“Old men are fond of giving good advice, to console themselves for being no longer in a position to give bad examples.”
François La Rochefoucauld
Sometimes I think us older business folk are going batshit crazy. What I am sure of is that we older folk sure are giving some crazy advice to millennials <young people>.
What made me begin this post is I just saw some research which suggests that the first thing you say to a potential employer, and I mean the absolute first … like when you meet them in the lobby or in the reception area <not the actual interview>, could set you up for a great interview or put you so far behind you will be playing catch up from that point forward.
It kind of … well … okay … it absolutely suggests that someone shouldn’t say something flippantly or without some thought.
What I should have said:
I’d love to give 100% but it’s never likely to get above 65. I go on the internet a lot, I don’t like being ordered about and I don’t bother on Fridays or in the run-up to Christmas.
The study goes even farther by suggesting it could actually be the first 12 words you speak which could make the difference to a successful interview.
The overall thought is not batshit crazy. I buy that the initial contact can make a difference. What I don’t buy is the kind of advice we give young people in making them aware they should be on their game from the moment they walk in a door <and assume everyone is interviewing you at all times>.
I don’t mind interview advice or any advice for that matter … but for god’s sake … we treat millennials like they are stupid, oblivious to reality, stoners or aliens.
Here is the advice, note that the advice was shared in a credible online journalistic forum, shared with young people:
“Nervous? No, just excited. This looks like a fantastic place to work.”
“I ran a half marathon, a charity thing. How was your weekend?”
“Lovely weather, isn’t it? You can almost smell spring in the air.”
“Obviously I’ve done some research; I was impressed by last year’s figures.”
“Amazing building! It must take a while to find your way round.”
“No, I haven’t been waiting long, and I’ve been well looked after.”
“Let me be frank: I think I’d be a great fit here.”
“Nervous? Not me. My hands always shake like this in the morning.”
“The swelling’s gone down a lot. You should have seen me yesterday.”
“Oh man, that sun is bright! I’m not usually up this early.”
“Before we start, let me just double-check I’m at the right address.”
“Can we turn left up here? I think they’re following me again.”
“Does your receptionist really have a boyfriend, or is she just pretending?”
“I’ll be honest: I’m going to need an advance on my salary.”
Christ almighty. I struggled to believe the article was truly serious and yet I was horrified to see it was being shared as ‘serious advice’ to young people.
And almost immediately in the same venue I found an article FOR young people outlining reasons why hiring managers may be afraid to hire young people <millennials> so that they could be aware and address it.
Yeah. This was actually an article warning young people that they may be intimidating the interviewer and should take some steps to address it.
<i am still sitting here stunned>
Here are three stereotypes the article outlines that scare away managers and some advice from the article writer on how a young person can address them during interviews and on the job:
- Millennials don’t just need job training. They also need “how to have a job” training.
Tech-savvy Millennials are known for working smart, not hard. This can be misconstrued for laziness. They’re also known to reject authority and formal structures. Managers fear that Millennials not only need to learn how to perform their jobs, but also how to have a job in the first place: follow rules, meet deadlines, and be accountable.
Mirasee project manager Nicole Girouard recalls a former co-worker saying, “It’s too much work with these Millennials. They ask so many questions. We need to have them just do their assignments. I never questioned my managers!”
To Millennials: Find internship and volunteer opportunities to learn what the norms and expectations are in the workplace. If you’re looking for a job, be professional in every stage of the application process. And if you’ve found a new job, start with the base assumption that things are done the way they are for a good reason. Look for that reason and do what everyone else is doing. If you think you have a better way to do things, speak to your manager about it–but not before you understand why things are the way they are.
- Millennials feel entitled.
A global study commissioned by PwC found that moving up the ladder is a top priority for Millennials. And they’re in a hurry to get there, giving the rest of us the impression that Millennials aren’t willing to pay their dues before enjoying the perks, benefits, and authority they want. Especially when young people try to jump up the ranks by applying for managerial positions, managers feel they’re not willing to work their way up.
To Millennials: During the interview, showcase situations when you worked hard and what results you got for your employer. It’s OK to ask about career opportunities, but don’t let that dominate the conversation. When you get the job, shift your thinking from the outcomes you want to what it will take for you to earn those outcomes. Realize that your brilliance, your gift, your experience, and your showing up don’t entitle you to anything; they’re table stakes.
- Millennials have no loyalty.
Their inexperience and expectations mean they need to be invested in to do well, but their attitude is mercenary. According to The Wall Street Journal, the median job tenure of employees 20 to 24 years old was shorter than 16 months. It was longer for those 24 to 25 years old, at three years, but still much shorter than the median tenure for those 25 years and older: 5.5 years. So managers find it hard to justify investing in Millennials.
To Millennials: During interviews, substantiate the value you’ve provided to previous employers. Rationalize why it would be worthwhile for someone to hire you–even if you don’t stay forever. On the job, apply yourself 100 percent, even if it’s not your dream job. Give it your all, over deliver, and exceed your manager’s expectations. Do what you can to earn your employer’s investment in you.
Do we really believe that young people do not know this shit?
Albeit it is creative bullshit based on creative use of research.
It is almost like we older folk want to ignore reality and fight change by reading research in some doomed pessimistic fashion rather than exploring the possibilities which some research suggests.
It is almost like we older folk actually believe all the bullshit we talked ourselves into that we are interviewing them and they are not interviewing us.
Let me be clear before I move on.
Yes. Young people need training … just as we older folk needed training … just as we balked at gaining that training. It is up to leaders to show the value of training.
No. Young people do not reject authority or formal structures. They reject bad managers and bad management and structures which inhibit progress and impede growth.
No. Young people do not feel entitled.
Yes. Young people want to move up the ladder and most likely faster than what is appropriate for them. No. This is not bad. Businesses want people with some ambition. We always have and always will <and have always had young people “too big for their britches”>. Seems to me this is more about managing than it is the young.
Yes. Young people are, and will be, loyal. But they will not be loyal simply because we expect them to be … just as with anyone … they want to be loyal to “something.”
A vision. A purpose, A relevance.
Here is why I believe older managers are afraid of hiring young people. Its not work ethic or entitlement or any of that bullshit … it is WE are afraid. We are afraid that whatever skill we may have today will become outdated in front of our eyes. And, by the way, this is a valid fear.
An Alex Gray World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, looks at the employment, skills and workforce strategy for the future.
Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.
New developments will transform the way we live, and the way we work. Some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that the workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace.
So. What skills will change most?
Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need.
With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.
Robots may help us get to where we want to be faster, but they can’t be as creative as humans (yet).
Whereas negotiation and flexibility are high on the list of skills for 2015, in 2020 they will begin to drop from the top 10 as machines, using masses of data, begin to make our decisions for us.
The one I really zoomed in on was active listening.
A skill we value very highly today disappears completely from the top 10.
Conversely, emotional intelligence, which does not appear in today’s top 10, will become one of the top skills needed.
That, my friends, is what we call “a paradigm shift.”
That, my friends, is also what we in the business world would call “older leadership will hold on to the past with ragged claws’ type scenario.
The changes will occur and the pace & scope of the changes will certainly be impacted by how a particular industry changes.
The nature of the change will depend very much on the industry itself. Global media and entertainment, for example, has already seen a great deal of change in the past five years.
The financial services and investment sector, however, has yet to be radically transformed. Those working in sales and manufacturing will need new skills, such as technological literacy.
Some advances are ahead of others. Mobile internet and cloud technology are already impacting the way we work. Artificial intelligence, 3D printing and advanced materials are still in their early stages of use, but the pace of change will be fast.
I say that because it would be very easy for someone reading what I just shared to think “not my industry.”
That would be bad.
Change is upon us. All of us.
Change in the workplace and what you know <and believe is effective from a status quo perspective> is scary and challenging and … well … unsettling.
But no matter how much we interviewers want … change won’t wait for us. either you get your attitude aligned with that and quit being intimidated or … well … you will continue to suck at interviewing and will continue to be subconsciously unsettled by the young face who knows more shit about shit you should know about than you do.
Being interviewed and interviewing sucks. I struggle to find anyone who likes it or enjoys it. Sure. Meeting new people is fun and interesting but ultimately you are meting a new person as part of an evaluation that can affect their careers, and lives, as well as your career <and I imagine your life>.
It ain’t easy and it gets even more difficult as people line up telling you the science of hiring <where there is certainly a significant art aspect involved>.
It is intimidating on both sides of the table and it is threatening to both participants <whether you actually use that word or not>.
I do wish we could set the crazy employment advice aside and simply focus on relevance.
Make the questions relevant to what you desire & need.
Make your answers relevant to what they desire & need.
Notice there is no game playing nor is there any ‘self marketing.’
It is all about relevance.
You certainly need not sacrifice interesting or engaging as you approach relevance but, for god’s sake, it is a job interview and if you maintain a backbone of relevance it kinda seems like everything else will fall in place.
So maybe before we start babbling about some crazy advice which makes everyone twist themselves into pretzels trying to meet the ‘interview crap du jour’ … take a moment … and keep your crappy advice to yourself and use one word over and over and over again … relevance.