By ERIK P.M VERMEULEN
In my various “gigs,” I am involved in a lot of hiring decisions. At the university, at the large multinational where I also work, and at my wife’s restaurant.
And like many employers, we look to the younger generation — especially “Millennials” — to bring energy, new ideas and help us remain “relevant.”
But, recently, I have been somewhat “disappointed” with the “quality” of the candidates.
We invite someone for an interview who looks strong on paper (good school and grades, good references, and good experience). But, when we meet them, they are not what we expected or wanted.
This might sound a little strange, but I often feel that I am talking to people who are ten years older than I am and not fifteen years younger. Too many “Millennials” — for a variety of complex reasons — are not living the “Millennial Life.”
So, I thought I could lay out what I am looking for when I decide to hire someone.
Here is my “Letter to Millennials.”
My intention is to highlight some of the things that EVERYONE needs to think about to keep themselves fresh and attractive in our fast-changing digital world.
So, here are my suggestions on what you need to do to live a happy and successful “Millennial Life.”
How to “Be a Millennial”
Get Smart about Education
Of course, I believe that education is essential. I work at a university and love teaching. It is obvious that education is extremely important and adds enormous value.
But, recently, I have stopped looking at educational “history” (i.e., school, subject, class grades, GPA etc.) as an index of someone’s potential value to an organization.
I have concluded that, in many instances, education is rewarding the wrong skills and, in particular, killing the creativity of young people. And this is a huge problem when I am looking for new employees who can deliver fresh ideas to help organizations become more innovative and agile.
So, for students, it doesn’t matter what subject you study or which school you go to; the key point is to be “smart” about how you consume the information and educational experience that is available to you.
Students need to do a much better job of distinguishing between those parts of education that “add value” and those that don’t.
I’ve written about this before, but “curation” is becoming increasingly important. And this is particularly true when talking about education.
“Millennials” must develop for themselves the ability to “consume” the “good” parts, criticize or reject the “bad” parts, and never lose the capacity to be creative.
Too many times, I notice that Millennials seem to “adjust” themselves to the expectations of others. They over-think the situation and change their behavior in order to “fit in.” Or, at least, that is how it seems to me.
The result? In an interview situation, for example, they often come across as overly-serious, disciplined and experienced workers. They think that is what I want or expect, and they change their behavior accordingly.
The problem is that this can come across as inauthentic or even insincere.
“Serious” (process-oriented and proceduralized) workers aren’t what the world needs right now. Instead, the world needs more individuality and personality.
So, always be yourself. Be authentic.
People may not all like you but, if they do like you and offer you a position, it will increase the probability that you “fit in” and find fulfilment in a new job.
Leverage Your Tech “Literacy”
Never be ashamed about your knowledge of technology. Again — and I am interested to hear others’ experience — many young people are often apologetic about their “addiction” to electronic devices.
Instead, this “tech literacy” should be seen as a huge competitive advantage.
Take social media. Social media should be used to build your brand and to sell it. In business, social media becomes increasingly important in communication with consumers. I want millennials who understand the world of Instagram, YouTube, etc. Such “knowledge” definitely adds value in a modern business context.
More generally, build up your knowledge about how emerging technologies work. Not everyone needs to be a coder or engineer, but everyone needs to understand how these technologies work and what they can do for them.
The capacity to apply or “unlock” the potential of new technologies is vital in a digital world.
Most employers today want people who are able to “think-out-of-the-box.”
Again, don’t accept the existing work processes and procedures. Very often, it is pre-existing procedures that hold an organization back and it needs someone to “call them out” in order for things to move forward.
Be entrepreneurial, brave and adventurous.
Remain Focused & Never Give Up
Finally, I really believe that perseverance along with the related ability to continually adapt to a fast-changing environment are the critical qualities that we all need to remain relevant in a digital world.
When I talk to Millennials I often have the feeling that they expect immediate results. Unfortunately, this isn’t how the world works. If the results aren’t immediately what you expected or hoped for, don’t stop. Reflect, learn and go again!
Follow your dreams, but also remain flexible and willing to adapt to changing circumstances.
And One Last Thing …
I don’t believe that being a “Millennial” is age-related. It is just a mindset or attitude that is open to all.
Most of the above holds true if you are twenty-five, forty-five or older. In that sense, I think that EVERYONE can (and should) aspire to “be a Millennial.”
After all, “Millennial values” are the values of our culture:
A fast-changing and technology-driven culture of freedom, self-expression and socially responsible entrepreneurship.
We just need more open-minded, ambitious, and creative “Millennials.” “Millennials” who understand the technology, dare to dream and are able to continually “think out-of-the-box.”
About The Author Erik is a Professor of Business and Financial Law at Tilburg University and Tilburg Law and Economics Center in the Netherlands. He is also Head of Governance/Vice-President at Philips Lighting. Erik is best-described as a “global futurist” and “cross-cultural strategic consultant”. Erik is a regular contributor to Community Works Journal. He writes a blog “Hacker Noon” focused on his educational and personal interests.
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