Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Three Ways to Improve GenY's Bad Rep

Generation Y appears to have an image problem.

According to a recent survey by JobFox, recruiters aren't too keen on GenYers, and only 20 percent said they were "generally great performers" as compared to 63 percent who said baby boomers (age 43-62) were great performers, 58 percent lauding GenXers (age 29-42) and 25 percent saying traditionalists (63-plus) were great performers.


It gets worse. According to press release materials, "Gen Y was also classified as 'generally poor performers' by the largest number of recruiters polled. Thirty percent of recruiters classified Millennials (GenY) as poor performers, followed by 22 percent of recruiters who classified traditionalists as poor performers, 5 percent for GenX and 4 percent for baby boomers.

Double ouch.

But JobFox's CEO Rob McGovern thinks that managers and recruiters are missing the boat. Managers, he says, must "learn new ways to incorporate GenY views into the workforce."

OK, I agree. Managers and recruiters always need to be looking at how they can use an individual's strengths to help a company and boost the bottom line.

But I think it's more than that. I think GenYers (age 28 and under) need to be better at their own personal p.r.. I think that if they wait around to get the respect they believe they deserve, they may find themselves waiting a long time. Because whether they deserve the slacker reputation or not, the problem is that it exists.

Believe it or not, however, GenYers are being handed a golden opportunity to turn things around as the economy takes a nosedive. How? Let us count the ways:

1. Staying sane. GenY has lived a life of upheaval. They've grown up with AIDS, 9/11 and Britney not wearing any panties. They don't get rattled easily. Right now the older folks in the workplace are pretty well freaking and stressing about everything from how to make their house payment to watching their 401(k) tank. If GenYers demonstrate that -- while they understand the seriousness of the issues right now -- they are still upbeat and positive about life, it could have an enormous impact. Inspiring others to keep it all in perspective can demonstrate real leadership, and that's just the kind of reputation they need to develop.

2. Save others time. No one is more crazed these days that workers trying to balance the demands of their private and professional lives. But GenYers have grown up juggling, and have found technology enhances their lives. Young workers are in a great position to help other workers find ways to use technology to make their lives better. There's no way that anyone would be called a slacker for helping give someone more time with their kids or do their job better. Just be careful: You don't want your help to come off as smug or arrogant. Read Chris Brogan's post to make sure you do it right.

3. Provide the global view. The world has been delivered to GenY through television and computers since they were old enough to use a sippy cup. They have friends working in Darfur, they listen to bands from Japan and think nothing of IMing contacts in Istanbul or Tazmania. If they can keep their workplace informed on how events in Cambodia or Russia or Brazil may be impacting their business and bottom line, it could be enormously valuable. And let's face it -- those that contribute to the bottom line are seen as valuable -- and top performers.

While there are plenty of people telling managers that they need to treat GenYers better and learn to appreciate them, I think that GenYers may have to do some of the heavy lifting. They shouldn't wait around for someone to discover their strengths -- they should find subtle, but very meaningful ways to change perceptions that will have a real impact on their career success.

What are some other ways young workers can improve their image?


Robert Hruzek said...

Once again, it comes down to taking personal responsibility for one's own actions (and reputation). In the long run, it's all we really have.

Great points all, Anita, but I'd also add one more: The world doesn't revolve around you... OR me. So no point in acting like it does, right? Having a popular YouTube video or a popular Facebook page doesn't necessarily translate into business acumen.

Anita said...

You're right. It doesn't matter what age you are, your actions speak volumes. Sure, there are GenYers who are slackers, but I've seen plenty of people older than 28 who do nothing all day but play online. Hopefully, your message will get through to those of ALL ages.
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

As a Gen Y employee meself, I would advise my peers to relinquish their sense of entitlement. Right now, if you have a stable job you should count yourself fortunate. It's time to stop believing that you're too good for where you are and focus on staying there for awhile.

Anita said...

I want you to know that you helped to inspire this post, with your response to the previous blog entry about staying positive during tough times. I thought that showed real leadership...and that's what got me thinking about ways that GenYers could use these challenging times to help their own career.
As for your recent entry...wise words, GenYer, such wise words.
Thanks, as always, for adding to the conversation.

Anonymous said...

You make some great points...No matter how many people are consulting to organizations to teach them how to attract and retain Gen Y workers, the fact is that each individual is responsible for the professional image he or she presents.

A positive outlook is great, in combination with demonstrating that hard work and long hours aren't deal breakers. I think, in today's economy, with departments being asked to do more with less people, those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in will win the respect they deserve. (I remember it well from my Wall St. days. When they laid off 30% of the department, they didn't cut any of the projects. We just worked harder. And were glad to do it.)

If Gen Yers can use their multi-tasking skills and knowledge of how to get things done via technology their Boomer boss hasn't discovered, all the better!

Anita said...

Good points. I think the key is that GenYers bringing their strengths to the table without alienating older workers. That means they have to find ways to make it accessible -- not rattle off a bunch of technology solutions without taking into account that people have different knowledge bases.
Thanks for posting!