Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Millennials In The New Millennium

It’s Time To Go To Work
But Will Millennials Be Ready?
By Sara Bauknecht

My generation has been trained in everything from soccer and singing to basketball and ballet. We were praised by society for simply being ourselves, and our parents were both our authority figures and our fan club.

But as this generation of Millennials and Echo Boomers, or individuals like me born between 1982 and 1995, prepares to enter the workforce, will our smorgasbord of skills and solid sense of confidence help us climb the corporate ladder of success?

According to a 2005 CBS 60 Minutes report titled, “The Echo Boomers,” the structure and support that commonly characterized the childhoods of many Millennials will hinder us from adapting to the corporate world’s conservative, demanding environment. This news report suggests that the importance of teamwork that coaches, teachers, and parents embedded in our minds during youth will stifle us from acting as individuals and leaders in the workplace.

And, according to some Millennials, this may be a credible prediction. “I do think there is an increase in the number of people in my generation who want to follow,” said Marc Marn, a 19 year-old interior communications engineer for the U.S. Navy. Although Marn feels there could be Millennials who will rise up as leaders in their chosen career paths, he believes, “there are a lot of Echo Boomers who would rather follow than step up.”

Photo by Katie Marn
Marc Marn says more
Millennials want to follow.

While our involvement in group activities that stressed the value of teamwork may prevent us from feeling comfortable being leaders, it is also predicted that the abundant praise we received during childhood may impede us from meeting the demands of the corporate world.

In a 2007 CBS 60 Minutes report, “The ‘Millenials’ Are Coming,” Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow explains that parents, mentors, and media figures like Mr. Rogers conditioned us to believe we were special. Zaslow, therefore, suggests that Echo Boomers will not feel the need to work as hard to succeed since we were raised with people constantly reminding us how wonderful we were just for being ourselves. As a result, Zaslow concludes that Millennials do not have as strong of work ethics to contribute to the workplace as members of past generations.

Like Marn, high school junior Leigh Ann Stephens, 17, believes there may be truth in these judgments concerning Echo Boomers and the workplace. “I am a dancer, and most dance competitions give everyone an award even though everybody doesn’t win first place. Because of this, I think that when people go get jobs some will not want to work unless they are given something.”

Photo by Liz Stephens
Stephens says some Millennials
are used to being “first.”

Although the team structure and praise we were exposed to may complicate our transition into the workforce, these predictions may be too generalized. While these characteristics of our childhoods may cause some Echo Boomers to have difficulties conforming to the corporate world, they also may motivate others and allow some of us to have no problems accepting leadership positions and working hard in order to receive praise.

“I know lots of teenagers and young adults who were extremely involved in extracurricular activities as kids and are now more concerned with becoming strong leaders than with wanting to only fit in with the team,” said Patricia Giffin, 50. A mother of a 20 year-old daughter, Giffin believes that the manner in which Millennials adapt to the corporate world will depend on their personalities and career goals.

Photo by Skip Bauknecht
Giffins says many

Millennials want to
become strong leaders.

And parents like Giffin are not the only ones who feel that childhood experiences may not be detrimental to Echo Boomers’ professional lives. Some Millennials think that participating in team activities and receiving support during childhood helped many of us cultivate confidence rather than damage our chances for success in the workplace.

“People like Mr. Rogers were self-esteem builders for my generation. They did not taint our futures,” said Marn.

With approximately 80 million Echo Boomers expected to infiltrate the workplace in the near future, it is too soon to tell how the majority of my generation will adapt to and impact the corporate world. But while some of us may let the praise and principles of teamwork from our childhoods become roadblocks on the path to professional success, other Millennials may end up being sources of intelligence and creativity that will help the corporate world continue to thrive in the 21st Century.

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