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THE MYSTERY BEHIND MILLENNIALS: WHAT THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE, HOW THEY CAN PREPARE

 

by Cynthia Hoffman, AgCareers.com 

 

They are technologically savvy. They are  innovative.  They are achievement-orientated.  They are  Millennials.

 

Millennials,  the  generation  born from  approximately  1981–2000  —  the students  of  today,  have  also  been called  self-centered,  disloyal,  and  over confident.  But no  matter  what  we  call them,  Millennials  are  an  important part  of  the  workforce  and  offer employers  a  lot  of  opportunities.

 

In  addition  to  Millennials,  there are  currently  three  other  generations present  in  the  workforce:  Traditionalists  —  those  born  before  1946, Baby  Boomers  —  those  born  from 1946–1964 and Generation  X  —  those born  from  1965  to  1980.

 

Each  generation  is  different,  and being  able  to  understand  and  work with  those  differences  is  vital  to  an organization’s  success,  said  Melinda Mullenix,  Human  Resources  Services  Manager  for  AgCareers.com.

 

Mullenix  said  the  Millennials make  up  10%  of  the  current  workforce.  That  number  is  important  as the  Millennial  generation  will  have to  help  fill  the  positions  vacated  by retiring  Baby  Boomers.  Mullenix  said 75%  of  agribusiness  employers  will see  one  to  five  percent  of  their  workforce  retire  in  the  next  one  to  two years,  and  10%  will  see  six  to  ten  percent  exit  the  workforce  during  that same  time  period.

 

So  if  the  Millennials  are  here  to stay,  what  can  they  bring  to  the  table?

 

 

 

What They Have to Offer 

 

If  they  are  taken  seriously,  Millennials  can  be  very  beneficial  to  the  organization,  said  Alexandra  Levit, President  of  the  career  consulting firm  Inspiration  at  Work  and author  of  “Success  for  Hire Simple  Strategies  to  Find  and  Keep Outstanding  Employees.”  “They are highly  entrepreneurial  and aren’t  content to  go  with what  has always  been done,”  she said.  “They relish  responsibility.  They thrive  on  challenging  work, creative expression  and innovation.”

 

Levit points out that the Millennial generation is relatively inexpensive labor, but they can contribute a lot. She said from a costbenefit perspective, they are very valuable to an organization.

 

Mullenix said that it’s important for the generation to feel valuable. She said they appreciate when their ideas are considered because they need to feel like they have provided something to the organization. “They need to be given tasks that they consider meaningful in order for them to see how they contributed to the overall finished product,” Mullenix said. “They like to be challenged and treated with respect.”

 

Heather Anderson, Western Field Representative for Ontario Holstein, agrees that the Millennial generation likes to be challenged. Anderson falls between the younger two generations. She is the youngest of a five-member team that works specifically with the Ontario Holstein branch. She said the younger generations bring many things to the workplace. “The younger generations bring flexibility, the willingness to learn knew things and knowledge about technology and how to maximize it,” she said.

 

Anderson said the younger generations are also known for asking a lot of questions. She said sometimes these traits can create conflict in the workplace, because they differ from the traits of older generations. “I think it is hardest to work with the Traditionalists and older Baby Boomers because they are unaware of all of the technology out there, or they find it difficult to operate it,” Anderson said. “It’s difficult to connect with this generation as it would seem to them that we are know-italls, but sometimes we just understand technology better.”

 

 

Baby Boomer Meets Millennial 

 

To prevent misunderstanding between generations, communication is key, said Bob Brcka, General Manager at PigCHAMP, a software company for the swine industry.

 

“I think both employers and Millennials need to recognize that you can’t assume that you are always going to be communicating effectively when you are communicating with different generations,” he said. “A good manager will recognize that, but the young person coming into the workforce also needs to figure out how their boss communicates, and alter their way of communicating to meet them half way.”

 

Brcka belongs to the Baby Boomer generation and has experience managing those from different generations.  One of his employees, Jessica Drey, belongs to the Millennial generation. Drey is an account manager for the company and is the youngest staff member.

 

Drey said it is challenging to work with those who have children around the same age as her. She said she understands how it would be difficult for a co-worker to take her ideas seriously, when they may be thinking “she’s young enough to be my child.”

 

At times she has had to overcome the stereotypes that accompany the Millennial generation. “There are times when I feel as though other employees or managers think that I do not completely understand what is happening, because I don’t have the years of experience that they possess,” Drey said. “But unlike many of the older generations, I have a fresh perspective of new technologies and a wide variety of hands-on experiences that. I had the opportunity to obtain during college.” Levit said this is common in many organizations. She said Millennials have a reputation that often precedes them. “Unfortunately early Millennials were accused of having a sense of entitlement and having things handed to them on silver platter,” Levit said.

 

PigCHAMP employees Bob Brcka (Baby Boomer) and Jessica Drey (Millennial) have learned to work together despite their generational differences.  The two said that at times it can be challenging, but each generation provides a different asset to the organization.  

 

Brcka said that he has noticed the younger generations are more laid back and want to develop a healthy work/ life balance. He said this is very different from his generation who was taught to put work at the center point of their lives. So how does Drey work through these differences?

She said it’s easier to overcome the stereotypes and gain support if you are a dependable worker. “It’s important to work hard in order to earn the respect from other team members,” she said. “If you continue to prove yourself, your team members will gain confidence in your abilities and what you have to offer.”

 

Professional Prepartion 

 

Besides working diligently, Millennials can do other things to better transition into the workforce. Levit said that Millennials should seek out a mentor who is just a couple of years older and a little further up on the ladder. She said those are the people who will be able to better-relate to the individual by sharing their recent experiences. Levit also advises Millennials to develop a “professional persona.” “In order to have a positive effect, you need to develop professional verbal and written communication skills,” she said. “Have a good attitude and sustain that attitude when faced with unfortunate circumstances.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t be yourself, but be a professional version of yourself.” Brcka agrees that professionalism will help Millennials be better received in the workplace. He also recommends learning how to take constructive criticism.

“Millenials tend to be a little sensitive to feedback if it’s not 100% positive,” he said. “They have a tendency to take criticism personally and at some point they need to learn to value it.” Drey has learned to appreciate constructive criticism during her two years at PigCHAMP. She said she has learned to accept it and use it to make her better. “Be prepared to get feedback from a lot of different people,” Drey said. “You may not be pleased with it, but their input is going to be very valuable in making you the best you can be.”