Whether or not you hold a favorable opinion of Millennials, the fact of the matter is that they have surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force and now make up more than one third of the workforce. This group of 19-35 year olds has also surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation's largest generation alive.
From an employer's perspective, it's time to stop skipping over Millennial resumes and realize that, even with short or scattered work histories, Millennial job candidates bring some skills to the table that many of their older employees may not possess.
Here's a handful of Millennials' underappreciated skills that can be leveraged by a forward-thinking leadership team with a focus on sustainable growth and leading their business into a new era.
1. Skillful Pivoting
I often hear a lot of people critiquing the new phenomenon of "job hopping" that Millennials engage in, often many times in a single year. Many professionals from previous generations, who are now in major leadership roles, usually view job hopping as an inability to commit. Older employees grew up with the idea that staying in one job and growing your career with an employer for a long period of time was the most responsible thing to do. For years, this has been the standard approach in the labor force: grow with the rank and file, climb the ladder to success, and remain a vital part of that organization.
This is similar to the mentality that it's pointless to list a job on your resume if you weren't there for at least a year.
For Millennials however, changing jobs frequently develops skills that make it easier for them to adapt to changing circumstances. That ability to adapt and pivot on the fly should be highly sought-after in a time when we talk about accelerating startup launches, rapidly expanding businesses, revamping marketing strategies, etc.
Millennials who are capable of skillful pivoting might be some of the most valuable employees for organizations that are on the verge of restructuring to have, as industries increasingly cater to a more digitalized world.
2. Understanding Technology
Many of us born prior to the 80s had limited access to electronic devices and only a few really entertaining gadgets to keep us preoccupied. The more innovative electronics didn't start coming out until our teenage years - or later. Millennials, on the other hand, have grown up with this technology because it was prevalent in their environment from early on. They're tech-savvy and they know it.
Wireless connectivity and mobile devices have been around since they were children, and they've grown up right alongside the high-tech devices and applications that have been released. By and large, most Millennials I meet and speak with are extremely tech-savvy, and with greater emphasis on technology for growing businesses, this skill makes many Millennials seriously useful assets for companies founded on technology trends, or businesses that need to embrace integrated technology in order to grow.
One skill I've really noticed in Millennials is just how resourceful they are. If you look at the years in which they grew up, a fair amount of their upbringing and finding their way in the world took place during a heavy economic downturn and rough recovery period.
With all the economic doom and gloom surrounding them, Millennials have had no choice but to learn self-sufficiency and how to be solution-oriented. From frugal shopping strategies to developing income streams on the side, there are countless DIY-oriented Millennials who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves to get things done. As the Harvard Business Review puts it, they're the MacGyvers of business.
That kind of resourceful, "get s&^% done" attitude that's often promoted by people like Gary Vaynerchuk is the kind of no-nonsense skillset you want in employees, especially if you're a startup company. With so many new entrepreneurs building their businesses through bootstrapping and developing their own solutions to achieve goals, solution-focused Millennials are exactly what we want and need in the workforce.
4. Socially Active
Technological devices, the internet, and social media are deeply integrated into everything Millennials do. This generation tends to be more outward, open, extroverted, and social compared to previous generations, though people often misinterpret Millennials' confidence as narcissism instead.
For companies that interface closely with clients and other businesses, or focus on public engagement, some of these roles could be perfect fits for Millennials. In some cases, Millennials might be far more comfortable and productive out in the field with customers than back at your company's headquarters.
"Millennials don't see work as something that happens in a certain place," writes business consultant JT Ripton. "They often prefer working outside of the office, and they don't understand why they should spend more time sitting at their desks when they get more done in the coffee shop down the street."
5. Fierce Determination
While the Baby Boomer generation wishes Millennials would slow down and recognize that careers are built through professional experience, Millennials tend to be fiercely determined in meeting and exceeding their goals, and they usually believe that they already possess the knowledge required to get things done.
While this mentality often comes across as arrogant, companies should recognize that this stems from a strong desire to perform well and to be part of something that personally matters to them.
"A 2015 Deloitte study said 77% of connected Millennials, in part, chose a company because of its sense of purpose," says Evan Burns, founder of social platform Odyssey. "This generation isn't willing to compromise or work crazy hours for an organization that doesn't align with their purpose."
This doesn't necessarily mean Millennials think they know more than others, but rather they're just confident and determined to excel in both their careers and in life.
"A high number of Millennials see giving back to society and being civilly engaged among their highest priorities," writes Keith McCarthy, HR Director for Mazars. "In addition to this, they also value the opinions of other generations. Most Millennials enjoy working with other generations, but can often feel unappreciated or even resented by them."
What's your take on the value Millennials can bring to a business? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below: