Archive for the ‘ Gen Y ’ Category

What Gen Y brings to the table

September 16, 2010 1:08 pm | 6 Comments

I am the youngest employee at AGP & Associates (not really a surprise, since I am only 22 and just starting my career) and am always trying to learn from my coworkers. From marketing strategy to the rules of writing, their skills certainly outrank my own.

But, over the past year, I’ve also learned that there’s a lot I can offer. As members of Gen Y, we bring many great things to the workplace.

Intuitive web skills. Once a coworker asked me how I figured something out on a website. Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s intuitive. We grew up using the web, therefore we have the advantage of being able to dig up information and figure out how web tools work – quickly, efficiently and with little instruction.

Social media understanding. I joined Facebook before I left for college, started my first professional blog in February 2008 and have been tweeting since September 2008. I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent using social media. But, the time you have spent using social media has given you knowledge you are expected to have as a member of Gen Y.

Fresh perspective. I refer to it as “shaking things up.” As a new hire, you have the opportunity to question the traditional ways. I recently created a presentation for a conference I spoke at. Instead of following our branded template, I used fun pictures from Flickr and included very little copy on the slides. Don’t be afraid challenge the traditions and suggest new, different ways to do things in your job.

Peer understanding. If a client’s audience is in their 20′s, you’ll be able to offer valuable insight on the account. For example, we were recently brainstorming giveaways for college students for a project. I immediately nixed several ideas based on personal experience. Free t-shirts are never the right size, cheap canvas bags get tossed and ink pens are pretty generic (though useful). I thought students would like shot glasses, but that might promote the wrong idea…

What do you think we bring to the table as members of Gen Y?

Recently, @JohnKHartman made a suggestion to me via DM: “You want to be good in PR? Take upper level liberal arts classes that will make you a better, more broadly educated person, not claptrap.”

I’ve taken some liberal arts classes. But what has served me the most in my career so far has been my internships and PR classes. I hardly think that makes me a “claptrap.” Each young professional has their own set of experiences giving them an education. I’ve learned a lot through my various experiences (from carriage driver to advertising sales and writing contracts for a company to building Web sites). My experiences have taught me a lot.

So do liberal arts matter?

A Patriot-News op-ed said, “The most straightforward answer is liberal arts colleges, at their best, provide an exceptionally effective learning environment for developing the kind of intellectual power and propensity for action that the world needs to tackle the daunting challenges we face…many CEOs are looking for employees with the attributes that a liberal arts education instills: critical thinking, clear communication, collaboration, an appreciation for diverse points of view, the ability to approach a problem from multiple perspectives, ethical judgment and lifelong learning skills.”

So should a young professional take liberal arts courses?

If you have the money and time to pursue liberal arts classes, by all means do it. But, I’d honestly rather read and learn on my own time. I’ve read books on various random subjects including criminology, archaeology, art and more.

But, remember to spend time developing yourself into a marketable candidate. Focus on skills you need in the workplace (check out “5 Must-Have Transferable Skills for Entry-Level Job Seekers” by Heather Huhman).

“When I was at Burson-Marsteller, almost none of our interns and entry-level professionals had a liberal arts education. As a hiring manager, experience vastly outweighs your specific degree,” said Huhman, who is an experienced hiring manager and founder of ComeRecommended.com.

While I’m not discounting the value of the liberal arts classes, I think “intellectual power” and other great skills can be developed in other ways. I also feel that the attributes CEO’s are looking for can be developed in other ways. In fact, many of these attributes had already began to be developed from the way I was raised as a child. Additional skills have been developed when I’ve worked a variety of jobs (I’ve worked at large stables, been a carriage driver, and worked in sales, PR and advertising).

What do you think? Has a liberal arts education helped you? Or, have you been successful without? Additionally, what do you do as a professional to develop the attributes CEO’s are looking for?

Win a copy of Young Professional’s Guide to Success. Comment on, tweet about or blog about blog posts posted from today to Dec. 21 to gain points to win. Read the contest rules here. I have three copies to give away!

ScrabbleRyan Kohnen, author of Young Professional’s Guide to Success, compiled advice and stories from CEOs, executives and community leaders for his book. Here is an interview with Ryan, who has donated three copies of his book to give away on this blog.

Is there a trait or attitude you see repeating in the stories that led these people to success?

There are two major traits I saw with these executives and leaders. First, they experienced as much as they could within every role they had. They threw the job description out the window and did whatever their superiors said to do AND more. Far too often, young professionals get asked to do things that they may feel are beneath them or not part of their job description. These were the opportunities that these CEOs and leaders used to differentiate themselves. The worst thing you could ever say is, “It’s not part of my job description.” Not only did these leaders willfully do these small jobs outside of their scope, but they embraced the experience and found learning opportunities in them.

Secondly, these executives and leaders were always extremely prepared. I’m not talking about the big events, such as an annual performance review. I’m talking about EVERY little event. For example, if your boss says you have a meeting in four hours, but does not say what it is regarding, anticipate what it could be about. Show up prepared on a variety of topics and issues. Sometimes you may not guess properly, but sometimes you’ll be more prepared than anyone else.

How can young professionals help set themselves up for success?

Among the other items discussed, I would encourage all young professionals to practice and engage in more face-to-face communication. I’ve noticed our generation is much weaker at face-to-face conversation and communications. The importance of communication, relationship building and public speaking skills is of utmost importance when you are in major leadership role. Go to lunch with your friends instead of texting. Go to a business luncheon and TRY to ask more questions and learn from people as opposed to talking or sitting their quietly. Instead of sending that email, call the person. Ninety percent of most communication between young professionals is through technology. Try to get that to 80 percent and when you’ve hit 80 percent, go for 70 percent and so on.

You refer to Generation Y as “Generation A.D.D.” Why is this and how can millennial overcome stereotypes?

A lot of the stereotypes about our attention spans, communication style and approach to work and life, are true! Yes, I’m part of Generation A.D.D. – and I embrace these things. I have grown up with the Internet, text messaging, video games and extreme stimulation from all angles. I don’t think its about overcoming stereotypes.  It’s about showing the value in our different way of doing things and thinking.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?

I would go back to the biggest opportunity young professionals have – experience everything! Young professionals sometimes have a bit of “Entitlement Disorder,” where they feel like they don’t have to do certain things or are “above” performing certain duties and tasks. A lot of us are ready for the next challenge or opportunity before we are actually given the opportunity. This is probably the biggest weakness of our generation. We need to slow down and embrace some of these other opportunities and find the value in it.

Enter the contest to win a PR/social media book by commenting on blog posts. Information here. Deadline extended to Friday, Nov. 6.

I have been intensely focused on my career since my freshman year. In my various experiences, I’ve noticed something important about myself and my generation.

MoneyIt’s not all about the money.

It may not be completely unique to Gen Y, but it certainly is common. While making money is nice, what I truly crave is the opportunity to learn and improve my skills. I think a lot of my peers feel the same.

So if it’s not about the money, what does Gen Y seek? Here’s my take:

yui

Gen Y loves a good challenge.

For example, at my internship at CMU’s PR department, I was given the assignment to write for and design a publication called CMU Welcomes You (see the PDF). I didn’t even know how to use InDesign! After a short tutorial from my mentor, I checked out a few books and learned to use the program while I designed the publication.

  • Employers: Find projects that will challenge your interns. Just be sure to guide them along the way.
  • Interns: Seek out those challenging projects. Was someone just talking about how the copy for that brochure needs rewritten? Ask if you can take it on.

ResponsibleGen Y thrives on responsibility.

In addition to a challenge, I like being responsible for a project. When I worked with Fahlgren Mortine, I was able to take on a decent amount responsibility for a nonprofit. I helped coordinate their social media efforts and led a meeting on my last day to teach them how to use social media. It was incredibly exciting and motivating. (And I’d like to thank Lara for the opportunity!)

  • Employers: Projects like this will give your interns confidence. Even if it’s a small amount of responsibility, it still lets your intern know that you trust their skills.
  • Interns: Make sure you meet your deadlines and try to exceed expectations.

Up!Gen Y wants to make a difference.

It’s not necessarily important that I work for big name clients. Sure, doing work for a household name is cool. But, some of the best accounts I have worked on are the ones that I had never heard of before. For example, right now I am helping with a community nonprofit that helps prevent child abuse. I can clearly see how my professional contributions can make a true difference for the organization and the community.

  • Employers: You know that pro-bono account that you never have time for? Give your intern full rein to see what they can do.
  • Interns: Take pro-bono accounts just as seriously as you would a top-paying client. Your hard work will help show your employer your potential.

ChecklistGen Y craves feedback.

I’ve turned assignments in and heard next to nothing about it. It leaves me wondering if it was decent or so bad that the person decided to just redo it without saying a word to me. I’ve been interning at AGP & Associates for the past 10 weeks or so. One of the things I love is how I receive specific feedback on everything I work on there. Good feedback helps me learn from my mistakes and improves my overall skills as a professional.

  • Employers: While interns can provide free or low-cost labor, it’s up to you to provide the feedback that will help your interns grow as future professionals.
  • Interns: Sometimes feedback can be harsh. Try not to take things personally. Usually people give you feedback to help make you a better communicator.

ScrabbleGen Y wants to learn new things.

The more things you learn, the more invaluable you will be to an employer. I taught myself how to build Web sites. I read books to improve my skills, such as Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) and Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Sometimes I read random books about archaeology or politics, too. But, it’s always great when an employer provides learning opportunities as well. For example, AGP set up an appointment for a tour of the local printing press so I would understand the process better.

  • Employers: Opportunities to learn have great value among Gen Y. Workshops, tours or even just sitting in meetings give interns the opportunity to learn more about the profession and the workplace.
  • Interns: Take on every opportunity you can. Not only will you learn something, but you’ll show your employer that you are ambitious and motivated about your career.

If you’re a member of Gen Y, what is important to you? If you are an employer, what do you suggest to Gen Y?

About

Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.