21st Century Job-Hunting: The Millennial Resentment
It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I was let go from my job. Now that I am in full blown job-hunting mode, I have found one unexpected issue I have with the current job climate that, hopefully, other Millennials can recognize and prepare for during their own searches.
Ugly Truth: The Climate is Biased
In the past two weeks, I have had more time to read countless articles on searching for jobs, growing industries, and the mechanics of today’s workplace. Unfortunately, I’m left with this overwhelming sense that a bias exists against the “Millennial” workforce; a bias strong enough to warrant active awareness and management by younger job candidates.
For instance, I just read this article by the ever-insightful J.T. O’Donnell on the grit of the Millennial workforce. While she gives vague credit that Millennials have inherited a tough economy with the highest levels of student debt in history, the central thesis of the article revolves around “the critical skills Millennials never got trained in” — determination in the face of adversity. J.T. never blasts the Millennial generation with sweeping general statements, but the sentiment that Millennials are somehow particularly defective or spoiled is a popular narrative in the news, blogs, magazines, etc. Speaking from my experience, I was also taught the life lessons that J.T. cites, and I grew up with many others that were taught the same.
I personally know plenty from older generations who were equally entitled or felt they may have been taken advantage of. Feelings of frustration, especially in times like “the Great Recession”, are not characteristic to a subset of the population — just look at the success of both Bernie Sanders’ (young voters) and Donald Trump’s (older voters) political campaigns. Those crying for changes to the economic/political/social structures come from all walks of life. Frustration with employment is not a strictly generational complaint — it spans ages, races, and geographies. Unfortunately, the Millennials just happened to be entering the workforce during the mess; so as companies are backfilling their experienced workers (either by retirement or cost-cutting layoffs) with these newer workers, the companies have to deal with these emotions from the Millennial end. Thus, these feelings are ascribed to the younger generation.
As a Millennial, I am admittedly biased, but it is my opinion that this generation differs in only 2 ways from previous generations: Millennials are more informed than any prior generation, and every single person has a platform to broadcast their voice.
Millennials are More Informed
With the advent of social media and the handheld internet, Millennials know how to the harness the power of information better and more easily than anyone else. Millennials can do their research and can accurately gauge their market value. Millennials can hear from global experiences about what companies offer their employees. Millennials can read which companies empower employees and which do not. Companies can no longer expect to leverage an employee’s inexperience to get a premium savings on labor or foster an unattractive workplace. Instead, Millennials are unabashed when using its resources to leverage what they want/expect from their employers. Call it negotiation or call it entitlement, but this generation feels the same as every generation prior; Millennials just have the means to trust themselves and stand convicted in their expectations.
Millennials have a Platform
Exhibit A: Facebook. Exhibit B: Twitter. Exhibit C: Medium. Add on LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, and everyone can easily voice their opinion to millions. Mix that ingredient with a recession cocktail and serve it with sides of discontent and underemployment, and a generalized picture begins to form of a generation still trying to learn what “professional” means. Admittedly, the social platforms are often abused for grandstanding (this article may become a prime example if I’m not careful), but they present a power when harnessed correctly. There is little opportunity for context when restricted to 140 characters, and readers have an even smaller appetite for context when we receive a majority of our information on a 3” x 5” screen. Millennials have cast this entitled picture of themselves because they have little leeway to engage constructively in a world of trolls and quick-reads. No one has time for anything but bullet-points these days, and unfortunately, the bullet points of this economy and this generation have painted an incomplete picture.
So how does this affect job-hunting?
Already I have learned that being a Millennial requires a particularly careful foray into the job hunt. There are preconceptions — right, wrong, or indifferent — about a Millennial who is out of a job. Was I fired because of my Millennial attitude or entitlement? Did I abuse my social media accounts? Am I immature or ill-equipped to be in the professional arena? While never asked those questions directly, the phone interview questions do seems to orbit around these and other themes.
If you are in a similar position, be open and honest about why the last job didn’t work out. Be honest with your own strengths and weaknesses, and talk about them with equal weight. Belaboring strengths only sounds conceited with a lack of self-analysis; belaboring weaknesses portrays professional immaturity or inability to overcome struggle. Any job that will truly feel fulfilling will leverage your current abilities while providing opportunity to develop new skills. Talking equally about your strengths and weaknesses will help both you and the employer decide whether a position is the correct fit.
Lastly, this article is not intended to be a criticism of corporations, nor a glorification of a (my) generation. Millennials are as equally to blame for any generational misconceptions as anyone else. This was merely an attempt to describe my perceived bias and defend why I, and others, feel it is inaccurate. Finally, understanding the “why” and “how” of perception is the first step in successfully navigating around it.
My next article will talk about the difficulty of finding a job and getting those HR/recruiter calls in the internet arena, but I would love to hear from you whether you think I nailed the Millennial misconception, or whether I’m blindly biased and fulfilling the typical persona of the generation.