And since nobody here understands anything around IT here, whatever I contribute is good.

    Than rest of the time I devote to building my own business. There is a whole emerging culture resolving this topic, that started with 4 Hour Workweek, that tells people how to achieve this. Fighting for your own financial freedom, while being forced temporeraly to work for someone else.

    Pretty much everyone wants to be an enterprenuer today, just USA’s youth doesn’t have the skills and attitude required to do that in masses…

    • Sorry for the typos, wrote this on my cell phone during lunch break.

    •  @Bojan011 thank you for an outside perspective Bojan. My family and I spent the last year-and-a-half in Thailand, which many consider third world; it’s definitely still developing in most areas and has a low standard of living for many. There too people have chosen to start their own business rather than get a very hard to come by job, many of which you need connections to get.
       
      I think many are now looking at the viability of entrepreneurial efforts rather than working for a company. I know of a number of people that will be retiring, or forced to retire, from companies and are not yet finished with the business world. Those folks definitely have the drive to do it, they just need the knowledge to make it happen.
       
      Thank you for adding your experience Bojan.

    • bportaro says:

       @Bojan011 I agree with most of what you say, except the statement that everyone wants to be an entrepenuer.  It just seems like everyone, if you subscribe to any biz news.  There is a greater need for employees than for entrepeneurs.  Problem is, all you hear about if your part of the online world is entrepeneurs.  With tens of thousands of employees at Google, I doubt that less than 10% want to be entrepeneurs.  Entrepeneurs I know are the hardest working “employees” of their own companies.  I think what Robert is looking for is just to have someone who will show up on time and do their work.  Whatever the reason, it just seems that there are not a lot of people willing to do that.

  7. bportaro says:

    My daughter is now happily employed in a field she chose to pursue.  Even after 128 interviews, she landed a job selling shop rags and floor mat for Aramark, knowing the the industry she wanted to work in (medical device sales) drew their talent from the pharma biz,   Which in turn draws their talent in from companies like Aramark.  So her end game is one step closer.  Her path was college, then a company like Aramark, then a pharma job (which is what she is doing now) then onto medical devices  She is 25 so that should put her smack in the Millenial middle.  My point is, she is the rarity among her college friends.  only one other has any career aspirations.  Several are ski bums, beach bums and just plain lazy.  All of them still live off subsidies from their parents.  Sad to say, but my experience has been like Robert’s, but then again i am sampling from a relatively small pool.  I don’t think its fair to stereotype any generation.  I am 55 years old and most Millenials think I know nothing of technology, when in fact, in the last 7 years, I was responsible for starting a new division within an Internet company that did over $10million, help founded a grass roots social media organization that grew to 1,200 members and continue to use affiliate marketing as a supplement to my income.  I guess everyone is different and sweeping generalizations are the norm.  I often wonder what if Google would hire me.  I say NOT, largely because they would take one look at me and discriminate based solely on my age.

    •  @bportaro I’m happy to hear that things worked out for your daughter. She seems to have a solid plan of action, and took the steps to get to where she wants to be.
       
      That’s the kind of behavior I’m talking about.

  8. I have had the chance to work with co-ops and interns over the last few years and while there are gems (like the solid young woman who is lucky enough to work with you), I am worried myself. This group is expecting jobs to be handed to them and they dont want to do the work to get one. They show up exactly at 9 and leave exactly at 5, even if there is work to get done that day. Maybe my priorities are off because I value getting things done so I can go home knowing I did my best – that doesnt seem to be the case with this group. I dont expect this group to know it all or do it all, but I want them to be passionate about learning and experiencing. What I have seen is more individuals that hope we dont notice they have nothing to do all day as they watch the clock waiting for 5pm. It’s becoming increasingly harder for people like me to enjoy working in this environment. What the heck happened over the last 10 years?!

    •  @C_Pappas thank you for adding your experience Christina. Any theories as to why this is?
       
      One post I read from a young woman (currently attending graduate school) put part of the blame on parents doing everything for them rather than letting them succeed and fail on their own.

      •  @RobertDempsey We always want to blame the parents :) So my theory – which is just that, a theory – is that this is a generation of people who have not really ‘needed’ anything. They drive nice cars and dont work too much to get them. Their parents are more well-off than previous generations and they just havent experienced ‘hard work’. They have people clean their house, landscapers mow their lawns, etc. I watched my parents work their tails off and while I had everything I needed, I didnt get any extras. I had to work when I was 16 – keyword is ‘had’ – it wasnt just for fun like some of the youth I see. My cousin is 18 and just graduated high school. She has had 1 job at McDonalds and worked there for about 4 months before she said she ‘didnt like working’. Now she doesnt work at all.
         
        I want to work with this group but Im really struggling to support them when I dont see much drive to succeed. Im not sure they want to get to the top. Im more convinced they are working because they have to in order to pay the bills.

        •  @C_Pappas very interesting theory. When we were in Thailand, my mother-in-law said the exact same thing about the younger generation (12-15-year-olds). The difference there though is if you aren’t working or going to school you’re going to end up in abject poverty – reason enough to work hard.

        •  @RobertDempsey That is certainly a good reason but a hard case to make when a child cannot visualize what ‘poverty’ is.

        •  @C_Pappas very true. For many of us here in the US we don’t see it. In Thailand, it’s a way of life for many.

        • C_pappas you’re so right. I am also amazed how many people my age didn’t have jobs as teenagers. I started working at 12 through a friend of the family and was on payroll at a Little Caesars at 13. The longest I’ve gone without working is this past 10 months (I’m 27 now) that I haven’t been able to find work.
          I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are just like your cousin. They just “can’t handle” working or work just isn’t their “thing.” It’s absolutely amazing to me.

          I often feel that employers actually over-look laziness and irresponsibility in the workplace. It drives me crazy when I take pride in my work, stay late, and take an active interest, contributing ideas for the overall success of the business while my bosses take it for granted and don’t even care how much lazy co-workers bring the team down.
          Something I’ve been hearing a lot over the past few years from management is about people having different “work styles.” And all the laziness, irresponsibility and unprofessionalism is just chalked up to their “work style.”
          I guess it’s lazy management too but its really hard to work in those environments.

  9. Robert, as I pointed out on Twitter, it appears to me that what you have done here is to: 1) hear some rumors and/or secondhand reports that the stereotypes about Millennials are true; 2) meet one Millennial, who appears to you to be a counterexample to that stereotype; and 3) assume that the rumors/stereotypes are true, and accordingly, write a blog post exhorting Millennials to work toward meeting the standards set by your supposed counterexample.Consider that cognitive bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias) would lead you and your contacts to accept as true any stereotype that you have heard about Millennials as soon as you hear a few anecdotes supporting those stereotypes. Consider that people tend to share negative stories and experiences rather than positive ones. Consider that news reporting, not surprisingly, tilts toward reporting situations that are the exception rather than the rule. Put all of that together, and you are only contributing to the tarring of an entire generation of people–I rather doubt that all 80 million (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/01/60minutes/main646890.shtml) of them have any single trait in common, let alone that there is a pandemic of poor work ethic out there–despite your own experience. Furthermore, if you will recall, newspapers and magazines were saying the exact same thing about Generation X twenty years ago. I haven’t seen that stereotype recently. Have you?In the spirit of disclosure, I am a “cusper”–some sources put me in Generation X and others in Generation Y, though usually I fall into Generation X–who has observed what this job market has done to her younger siblings (both squarely in Generation Y, both graduating at the height of the recession) for the past few years.

    •  @kpf1 thanks for coming and commenting Kelsey – I appreciate you being open to dialogue. Let me address your points.
       
      1. What I’ve heard isn’t rumors. I’ve spoken with hiring managers at companies as large as ESPN and Disney, and many small businesses. Industries these folks are working in include entertainment, consulting, web development, IT, insurance, recruiting, and many others.
       
      2. I’ve met more than one millenial. Despite how it may appear, I do get out of the house. In fact, one of my business partners is a millenial, and doesn’t come close to fitting the stereotype.
       
      3. I am not automatically assuming the “rumors” to be true. I am working from actual evidence of those who encounter millenials seeking employment. These stories aren’t made up – they’re fact.
       
      As for cognitive bias, I happily dispute your belief that that’s happening here. I’ve maintained an upbeat and positive outlook toward the millenial generation despite story after story that would lead me to the contrary.
       
      I’ll be 34 next month so I’m not sure where that puts me in the generational labeling, however I can say that I do know a number of people my age that aren’t extremely hard working, despite economic conditions. They get by, but that’s about it. Having said that…
       
      I understand that each generation has it’s ethics and it’s way of doing things. My parents were of a generation where you went to college, and upon graduating worked for one company until you retired. That’s not my generation at all. However I still have to recognize that that is their expectation, and that there are people of that generation making hiring decisions. While I’m not looking for a job, I’m aware those people are out there.
       
      As I said to Bob below (who left an excellent comment) today’s generation has it very hard. Offshoring and automation are sending jobs overseas, employers are hesitant to hire because of the current political climate (I personally know a number of business owners waiting to hire until after the elections), competition is now on a global scale, and older generations don’t always understand the young people they may hire.
       
      There is no easy solution to any of this, and I’m not claiming it’s easy out there for anyone. What I am saying though is that if someone wants to even be considered, they have to bring their “A” game and really stand out.

      •  @RobertDempsey  <p>So I say, “The plural of anecdote is not data,” and your response is, “But they’re TRUE anecdotes!”? It seems we are talking past one another.http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/frontal-cortex/2012/06/daniel-kahneman-bias-studies.html</p><p>Two things I would like to address, though: 1) “each generation is different,” and 2) “bringing your ‘A’ game.”</p><p>As for the first, it is undoubtedly true that each generation is different and has different expectations and realities to deal with. However, by exhorting Millennials, collectively, to “get a work ethic,” you are dealing in negative stereotypes. About 80 million people: over one-quarter of the U.S. population. You are adding to the problem, helping to reinforce the cognitive bias of your fellow-Gen Xers and older “cuspers” (you do fall within the “cusp” years). For someone who claims to have a positive view of the generation, that is a mighty wide brush you are using to tar them.</p><p>As for the second, have you ever tried to maintain your A game for a (to borrow Bob’s example) 14-month job search? Have you ever been rejected 127 times? No? Then you should probably think about that for a minute. Think about how you have felt when you’ve been rejected, and multiply that by over one hundred. Think about how you’ve felt when you were in a financial crunch, and multiply that by 14 months. Consider that feeling in the pit of your stomach, not knowing if you’d be able to make next month’s rent, fourteen times over. Contemplate the calculations involved in deciding whether you will have to go on food aid or welfare (balancing the small safety net against the level of humiliation involved in filling out those forms), or ask for money from friends and family (balancing the small safety net against the judgment you may get and the humiliation of having to ask). Think about reading news articles and blog posts accusing you of being lazy, over and over and over again, and of ruining the economy because you refuse to get out there and get a job, when you know you’ve been working as hard as you can to do just that. Consider looking at the diploma on your wall, the one that cost you tens of thousands of dollars, and wondering whether it could possibly have been worth it since you’re still working the summer job you had in high school or an unpaid internship. If you want children, contemplate the fact that your fertile years are slipping away, one at a time, while you still couldn’t even begin to dream of being able to afford children (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2012/06/06/are-millennials-too-poor-to-procreate/). Think about carrying all of that baggage into your 128th job interview.</p><p>I do not see how you are helping this situation, or encouraging anyone to put on their “A” game, by creating one more accusatory posting. You could have easily shared this story and given your related advice in a way that didn’t accuse one-quarter of the population of being lazy, even in a way that was sympathetic to the plight of the Millennial job seeker, but you didn’t. This belies your claims to have maintained a positive view of Millennials despite your sampling of anecdotes.</p>

      •  @RobertDempsey  [Note: I cannot get my HTML to work on this site, so I am signifying paragraph breaks with “||.”] So I say, “The plural of anecdote is not data,” and your response is, “But they’re TRUE anecdotes!”? It seems we are talking past one another.http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/frontal-cortex/2012/06/daniel-kahneman-bias-studies.html    ||    Two things I would like to address, though: 1) “each generation is different,” and 2) “bringing your ‘A’ game.”    ||    As for the first, it is undoubtedly true that each generation is different and has different expectations and realities to deal with. However, by exhorting Millennials, collectively, to “get a work ethic,” you are dealing in negative stereotypes. About 80 million people: over one-quarter of the U.S. population. You are adding to the problem, helping to reinforce the cognitive bias of your fellow-Gen Xers and older “cuspers” (you do fall within the “cusp” years). For someone who claims to have a positive view of the generation, that is a mighty wide brush you are using to tar them.    ||    As for the second, have you ever tried to maintain your A game for a (to borrow Bob’s example) 14-month job search? Have you ever been rejected 127 times? No? Then you should probably think about that for a minute. Think about how you have felt when you’ve been rejected, and multiply that by over one hundred. Think about how you’ve felt when you were in a financial crunch, and multiply that by 14 months. Consider that feeling in the pit of your stomach, not knowing if you’d be able to make next month’s rent, fourteen times over. Contemplate the calculations involved in deciding whether you will have to go on food aid or welfare (balancing the small safety net against the level of humiliation involved in filling out those forms), or ask for money from friends and family (balancing the small safety net against the judgment you may get and the humiliation of having to ask). Think about reading news articles and blog posts accusing you of being lazy, over and over and over again, and of ruining the economy because you refuse to get out there and get a job, when you know you’ve been working as hard as you can to do just that. Consider looking at the diploma on your wall, the one that cost you tens of thousands of dollars, and wondering whether it could possibly have been worth it since you’re still working the summer job you had in high school or an unpaid internship. If you want children, contemplate the fact that your fertile years are slipping away, one at a time, while you still couldn’t even begin to dream of being able to afford children (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2012/06/06/are-millennials-too-poor-to-procreate/). Think about carrying all of that baggage into your 128th job interview.    ||    I do not see how you are helping this situation, or encouraging anyone to put on their “A” game, by creating one more accusatory posting. You could have easily shared this story and given your related advice in a way that didn’t accuse one-quarter of the population of being lazy, even in a way that was sympathetic to the plight of the Millennial job seeker, but you didn’t. This belies your claims to have maintained a positive view of Millennials despite your sampling of anecdotes.

  10. Robert, as I pointed out on Twitter, it appears to me that what you have done here is to: 1) hear some rumors and/or secondhand reports that the stereotypes about Millennials are true; 2) meet one Millennial, who appears to you to be a counterexample to that stereotype; and 3) assume that the rumors/stereotypes are true, and accordingly, write a blog post exhorting Millennials to work toward meeting the standards set by your supposed counterexample.Consider that <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias” title=”Wikipedia: Cognitive Bias”>cognitive bias</a> would lead you and your contacts to accept as true any stereotype that you have heard about Millennials as soon as you hear a few anecdotes supporting those stereotypes. Consider that people tend to share negative stories and experiences rather than positive ones. Consider that news reporting, not surprisingly, tilts toward reporting situations that are the exception rather than the rule. Put all of that together, and you are only contributing to the tarring of an entire generation of people–I rather doubt that all <a href=”http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/01/60minutes/main646890.shtml” title=”CBS News: The Echo Boomers”>80 million</a> of them have any single trait in common, let alone that there is a pandemic of poor work ethic out there–despite your own experience. Furthermore, if you will recall, newspapers and magazines were saying the exact same thing about Generation X twenty years ago. I haven’t seen that stereotype recently. Have you?In the spirit of disclosure, I am a “cusper”–some sources put me in Generation X and others in Generation Y, though usually I fall into Generation X–who has observed what this job market has done to her younger siblings (both squarely in Generation Y, both graduating at the height of the recession) for the past few years.

  11. bportaro says:

    Robert,
    Great to see you back i the states.  I enjoyed following your time in Thailand.  As an older worker, I enjoyed your recent post on what an employee should act like.  hopefully I have instilled this in my Millenial children.  While my wife and I did take care of them, we never hovered.  We let them fail and more importantly when they started something, we made them finish.  My daughter graduated from college in 2009, the worst time possible.  She spent 14 months doing everything from internships to part time jobs.  In the meantime, she had 128 job interviews, many of them the 5th or 6th time.  After each, she would leave a thank you note.  I have seen a lot of kids today not have the tenacity to win.  Things came easy to them and if they did not like their situation, their parents let them quit.  Two things I always looked for in my employees was tenacity and persistence.  Things don’t happen overnight in most businesses and careers.  Besides helicopter parents, I think that another factor of millenial malaise is all the stories they see of people and companies succeeding so quickly.  Not sure how it works for you, but I don’t see many overnight successes close to me.  The kind where someone starts a company and sells it two years later for millions.

    •  @bportaro thank you for sharing your experience on both sides of this issue Bob. I can only imagine the difficult time your daughter is having from your story.
       
      To your last point, my wife and I were talking the other day about how so many of us see the success and not the years of effort it took to get there. Most times that effort is measured in years. Everything else is an outlier and truly not the norm.
       
      That’s something we should all keep in mind.
       
      Great to hear from you sir!

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