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ExPRessions :: Gen Y

Posts Tagged ‘ Gen Y ’

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:


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?


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.