You know the type; you’ve probably hired a few — those employees who are doing the job “until something better comes along.”
They’re the ones who view their job as transitory, as steppingstones at best, and at worst just a source of income for the moment. What’s worse, this type of employee is often vocal with this mindset, which not only negatively infects co-workers but is also hurtful to the person responsible for his or her gainful employment — you.
Is this an increasing phenomenon? While it’s tempting to peg this attitude on millennials — the generation that claims “being famous” as a career ambition — it’s been around long before we set foot in a thing called an office. Come to think of it, I was that guy. I’m pretty sure I didn’t always treat those jobs with the respect they deserved. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, and my career took three major left turns. I truly like my job, though I didn’t expect to end up where I am today.
So how do you get millennials to respect the job they have right now? If I had the ability to share words of wisdom with my 22-year-old self, this is what I’d say:
- Suck the marrow out of each job you take. Chances are you won’t stay there forever, but there will be valuable takeaways from each one. Your inspiration and enthusiasm will be infectious. Your great work will attract great people, and the network you build will last a lifetime.
- Your professional development rests on your ability to persuade people to do their best work for you and the common good. Each job presents an opportunity to sharpen this skill, and your inspiration and enthusiasm will be key motivators for others.
- You may not see a future in the business you’re in, but you’re still in business. Every business process is rooted in a fundamental concept that can be applied in a multitude of applications in different industries.
- Leave yourself open to unexpected inspiration. Do not discard the possibility that the job you’re in is a job you’ll make a career out of, even if it’s “not part of the plan.”
- Find a mentor and don’t hesitate to push for this relationship. Sometimes, they will find you. Be open to it.
When it comes down to it, I’m not sure if my 22-year-old self would’ve listened to those words, which is what makes imparting wisdom to the younger generation so difficult. Instead of the “hands-on-the-shoulders” speech, owners and managers need to understand the millennial mindset.
“Everything in our lives has been in stages of learning and subsequent movement: high school, college, graduate school, etc.,” writes Tyler Koch, a millennial and director of human resources at McRee Ford in Dickinson, Texas. “So once millennials feel that a certain level of learning or achievement has been accomplished, it's time to move on. The employers that fail to make that connection can often take an employee’s departure as a personal reflection on them or their organization.”
Perhaps the best you can do is offer them this growth potential, and let the chips fall where they may.
“Many of my former employees have reached out to me, some from more than a decade or more, to say that they found me to be one of the best employers they had ever worked for,” writes Sharon Faulkner, a former Dollar Rent A Car operator in Albany, N.Y.
“It may not have been how they felt at the time, but, after going out into the world to the ‘real job,’ they found that many managers follow the rules set out for them — they never look at their employees as human beings, the way I treated them.”
The millennial generation, more than those that preceded it, wants to learn through experiences. We all take our lumps in business life from doing. I turned out OK; you did, too. We all figure it out eventually.