The job market is improving, and while that’s good news, millennials are still left out in the cold. According to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 40 percent of unemployed workers are millennials, 37 percent are Gen X and 23 percent boomers. That equates to 4.6 million unemployed millennials — 2 million long-term — 4.2 million unemployed Xers and 2.5 million jobless baby boomers.
Of course, millennials are a large generation. One in every three employees in the U.S. will be a millennial by next year, and by 2025 they will become 75 percent of the global workforce, but the unemployment rate is still high, and according to Patty Prosser, chairman of leadership consultancy OI Global Partners, this is partly due to older generations’ perception of millennials. Prosser says the problem is two-fold: many recent graduates are repeating the same job-search mistakes of their predecessors, but many simply aren’t given a chance because of their elders’ perception.
I interviewed Prosser to find out what those perceptions are, whether there’s truth to them and what learning leaders can do to better prepare Gen Y for the work ahead.
What are some of the top concerns employers have with hiring millennials?
Prosser: Employers have a number of perceptions about hiring millennials. These include:
- Millennials are inclined to prioritize work-life balance ahead of their careers and value noninterference with their personal lives over dedication to their jobs.
- Many millennials do not have good written, verbal or presentation skills. Employers also feel that numerous millennials lack the ability to communicate with other generations, including customers and co-workers.
- An apprehension that millennials do not have the social skills necessary to interface with clients and perform poorly in face-to-face meetings.
Overall there is a perception that millennials don’t share the same dedication to their jobs as the other generations and have less-polished communication and social skills. The burden of proof in proving that all millennials don’t share these characteristics is the responsibility of each individual.
What advice do you have for millennials to overcome these stereotypes and ensure they’re leaders in the workforce?
Prosser: Millennials need to familiarize themselves with potential employers’ doubts and be prepared to proactively address them.Some of the ways they can do this include work on improving their written and verbal communications skills, finding common ground to build relationships with other generations in the workplace, demonstrating how they can add value to customers and expressing a willingness to put in extra hours to help businesses achieve their goals.
What’s the development angle here? How can learning leaders and millennials’ managers help develop them once they’re in the workforce to ensure they’re gaining the skills they need to be valuable to the workplace and starting their career on the right foot?
Prosser: Learning leaders and managers can assist millennials with improvements in communications and social skills if this is an issue. They can also help millennials excel in areas in which they tend to be strongest and can make significant contributions. These talents include being savvy in technology and social media. Millennials can also serve as technology mentors to older workers and provide a younger perspective on plans and decisions.