Millennials get a bad rep in the workplace. Studies have found that employers — especially those from a past generation — often describe us as entitled, lazy, unfocused; all the attributes that throw up red flags during hiring processes. This may seem unfair — and probably is unfair in a lot of circumstances — but as those trying to get hired, it is our job to demonstrate that we do not fall into these generalizations. Several habits and practices can go a long way in dispelling these assumptions.
- Don’t Overwork
This is the millennial syndrome: overwork and burnout. You have been raised to make a difference in the world and you want to start right away. You get a job in your field after graduation and all you want is to climb the ranks until you’re in a position where you can really throw your weight around.
Then it all changes. You’ve been at the same job doing the same thing for six months or a year. You’re bored, exhausted from the constant effort, and there’s no promotion in sight. You begin to wonder if this job is really the right place for you.
This, unfortunately, is very common. Overwork and unrealistic expectations will eventually lead to burnout. To avoid this, start by taking care of yourself and not torturing yourself at work. Work should be a unique environment with both challenges and celebrations.
If you slave every day away for the next promotion, your performance will start to fall off and you will no longer have the passion necessary for success at your job. Instead, take some time to yourself. Use those vacation days you’ve been nursing, go out for drinks with your coworkers, make some new friends at lunch. If this job is your intended career, take the steps to get comfortable.
- Put Down Your Phone
Millennials and technology go hand-in-hand (no pun intended). We are the generation of the internet boom, and one of our greatest hiring strengths is our ability to pick up and master new tech, and to remain in-the-loop with modern, online trends.
That does not excuse being rude. More comprehensive, modern workplaces may value using technology — your cell phone, in particular — as an organizational and communication tool. In those cases, you should use your cell exactly as that — and nothing else. Taking calls or texts that are not an emergency is still considered extremely rude and unprofessional in any workplace. It’s also distracting to you and to those around you.
Having the ability to divorce yourself from your phone and focus on the task at hand will make you stand out from other young workers, and will help you build relationships with coworkers — particularly more experienced, old-school players.
- Work Together When Possible
Referenced earlier, millennials have a ton of good attributes to offer the workplace. By following the two previous steps, you will already begin to dispel the negative generational aura surrounding you and those your age. It is important to accentuate exactly what you can bring to the table.
If you are a millennial, you are probably quick, reactive, and capable of collaboratively picking apart problems with others your age. You have the gigantic knowledge-dump of the internet at your fingertips, and you are extremely proficient at finding any answers you are seeking, or recruiting others who can help. This team-centric resourcefulness is exactly what employers are looking for.
While past generations often focused on individual competition, the age of the internet has helped create a generation which is more technologically connected and excited to build beautiful things together.
- Multitasking Effectively
We are also the generation of ADHD. While our hyperactive, unfocused energy has drawn the ire of many, it can be a boon if used properly. Since our youth, we have been wired to act immediately and take on whatever is put before us, but we also find ourselves skipping from one obligation to the next. This often resembles distraction.
Fluidity in your priorities is objectively more efficient if perfected. You can seamlessly transition between one project and another, picking up where you left off and getting good work done on whatever is most important at the time.
To do this effectively, you need to stay organized and know where in the process each project or task is. If you lose sight, you’ll end up wasting time and energy, and you’ll end up with several projects all stalled in confusion. Keeping a project timeline or planner can help with this, as well as keeping extensive notes to remind you of what needs to be done next.
- Be a Student
You’re still young, and there is much you can learn about any workplace, especially when you’re first starting out. Online sources can help with a lot of this, but there is no substitute for the time and energy that true learning takes. Get to know the people who have been working their jobs for decades: they probably know some tips and tricks that you haven’t thought of.
Adopting the student mentality can also make work a lot more interesting. If it is a company that has existed for a long time, delve into its history so you can get an idea of where the company has been, where it is presently, and where it is going. Insights like this can help you determine if the company is a good fit and whether your particular skills will be of use.
The world has put tremendous expectations on your millennial shoulders, and that can be a lot to handle. Just keep in mind that all the fear and uncertainty employers feel for millennials comes from these high expectations. If you can tame the negative associations and coax out the strong attributes of your generation, you will be a fantastic employee.