Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"
Career Advice

Career Mistakes that Plague Millennials

If you’re a Millennial reading this, I tip my hat to you.  As a group you guys are some of the most creative, tech-savvy and entrepreneurial generations to hit the business world!  And based on many of your beliefs, strengths and goals, it shouldn’t be surprising that almost 70% report an interest in freelance work.

For those of you with the vision (and guts!) to chase the world of freelance, your timing may be perfect as many business’s report plans to increase their use of off-site labor.  But for those of you planning to pursue more “traditional” careers, it's important you avoid the mistakes listed below:

  1. Work Ethic. Whether it’s because they were the first generation raised in dual-income homes or various other reasons, millennials are quite vocal regarding the importance of work life balance.  In fact, many intentionally choose jobs that are less “demanding” to ensure their personal time is protected.  In fact, Kiplinger recently shared that “millennials were the only one of todays’ four generational groups not to cite work ethic as one of their defining characteristics.”    This lack of drive can make it tough (if not impossible!) to produce results that gain the attention of senior management.
  2. We’re Not Equals. One of the things that puzzled me when I first began managing millennials was the sense of entitlement.  There seemed to be little understanding for why they weren’t allowed (and of course encouraged!) to meet with the president of the board personally to share their latest idea.  Business Week “Mistakes Millennials Make at Work” summarizes it like this:  “In short, they implicitly follow the explicit philosophy of most Web 2.0 communities, which is ‘we’re all equals here.’”  Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth.  And the twenty-something that can embrace an organizational chart and truly respect the chain of command will quickly shine over their "equal" counterparts.
  3. What’s Initiative? This newest group of employees often lacks one of the core skills that can differentiate employees…the ability to take initiative without direction.  While they may be well accustomed to professors assigning tasks, there is no syllabus in Corporate America.  Those that can identify weaknesses, are willing to put in extra hours and create solutions independently will quickly rise ahead of their peers who wait patiently for management to call every shot.
  4. No “I” in Team. A 2014 study by Elance-oDesk found Millennials are “80% more narcissistic than the Gen Xer’s who came before them.”   Admittedly, it’s tough to argue that Millennials are definitely gaining an “all about me” reputation.  But successful entrepreneurs and managers are completely in tune with the old adage that there is no “I” in team.  Aaron McDaniel, author of the “The Young Professional’s Guide” book series warns that “making yourself look good in front of the boss rather than making an effort to collaborate with teammates will eventually backfire.”  Instead aligning personal goals with the mission and vision of the company is a favored trait for those looking to climb the ladder of success.
  5. Demand Instant Gratification. It could be because of the speed and ease with which they have learned to have everything at their fingertips or something their parents unknowingly created, but regardless, millennials often have little (ok no!) patience.  And while their drive is admirable, it’s also not realistic in today’s business environment.  Promotional opportunities don’t happen in months and these sorts of expectations can drive a quick wedge in an otherwise healthy relationship with the boss.
  6. Too Needy. While doting boomer parents (and yes I was one!), showered their kids with countless opportunities and private coaches, today’s working managers often lack the time and energy for their twenty-something team members.   This group of young professionals often desires constant feedback and coaching opportunities that just aren’t realistic in the real world.  It’s not that managers don’t care about employee development; rather their new titles of “working managers” leave little time for the “management” aspects of their job.
  7. Communication Errors Abound. While we all love the ease (and often efficiency!) of electronic communication, face to face conversations are still important and vastly underused by today’s young professionals.  While email may feel “painless,” it doesn’t allow the opportunity for a physical connection, the use of body language and building of relationships.  Email also costs money…big money!  A recent study shared businesses lose an estimated, “650 Billion dollars per year due to unnecessary emails.”  With that said, this group has a lot of company on this front.
  8. Oversharing is never cool. Oversharing of information in the work place is a mistake that plagues many twenty-somethings.  Admittedly, not much is truly considered “private” with this generation.  But employees who find it necessary to share a play by play recap of their entire evening or lunch hour quickly gain the reputation for wasting everyone’s time!   And for anyone that missed the 500 other articles (ok maybe a slight exaggeration...) covering the topic, don’t underestimate the damage that posting weekend pictures with friends, non-professional clothing and drinks in hand can cause.  Bottom line: No boss wants to explain the afterhour’s behavior of employees to his boss.

A few weeks ago I published a post entitled, “10 Mistakes Women Make at Work.”  But realistically, women don’t have the market cornered on career sabotage.  While many twenty somethings have bright futures and big plans, you too make avoidable (not to mention costly!) mistakes that carry a hefty price tag as you work to climb the ladder of success.

I’d love to hear from you…what mistake have you made at work?

For more on the topic of Millennials and career success, visit the references below:

Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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