Millennials: Your Reputation Is Key

By Joanie Connell

Last week I received a call from a lawyer who wasreputation up in arms about a Millennial he had just hired. But don’t stop reading because this is not a Millennial-bashing blog post. Millennials, this post is for you, to help you develop one of the most critical pieces of your attractiveness as an employee—your reputation.

The lawyer is a solo practitioner and he hired a college grad who is interested in going to law school to assist him. Literally, on the first day of work, the young woman said she was interested in other opportunities to get more experience in different types of law. When the lawyer questioned her further, the woman said she was, indeed, looking for other jobs and she might move home (to a different city) in a couple of months if she couldn’t find a good apartment here.

The lawyer hadn’t offered her the job lightly and he had said he was looking for a 1-year commitment. It was a big decision to hire her over anyone else and he had a big need to fill, being a single-person firm. He was investing a good deal of time in training the woman as well. To have to replace her within a few months would impact the business significantly.

It’s no secret that Millennials have a high turnover ratesome reports are as high as 60%. Others report that Millennials measure their job tenure in months, not years. I’ve also seen the Millennial work ethic described as a “self-centered work ethic.”  No matter how you put it, Millennials are seen as having one foot out the door.

The problem for Millennials is that you only have one reputation to maintain and you are getting a bad one. This is not only an overarching view of an entire generation, but a view of you, yourself, individually. If you switch jobs capriciously and mistreat employers in the process, you will lose credibility in the workplace. Reliability is a deal breaker. I, personally, don’t care how smart, well-educated, or experienced someone is if they are not going to show up. Seriously, what’s the point?reputation 2

The point is, it’s not only about you. Millennials, I know you get this because you have the reputation of being the most socially responsible generation yet. You understand that you are part of a larger system of Mother Earth and what you eat, buy, or do affects people on the other side of the planet. What you do also affects people closer to home. And despite what you think, people notice what you do (even if it’s not posted online).

Given the high turnover rate among Millennials, the lawyer in this case wondered if hiring a new college grad was the way to go. He also wondered if hiring a new college grad from a good university was the best idea. He contemplated hiring someone from the local community college who might need the job more and appreciate hard work and commitment. He observed that the privileged woman didn’t have a solid work ethic, need for a job, or understanding of the big picture. (The woman also asked, within 3 weeks of employment, if she could take a vacation day to go to the beach.)

This is just one lawyer, but he is not alone in his experience. I have numerous stories like this one. Millennials, take this as a wake-up call. You need to build your reputation to be employable. I can tell you right now that the young employee in this story won’t get a positive recommendation from her current employer. After a point, college grades and letters of reference from professors don’t carry any weight. It soon becomes all about what you can produce, the quality of your work, and how reliable you are in getting things done. Your reputation is key.

Stereotyping is bad and ageism is illegal. Hopefully, employers won’t base a hiring decision on a generation’s reputation, but they will base it on yours.

Joanie Connell Interview

This blog is actually a vlog about my new book.  Spend 2 1/2 minutes watching this short video interview and help me come up with a new title for the book.

I’ll have more information on the book available soon.  If you have suggestions for a catchy title, I’d love your ideas.  The current working title is “Lessons from the Workplace: What Parents and Schools Are Missing.”

How We Are Disempowering Youth

By Joanie Connell

I drop my daughter off daily at middle school by driving into the parking lot, pulling up to the curb next to the school and popping the trunk. She hops out, goes around back, gets her backpack and closes the trunk. I drive off. It takes less than a minute.

school bus with kidsThis summer, my daughter is attending a camp at her school that is run by a different organization. We drove in the first day and were abruptly stopped by a hysterical person who was waving her arms and telling us we had to pull up into a lane behind other stopped cars. No problem. We pulled up and my daughter opened the door to get out. The person came running over, frantically, shouting at her to get back into the car. She informed us that we had to wait for a camp counselor to open the door for her. Kids weren’t allowed to open the car doors. Long story short, we waited for another 10 minutes for the lines of cars to pull up to the counselors (in an orderly fashion) and have a counselor open and close the door for each child.

Pick up was even slower. I asked (in as polite a way as I could possibly muster up) why they had crippled a perfectly functioning drop off and pick up system for the summer camp. The director of the drop off said it was because they had kids as young as second graders attending camp. “Of course,” I conceded. “It’s nobaby in carseatt only middle schoolers.” “But wait,” I thought, “second graders are 7-8 years old. Since when can 7- and 8-year-olds not open car doors?” Is this what our society has come to? If 7- and 8-year-olds can no longer open car doors on their own, haven’t we failed miserably as caregivers?

student waving goodbyeThe complete irony here is that this camp is for “academically talented” kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love the camp. It is a fantastic camp. And it’s not the only camp that is developmentally delaying children. My daughter went to a YMCA camp last year and had to hold onto a rope when she got out of the car. It was like preschool all over again. It seems that it’s not just “academically talented” kids who are incapable. At least, that’s what the adults think. The kids are actually very smart. You should see them trying not to hold onto the rope, being as sly as they can to make it look like they’re holding onto it for the counselors’ sake, but really not holding onto it for their own dignity’s sake. They know they don’t need to be treated this way. Why don’t we?

More importantly, who will our children turn out to be? How well will mother with daughtersthey be able to take care of themselves as adults? How much initiative will they take as employees? How many risks will they take as entrepreneurs? How strongly will they stand up in political negotiations as leaders of our nation? How well equipped will they be as caregivers of aging parents and their own children?

padlockWe think we are helping our kids by protecting them, but we are disempowering them in the process. You know what I mean; this is not just about opening car doors. The more we protect children, the less they are able to grow and take care of themselves. The more we instill fear and helplessness into our children, the more scared and helpless they become. Are those the qualities we want to instill in our future generation of leaders? Now that’s a scary thought!

Why It Is Important to Take Vacation

fete de la musique
Musicians play on the streets of Paris at Fete de la Musique
coupe de monde
World Cup fans outside my window at 2:00 a.m.

By Joanie Connell

Taking two weeks off in itself is a great way to gain perspective on life. Traveling to another country is even better. I just returned from two weeks in Paris. During those two weeks I experienced a very different way of life. I was kept up till all hours of the night by the Fête de la Musique, an all-night music festival that takes place on the streets of Paris. I lost sleep because the fans of the World Cup celebrated on the streets too, by driving around with their horns on at 2:00 in the morning. During daylight hours, I was slowed down by traffic that was gridlocked due to protest marches and demonstrations and by strikes that delayed trains and planes coming in and out of Paris

None of that bothered me. Rather, I found it curiously intriguing. What bothered me–at least at first–was spending over a week without WiFi. The router in our apartment broke and the landlord didn’t seem to understand the urgency around fixing it promptly. I was planning to work while on vacation and was shut down. Public WiFi was no option. In France, free WiFi tends to be so slow it is unusable except for email—another curiosity. The French just don’t seem to have the same need for speed that Americans do.

What was I to do? Well, how about enjoy my vacation! I gave up worrying about work. I didn’t blog for two weeks. I stayed off Face Book and I hardly emailed. Rather, I immersed myself into French culture and leisure.

A funny thing happened. In more than one conversation, French people asked me why I was only on vacation for two weeks. They asked what else I would do during the summer for the rest of my vacation. I kept having to explain that this was my summer vacation and that I would be returning to work when I got home and that I was fortunate to be able to travel for two weeks because many Americans don’t have that kind of time. Now it was their turn to find my culture curiously intriguing.

Even if we only have 2 weeks of vacation per year, as compared to their typical 2 months of vacation, it makes all the difference in the world to get away from work for a while. It gives you perspective. Realizing that you’re dispensable, that the daily crisis at work really isn’t urgent or earth shattering, and that life has so much more to offer than work is truly important. Taking vacation helps to broaden your perspective and refocus your priorities in life.

As a consultant, I get an external perspective of companies. More often than not, I feel the office tension as I walk in. I see the desperate looks on executives’ faces as they try to do what they think the president wants. If the president decides he/she wants X, the executives send their teams into a frenzy to deliver X2. The executives advise me on what words to use or not use to appeal to the president’s idiosyncrasies. They demand that I turn in work proposals immediately and be available to perform without delay. They expect me to work after hours and on weekends like they do. I’ve learned my lesson because, when I do, they change their minds or the president isn’t available to look at it or the project gets canceled or something like that. We have all rushed around with elevated heart rates and stress levels for no real reason.

vacationEvery time I return from vacation, I gain perspective and vow not to get sucked into this lifestyle when I return. Sometimes I succeed. If more of us took time out to relax and gain perspective, we would probably be much less stressed at work. I highly recommend giving it a try. If anything, you’ll be less stressed for a while. If it catches on, we might make the workplace a better place for all of us.