I had lunch with my friend Becky Côté the other day. She’s an Account Manager & Recruiter at The Creative Group, the oldest and biggest specialized creative staffing agency in the biz. She connects talented creative and marketing professionals with her clientele of highly sought-after employers. I took the opportunity to pick her brain.
Naturally, she had a ton of great career advice for job seekers: research the company, tailor your cover letter, and get creative with your resume. But what stuck out the most were her closing remarks.
There are a lot of talented people out in the job market, all who have similar backgrounds and skills. When it comes down to filling a position, she explained, employers choose the right person over the right skills more times than not.
When Becky meets with various employers to get their list of must-haves, she seems to also get a list of must-not-haves alongside it. The must-not-have list includes candidates who are entitled, unyielding, and overconfident. Basically, millennial stereotypes.
There are a myriad of articles on millennials. Some based on stereotypes, others on facts. But one thing remains true: millennials have to work harder than any other generation when it comes to building their career. For the characteristics millennials are challenged with, Becky gave the following advice (and in looking into it further, she’s not the only one on the podium attempting to help the millennial generation succeed).
Ditch your ego and learn to be flexible
Employers dread hiring the over-confident millennials. The ones who think they’re above basic entry-level tasks such as filing paperwork. The ones who will try to smooth-talk their way out of doing these seemingly menial tasks. Becky hears it all the time. Her advice: pay your dues. Roll up your sleeves and put in the work. You’re not above it.
This sentiment is stated poignantly in one of the most honest commencement speeches out there. In a commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005, David Foster Wallace tells millennials that it’s not all about you. When it comes to doing the mundane, we have a choice. The choice is our outlook. Wallace teaches us that our natural default setting does not need to be “I am the center of the world.” Choose to look at things differently, he tells us. “Consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable.”
So when it comes to menial tasks at work, it’s not about you. It’s about the team. That work needs to get done, someone has to do it. And since you’re the one paying your dues, whether filing is included in your job description or not, just do it. “The only thing that’s true is how you decide how to see it,” says Wallace. It’s your point of view that matters. Ditch your ego.
Lose your sense of entitlement
Everyone wants to land their dream job right out of college. Everyone. But you’re not entitled to it. You want it; you’ve worked for it your entire life with straight As and internships, extracurricular activities and charity fundraisers. You’ve earned it. But you’re not entitled to it.
Employers want to hire humble employees who will work hard for their paycheck. Employers want employees who earn a promotion, not employees who think they deserve a raise because they’ve hit their three month milestone. This is why objectives on resumes have become outdated. It’s not what an organization can do for you; it’s what you can contribute to the organization. Becky advises you to work for what you want, advocating, “If you want a certain job at your company, just start doing it. If you do it well, soon they’ll be paying you to do it. Go above and beyond what’s expected of you, and you’ll get to where you want to be.”
In his commencement speech to the graduating class at Wellesley High School, David McCullough Jr. states that we have come to “love accolades more than achievement.” Why? We feel entitled. Instead of learning and growing from experiences, we say “so what does this get me?” which is an epidemic, says McCullough. For this reason, he goes on to urge us to do things “for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. […] Be worthy of your advantages,” he says. “The fulfilling life is an achievement. Not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person.”
In other words, work hard. You’re entitled to nothing.
Use stereotypes to your advantage
Millennials have been stereotyped as the me me me generation. They say we’re lazy, selfish, and shallow. They claim participation prizes and constant texting have ruined us. They think we’re born on third base and believe we hit a triple. Moreover, they claim to have studies and statistics to prove it.
Becky’s advice? Use these stereotypes to your advantage. If an employer assumes you’re lazy simply because you’re a millennial, impress him by showing him how hard you work. Write a humble cover letter, exude confidence but be polite during interviews, and most importantly, be authentic.
In a commencement speech at Wellesley College, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in a lot of ways, spoke about breaking through stereotypes. As she urged women not to subscribe to gender roles and rather to view themselves as complete equals to men, she encouraged us all to reject stereotypes. “Your standardized ideologies will not always fit your life,” she said. “Don’t twist yourselves into shapes that suit other people.”
It doesn’t seem like the Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers will let go of their millennial stereotypes any time soon. But, that doesn’t mean we have to subscribe to them. Let the older generations keep their low expectations of us. Once they get to know us, we’ll blow ‘em out of the water.
What characteristics do you need to work on for self-improvement? How have millennial stereotypes affected your career?
written by Cari Stark
Cari Stark is a recent college graduate and the Marketing Manager for College Works Painting, a college internship that equips students with the necessary skills and experience to land their dream job when they graduate. Land an internship in less than 30 days with this free step-by-step guide.