Millennials are entering the workforce with more experience than any previous generation, yet they display a confidence that sometimes is mistaken for a feeling of entitlement. I chalk the latter up to immaturity, a trait every generation of 21-year-olds fresh out of college has displayed. Maturity will come. My advice to employers is to leap at the chance to hire these bright young people, because they come to their first job with an incredible array of new skills that add value to any organization:
- Today's college graduates are very much in the mold of the scrappy start-up. They are not afraid to fail and fail publicly. Using tools like Kickstarter, they put themselves out there in the marketplace of ideas. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose, but what a fabulous experience! Recently, an engineering student told me how he had an idea for a product and was able to raise money on this site to fund the development. They have experience solving real-world problems while learning about the corporate world through online tools like Mind Sumo and WhalePath, where employers post challenges and research projects and students gain experience solving them.
- Millennials learn to be entrepreneurial by creating products and selling them on sites like Etsy, a global online marketplace. A student I advised last year ran a jewelry business using Etsy. Ironically, she did not even think that an employer would value such experience, so she hadn't initially included it on her resume.
- They are very adept at communicating via social media and because they are experts with Facebook and Twitter, they have developed very effective personal public profiles. Some may criticize them for not always being appropriate but they do know what it means to brand and promote online.
- They are tremendously enthusiastic self-starters, having applied their skills to things like the creation of mobile apps to solve problems even before earning their degrees.
Like every generation before them, Millennials need to develop "soft" skills. Surveys by the National Association of Colleges and Employers always show that employers' top two skills they want in graduates are the ability to work on a team and to communicate effectively with persons inside and outside the organization.
All their experience and knowledge lead Millennials to believe that they can be independent entrepreneurs. But they still need help articulating how their experience is relevant to an employer. I notice that even seniors in college still have some naiveté about how organizations are structured and what their needs are. My office helps them relate what they have learned to what employers value.
The Boomer manager probably remembers the old days when an internship meant making copies. But most also know that today's internships are different, since they often supervise interns who are doing real work.
And these managers also see a difference in resumes. They see students who have had international internships and created small businesses... Surely they are impressed when they read about the student who just graduated, who created a foundation in the Philippines for needy children, which she ran for three years while in school.
All this doesn't mean new employees don't have to adapt to the values and processes of their new employers. They must adapt, and they also must be the ones to show their employers how the new tools they are so comfortable with are causing a paradigm shift in the work world.