By Joanie Connell
Last week I received a call from a lawyer who was 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 rate—some 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?
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.