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Technology & Innovation

Millennials At Work

What’s the Big Idea?

What does the millennial generation want? Today’s recent graduates may still be finding themselves, but the culture has plenty of labels ready. Are they confident or anxious? Rebels against consumerism, or simply people who don’t want to buy stuff? Reckless adultolescents who don’t know when it’s time to leave the party of college behind them, or “the screwed generation“? 

It’s true, the wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. But today’s college graduates enter the workforce with an incredible advantage, says Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters.

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Recent graduates are more authentic, collaborative, and tech savvy than previous generations. They’re also more in touch with what they really want. And while their tendency to reject hierarchy and formality has been framed as a sort of impudent rebelliousness against older, wiser managers, what it really means is that they’ve embraced the search for meaningful work.

What’s the Significance?

 Twenty-somethings: if you want your job to be as satisfying and personalized as your undergraduate study, here’s a word of advice. Choose your employer wisely. Yes, we know that the unemployment rate for recent graduates is, at around 53%, abysmal — but that means that half of recent college grads are employed. And those who will be most successful must bring a genuine curiosity and eagerness to what they do for eight hours a day, five days a week.

Your first job may not be your dream job (it probably won’t), and it may be harder than you imagined, but even working at the fringes of the industry you’re interested in is an important first step to creating a fulfilling career. When you’re writing your cover letter, is your enthusiasm for the job you’re applying for real? If not, don’t apply for it. Instead, concentrate your efforts on searching and networking until you come across an opportunity that does.

Why? The kind of initiative you need to impress your boss is hard to fake. It’s got nothing to do with brown-nosing, says Glocer. The people he likes to hire, and to mentor, are those who have chosen the company because “they care about the field, they want to better themselves.  It’s not just sort of hey this is a job, I don’t really care, my real life is playing music after work, which is cool and there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s just I’m not going to hire you to work in my office.”

Once you’ve secured work, the next step is finding managers you like (someone who reminds you of a favorite professor, perhaps?) and figuring out how you can help them be great at their job. At the end of each work day, ask yourself: does something else need to get done? Is there some additional assignment that you can do, to set yourself apart and show that you take pride in your projects? The people Glocer loves to work with:

I love an employee who, if I say ‘please do these five things, goes away, comes back, and [has done] the following: They’ve done three of the five things exactly as I’ve asked for. They’re perfect.  The fourth thing she says to me [is], ‘I’ve done it your way, Tom, and this is what it looks like, but I actually think it should have been this way, so I’ve done it that way too. The fifth thing you asked me to do you didn’t really think that through. It’s sort of dumb. I’ll do it if you want me to, but I de-prioritized it and by the way, with the extra time I did these three other things, which I think you should have asked me because I think I understand what you’re trying to achieve, but you probably thought I was too busy or whatever.  You’re being nice, so you didn’t.  So here are the eight things I’ve done and what would you like me to do next? 

Even the most inexperienced people have power in their drive. Be willing to learn, but don’t forget that you know a lot, too, and you have a lot to offer, including limitless enthusiasm. “Bring that to work every day, and you’ll inspire the people around you,” advises Glocer.

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