By: Natassia Nyholm
Are you a millennial anxiously entering the workforce? This article will help you prepare for what lies ahead. It examines three of the main barriers faced by millennials and how to overcome them. The article provides advice from other millennials on how to transition into the workforce and navigate through it.
Entering the workforce can be a daunting and intimidating experience for anyone. Even more so for millennials, as the requirements for jobs, today are much higher. The landscape of the job market has changed drastically since our parents were in our place. Here’s how millennials who are just starting their job hunting journey can anticipate what to expect and how to be successful in their journey. Let’s begin by looking at the three main barriers millennials face today.
What are the barriers millennials face today?
Lack of experience
In a highly competitive and technical market, millennials are forced to attain excessive amounts of post-secondary education just to rise above the rest of the candidates in the growing piles of resumes received. Unfortunately, millennials today end up “graduating with a high level of education, but a low level of relevant work experience,” says Angela Copeland, a career coach and the founder of Copeland Coaching. Some employers may not want to train employees; they want them to acquire the training on their own and at their own cost. To further compound things, the job market has become far more competitive; millennials are competing with other highly educated millennials, as well as previous generations who possess the experience they are lacking for those jobs.
Alexis Chateau, Founder of College Mate, echoes this experience stating “graduating with honors did not compensate for the fact that I lacked the 5 to 10 years of experience most good jobs required.” Millennials are stuck in a catch 22, they need the education to even apply for certain jobs, but they lack the work experience in that area to land the job. Alexis goes on to state that she received numerous rejection responses, in spite of her high level of education; such as she is overqualified for the position or that “their older staff (40+ years) would not accept a young woman as their leader.”
The second major barrier millennials face when entering the workforce is the stereotypes and assumptions employers and co-workers have of millennials. The most common stereotype equated to millennials is that “we are entitled and inexperienced” says Dani Hao, a communications manager at Procurify and recent graduate of the Beedie School of Business in Vancouver. Negative stereotypes and assumptions can hinder an individual’s chances of getting a position, in spite of possessing an impressive resume. Such stereotypes can also impede relationships between millennials and their coworkers which in turn can lead to a reduction in productivity as well as progress. Dani argues that those stereotypes immediately overshadowed her “five years of work experience.” Millennials are forced to work twice as hard in order to prove their abilities and overcome those stereotypes.
Resistance to change
The third major barrier millennials face is resistance to the implementation of new processes. As Dani puts it “Many companies stick to legacy software programs, outdated policies and traditional management styles” out of comfort or tradition. This makes it difficult for millennials to suggest newer processes even if they are more efficient; often their ideas get ignored due to millennial stereotypes.
How can millennials overcome those barriers?
Never give up
How have millennials been handling these barriers and what have they done to overcome them? Angela suggests that millennials should never give up “Look for new ways to gain work experience, such as volunteering your time, or doing a post-graduation internship.” Seek out any opportunity to gain relevant work experience in the area you are applying for jobs in prior to your job search. This will help improve your resume and cover your weak points. Take advantage of networking opportunities and utilize sites like Linkedin to let people know you are looking for work.
Prove your worth
Dani’s approach to overcoming stereotypes of millennials when entering the workforce she says is to “prove your credibility through actions and not just through your resume, delivering what I promise and going above and beyond my job requirements, showed organizations I am hungry and always willing to do more.” In order for employers and co-workers to see your drive millennials need to be willing to humble themselves and take on tasks that may seem below their skill level to prove they are willing to be a team player. Doing this will also show how serious you take your job and your level of work ethic. It is crucial not to put any skills or work experience on your resume that you do not think you can demonstrate on the job on, what is the old saying honesty is the best policy.
Dani also suggests that millennials should “present solutions to problems rather than complaining, bringing a problem to light is great, but without a solution, there is no value. When I saw a problem, I presented a solution to solve it, and that helped me gain a lot of trust in the organizations I worked in.” Providing solutions to problems rather than just bringing up what is wrong will prove to employers that you are not just an entitled millennial but a thoughtful and dedicated employee that seeks to improve company matters. It indicates that you have valuable ideas to contribute to the company; that the solutions you provide can help to improve company processes and make them more efficient.
Advice from other millennials
So what advice do millennials have for their comrades? Dani advises millennials to take every opportunity seriously, “If you cannot even do a small mundane task with 100% effort, how will they trust you with bigger responsibilities?” This means do not scoff at opportunities that come your way and do your best when given an opportunity to gain work experience or to prove your work ethic. She also urges her comrades to be confident in their abilities and firm. This means don’t be afraid to voice your opinion when you have a great idea; However, Dani states “if you are looking to challenge the status quo, you better be prepared to back up your opinion with facts, action and a solution.”
Temper your expectations
As a millennial myself, my advice is to temper your expectations of where you should start off in the workforce. Know that you will likely have to start at the bottom of the ladder in order to climb to the top. You must expect to make less than the average income level for your field because the average is based on education level and experience. Know that employers will start you off with tasks that may seem below your skill level, but do those tasks well and go above and beyond the bare minimum. This will help you prove your worth. Learn to be humble and know that employers will recognize your value as you grow into your position.