/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/274704_l_srgb_s_gl_514923.jpgThe message has been loud and clear: companies like SAP must engage millennials, the newest generation to enter the workforce. I have joined other Gen Yers in arguing against negative millennial stereotypes and promoting our more positive qualities. But as business leaders finally accept the benefits of millennials, we have a new responsibility: living up to the hype.

It’s not going to be easy. Entry-level jobs are changing, and in many cases have been cut entirely. Employers expect new hires to be “job-ready from day one,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Entry-level workers are more likely to be assigned “thinking roles” that emphasize “abstract and sophisticated skills.” As my fellow millennials take on these advanced entry-level jobs, I have three pieces of wisdom to help them navigate the workplace:

1)      Remember: you don’t know everything.

Studies show that there are large gaps between students’ perception of their level of preparation and their employers’ perception, the New York Times reports. According to an online study called The Student Skill Index, students have more confidence than hiring managers in their ability to organize, lead, and prioritize work. Experts even say that recent graduates need to better understand the importance of old-fashioned manners, grooming, and communication – skills students are unlikely to develop in college.

My advice? You don’t know everything, so don’t act like you do. Never appear entitled or as if you feel overqualified for a position – even if it’s “just” an internship. In fact, internships can be a great opportunity to learn the soft and hard skills that will be highly valued when applying for full-time jobs. And while you prove yourself through hard work and valuable outcomes, it’s important to adapt to workplace culture and etiquette as well.


2)      This isn’t school; you won’t get daily assignments.

Recent graduates are coming out of years and years in the classroom, with schedules and teachers and assignments and tests. This educational system leaves little room for individual initiative.

But now that you’re an employee, don’t expect the hand-holding of academia. Instead of sitting back and waiting for assignments to come, talk to your manager about your goals and take the initiative to seek out projects and solve problems. Find opportunities for development (like openSAP) and get to know people in the office outside of your team. Volunteering is a great place to start, and October’s Month of Service is just around the corner!

3)      Use social media for good, not evil.

Millennials are often hired for their social media expertise. We understand Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, Snapchat, Buzzfeed and everything in between — skills that are invaluable in an increasingly digital workplace.

But we must use our social media powers for good instead of evil. First, think about how your company can use social media tactics to strengthen communication and simplify collaboration, and put these ideas into action. Second, be more conscious about your own social media use. Save the Emojis and abbreviations for texting your friends, not emailing your coworkers. Think before you Tweet, as your social media presence may now be seen by your coworkers, managers, and clients. And don’t fall into social media’s endless pit of procrastination; if you need a quick break, read the news instead of scrolling through Instagram.


Do you have any other advice for millennials in the workplace? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Fred Verheul

    Hi Sarah,

    Commenting on your introductory paragraph I’d argue not only against negative stereotyping of millennials, but against stereotyping of millennials, period. For instance, like

    Millennials are often hired for their social media expertise. We understand Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, Snapchat, Buzzfeed and everything in between

    This is not true in general (and so it’s stereotyping), and it’s not like the older generation doesn’t understand social media (at least, not in general).

    Maybe it’s about time we start treating millennials as people, just like other people who’ve been on this planet a little longer. The similarities greatly outweigh the differences IMO.

    BR, Fred

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    1. Sarah Harvey Post author

      Hi Fred,

      Thanks for the comment. My intention was not to promote any stereotypes, negative or positive. I’m simply speaking from my own experience (and the experience of some of my peers) as it is sometimes assumed that we “know” social media. Perhaps this is something in the working culture that needs to change — and over time it probably will! As you said, the similarities between generations outweigh the differences. My goal here is to try to help recent grads adapt to the workplace amid generalizations that do unfortunately seem to exist.

      Sarah

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