By Carrie S Ahmad, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Recently I interviewed a candidate for an entry-level job and was so pleasantly surprised by her “will do anything to learn” attitude that I actually called it out at the end of the interview and told her that interviewing her was a wonderfully positive and refreshing experience. She was willing to take meeting notes, grab lunch for the team, work late, and do whatever was asked in exchange for a job where she knew she would be able to dip her toe in a field that interested her. She didn’t want a job she wasn’t qualified for; she wanted to start at the bottom and work her way up. I immediately wanted to hire her!
The Millennial Self-Entitlement Curse
After hundreds of interviews with people, one millennial candidate was a breath of fresh air. Let me contrast her with another candidate whom I spoke with just a few months prior. This other individual had 2 offers on the table – one from an exciting young tech company with an environment that provided opportunities to significantly increase his skills, be mentored by amazingly talented developers, and work on brands recognized around the world. The other offer was with a company that would let him work from home and make his own schedule with little to no supervision. I counseled him that just starting out in his career, it would be incredibly beneficial to him to have a team he could rely on and mentors to guide his development. He took the work from home job because the flexibility was “just too good to pass up.” He was 22.
When I was first out of college (and still today) I was hungry for the chance to learn from others and be part of a team. Today’s new grads consistently want “a seat at the table” with no experience to get them there, high salaries, and limited work hours. I’m all for work life balance, but there is a stage in life where you work hard, commit to learning & being mentored, and put in the hours and effort necessary to earn a seat at the table later in your career.
As a Career Counselor and HR Director who advises companies on hiring top talent, my hope for the Millennials is that they will take a step back and evaluate their life & career with a long term perspective.
Here is a bit of wisdom from someone who’s been there, done that and now hires frequently:
- No job is beneath you. Every job is a learning experience. Greeting customers in a retail store gives you a chance to develop your customer service skills. It may not be your dream job, but you are gaining transferrable skills. Getting coffee for the executives and managing calendars may not be exciting, but you have the opportunity to listen to conversations that help you understand why business decisions are made and the importance of strategy & planning. Look for the bright spot in each job – what can you learn, what skills will be transferable later in your career, whom can you meet that will help you take your next step professionally.
- Employers want to hire people who are currently working. It’s a bit like dating – the person who is already attached seems more desirable than the person who hasn’t been on a date in a while. Employers often discard candidates who are currently unemployed when all other factors (skills, experience, education) are equal. You are more desirable to a potential employer if you currently have a job than if you don’t. It is better to be employed in a job that isn’t your ideal than to be unemployed and living with your parents well into your 20s.
- Those who put in the time & effort get ahead. Not long ago I met with a Gen Y employee who was frustrated that he had been passed over for a promotion. He daily came into the office an hour or so after his team and often left earlier than everyone else. He would work late into the night at home, but that time wasn’t visible to his team or to leadership. He was talented, but not available or accessible during business hours. When it came time for promotions, he wasn’t on the radar of leadership. Individuals who show up on time, work hard, work smart and roll up their sleeves to do whatever is asked are the ones business leaders see, recognize and promote.
In this time of digital accessibility and immediate gratification it can be difficult to have the patience to start at the bottom and work your way up professionally. But it is worth the time and effort. You will learn more, build a stronger network, and grow professionally if you open yourself to seeing opportunities all around you instead of focusing only on your ideal job at this moment in time.
Hard Work Pays Off
After 17 years I finally landed my dream job. And all of the jobs before it were stepping stones on the path to discovering my strengths, weaknesses, passions and what I truly desired in a job and a company. I don’t look back with regret at any of my former jobs – I see in each of them valuable lessons learned, experiences gained, and tremendous growth achieved as a person and professional. Without each of those job experiences, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am now, and I wouldn’t be as filled with gratitude for the job I now have and love.