Repeat after me: “Throwing the term ‘millennial’ at someone is only a lame excuse for my lack of commitment to be a better mentor and teacher.”
Generalizing any group of people, especially with broad stroke statements such as, “all women love shopping” or “old people always carry Werther’s in their pockets” (a statement that has proven to be untrue many times, much to my chagrin) is not only lazy, it’s irresponsible.
Sweeping statements allow people to shrug off their lack of understanding or willingness to change—and place the blame entirely on a cliché misconception.
If we want to preserve the integrity and relevance of our industry, we must not generalize those who are going to be representing us in the not-so-distant future. Instead, we need to adapt our behavior and beliefs to help them thrive.
Here are a few things I believe to be (mostly*) true:
1. Millennials want to be part of something important.
Professional millennials are very concerned with how they fit into the bigger picture.
- How is pulling together a media list helping the larger team?
- Why is it important?
- How do I know if I did a good job?
Take a moment to share the importance of the process with them—how their contribution helped make a happy client. Furthermore, give them a bucket of hours every year to work on a pro-bono project they show interest in, and let them lead it.
Give them the opportunity to try new ideas, write, and work with clients, all on something they truly care about.
2. Millennials are dedicated, hard-working individuals.
“They’ve had everything handed to them their whole lives! I remember when winners were the only ones who got medals…not this participation ridiculousness.”
Yeah. I’ve said that, too.
Many veterans remember when working in the PR field meant showing up at 7:30 am every morning, maybe taking a 15-minute lunch and never leaving before 6 p.m.
“Working from home” wasn’t a thing because the internet did not exist and neither did smartphones. Work-life balance was a metaphor for the number of calories one needed to eat in order not to die.
Thankfully, this is no longer the case.
We are lucky to work in a dynamic, 24/7 industry; however, no one can be on 24/7.
Millennials are independent and individualistic—taught to be so by their parents—and trying to shove them into a corporate eight to five timeslot is unrealistic and, frankly,unproductive.
As connected as we all are now, there is no reason employers shouldn’t offer flexible working arrangements. If they aren’t working from home, they sure aren’t working when they’re in the office, and having their butt in a chair is not going to change that.
Having a feeling of ownership and understanding value helps motivate millennials, so why not give them a little leeway?
3. Millennials can teach old dogs a few new tricks.
The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality haunts fired agencies and formerly-employed marketing executives everywhere.
We do not work in an industry rewards redundancy.
Yes, veterans can teach new pros the way things used to be done—looking up media members in Bacon’s books and measuring hard clips to calculate AVE.That said, millennials live and breathe the types of media we are all dying to become experts in: social media, influencer marketing, and native advertising.
Plus, millennials now have more buying power than any other generation. Maybe we should let them have a voice at the table?
It’s easy to write off as a lost cause someone who is underperforming.
Yet, we can take time to be more introspective and not cast off a whole generation of potential PR rock stars.
What has your experience been working with millennials? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
*I say mostly because if I stated all these things are true for all millennials, I would be a hypocrite. I would be making generalizations. Some people feel they are entitled. Some are just lazy. The worst are both. Consider an entire generation may not be, and change how you view your differences – you might be surprised by the results.
Note: I had a self-proclaimed “millennial snowflake” gut-check this article for me. Special thanks to Sarah Gentil.
Sara Rude is a Vice President, Public Relations & Social Media Supervisor at Cramer-Krasselt . She is also an adjunct instructor at Marquette University and serves on the board of directors of the PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin chapter. A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.