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Millennials: Like the Young Professional You See in The Mirror?

October 5, 2012

by Erica Roberts, YouTern (proud partner of Delta Sigma Pi)

Millennials are feeling the heat of workplace stereotypes – and many of us are fighting back through blog posts and via social media; our pleas range from “Can’t we all just get along?” to stubbornly defiant. In some cases, we attack those who perpetuate the stereotypes – and end up making broad generalizations ourselves.

I wonder, however, if some the more frequently mentioned “negative” Gen Y characteristics might be true, after all. I ask, because many of my peers are unknowingly sabotaging their careers by fitting into these stereotypes… some perfectly.

Take a look at your young professional self in the mirror… Do you see any of these behaviors in the reflection?

You Don’t Take Criticism Well

Many times, your co-workers and supervisors offer constructive criticism – their attempt to help you progress as a person and an employee. Instead of listening to their feedback, and letting them know you understand where they’re coming from – and improving – you take your case to your circle of friends and social media, saying what a jerk your boss was today.

Take these moments as learning opportunities; we don’t know everything… and they’re not trying to bully you.

You Fail to Make Decisions

Your boss is busier than you. Sometimes, they won’t be available to tell you what they think about a situation. Instead of just going for it – judging the situation and acting accordingly without reaching out for help from an authority figure – you freeze, or over-analyze, or stall until you find someone to back up the position you think you have… and end up doing nothing.

Gen Y loves feedback, which is good… as long as we can also act on our own when necessary – and required.

You Don’t Want to “Pay Your Dues”

There are some of us Millennials who think they can truly accomplish anything. We rush in, often without all the facts, precedent or decision points, and blast away with our opinions and strategies. Again, there are positives to this perspective – but don’t build the plane while you fly it.

Play to your strengths, gain experience, and become a sponge that absorbs the best of all those around you… and you will find success.

You Refuse to “Play the Game”

Being an idealist is a trait commonly shared among millennials. Sometimes, this means we think we don’t have to give into workplace politics, unannounced hierarchies – even chain of command. Instead of working within the existing system, we fight for our idealist version of how the workplace should be… and find ourselves on the outside looking in.

As unproductive as the “games” may be – respect the rules already in place, even the unwritten variety – and constructively work toward gradually changing the company culture.

You Don’t Need “The Old Guys”

This is perhaps the biggest mistake of all. There’s a lot you can learn from people who have been in the workforce for a long time – and most of them are willing to mentor us as we develop our careers. Take advantage of their knowledge, experience and success stories, and learn as much as you possibly can. While you’re there, give something back by teaching them something you know well.

Mentor relationships are gold to Millennials – and we’re not taking advantage.  Get a mentor!

I’m a huge Gen Y advocate – I am one, after all.

I’ve realized, however, many of us still have a long way to go, and a lot to accomplish, before we as young professionals become as successful as our predecessors. Maybe it’s time we stop expending so much energy defending ourselves – and fighting back – and instead look honestly in the mirror at our early career.

By adjusting until we see what we like staring back at us, we’ll put ourselves – and our generation – on a more successful career path.

About the Author: Erica Roberts graduated from Oregon State University in 2011 with a B.S. in Marketing. She is an avid reader and writer, and is extremely passionate about social media. Erica currently works as a social media consultant for several clients, and has a social media internship with YouTern. Connect with Erica on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About YouTern:  YouTern has hundreds of high-quality, mentor-based internships entrepreneur-driven companies and non-profits available right now! Don’t live in a major metro area? Check out our virtual internships – and learn from anywhere!  YouTern also offers Deltasigs the opportunity to serve as on-campus Brand Ambassadors at your school! As a YouTern Ambassador, you’ll work directly with YouTern founders to educate and motivate your peers regarding the importance of internships and mentorship as they prepare for the workforce, gain first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to work for an impact start-up, all while having a little fun and while developing your leadership and transferable skills – making you highly employable in the “real world.”  YouTern is honored to support Delta Sigma Pi’s goals in career development – and equally proud to donate a percentage of all proceeds to the Delta Sigma Pi Leadership Foundation.

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