We talk about millennials weekly on this channel, and while I’m a millennial myself, a lot of what’s reported here is speculation, an offering of data or a sample of thoughts and practices from the corporate world and what I think about them. But what do other millennials think?
Barnes & Noble College partnered with Joan Snyder Kuhl, a millennial career expert and founder of Why Millennials Matter, to conduct a nationwide study on the mindsets of today’s college students. I interviewed Kuhl to find out more.
Let’s talk about the state of today’s college students’ level of career preparation. Where’s it at?
Kuhl: Our study showed that students today are falling behind on the college-to-career roadmap; they know what experience and skills they need, but they aren’t taking the steps to get there. Only 42.5 percent of students surveyed had not even applied for one internship. Three-quarters of juniors/seniors have taken the first step of creating a résumé but have not gone much farther than this.
Let’s talk about their perception of what skills and experiences are desired by companies looking to hire them. How do those compare with the skills and experiences employers are looking for?
Kuhl: Confidence has a huge impact on an individuals’ perception of their own potential and the opportunities they believe are available to them. The students from our survey were concerned that their current skill set would not meet the standards that recruiters and employers are looking for in new hires. But they are extremely open and committed to training and development. Two thirds of students of students are concerned about having the necessary skills to perform their job well.
As a result, many of today’s employers are passing over recent grads for open positions because they feel they aren’t ready — which affects not only recent grads, but college and university job placement rates.
What are millennials looking for in their early work experiences?
- Be apart of a team.
- Opportunity to contribute their ideas.
- Millennials demand authenticity and transparency — employers need to keep communication lines open and make sure these younger workers understand the company’s purpose, its mission and how their personal contribution can make an impact.
What kind of training do they want?
Kuhl: Managers of millennials will need to best diagnose where young talent will need targeted training and development. Focus on building those skills immediately and outline a plan for their development that involves coaching and feedback from you or other internal/external mentors and coaches. If you organization does not have the resources to develop or have an in-house training program around professional skills, there are plenty of approaches that are based in self-paced study and experiential learning practices.
What motivates them most?
Kuhl: Money does not drive millennials: 92 percent rated personal fulfillment as the top indicator of success — far above public recognition, a desired title and meeting financial goals. Employers today need to keep these preferences in mind when recruiting and engaging millennial workers.
What myths are out there regarding millennials, and what data to you have to back up the truth?
Myth 1: Millennials lack focus as it relates to their future career.
Reality: Students do have a clear vision for their future aspirations.
Almost all students (more than 92 percent of each group) have identified the field of their desired career, including freshmen. For all students, health/medical services is the top field of choice, followed by business management for two-year students, engineering for freshmen respondents and education for juniors/seniors. And while some may be led to believe that millennials are deferring their job search to take time off to travel or volunteer after graduation — i.e. “gap years” — the vast majority of students from the survey still indicated that they plan to enter the workforce immediately after graduation in addition to these activities.
Knowing students have a clear focus on their career choice, even as early as their freshmen year, provides colleges and universities the opportunity to help their students become better prepared and gain experience well before their junior/senior years. The earlier colleges and universities can support their students on the path to gaining professional skills and experience, the better the outcome will be for employment opportunities and impact on the job.
Myth 2: Millennials expect to be CEO tomorrow and are driven by money, power and fame.
Reality: Students indicated that personal fulfillment trumps recognition nearly three to one.
Today’s students have different ambitions than the generations before them when it comes to their careers. Students today want to feel personally fulfilled with their work — more than 92 percent of each group ranked fulfillment as the top indicator of how they define their success. Additionally, personal fulfillment ranked as the second most common source of concern and anxiety for them as it relates to finding their career, just behind actually finding a job in their desired field. Specifically, they want a career where they can make a difference and have an impact on society and their community.
What are some of the obstacles millennials face as they begin their employment journey? How can learning development from their employers help them overcome them?
Kuhl: These are some of the obstacles:
- Lack of real world training and development.
- Exposure to mentors and sponsors.
- Opportunity to contribute to the broader strategy and company objectives.
- Disconnect in understanding the company’s true business, mission and impact.
Most employers dedicate the budget for training and development towards executives, senior leaders and new managers, but they miss the opportunity to invest in rising starts. Beyond high potential programs, organizations should devote time and leadership to onboarding young talent to build the relevant professional, leadership and business skills that will accelerate their productivity. This will increase engagement, garner loyalty and stimulate innovation.