“Generation Y stands at the forefront of the next chapter in mankind’s evolution: experiencing everything while going nowhere” wrote Bob Lutz in a Forbes article, and as a card-carrying member of Gen Y, I’d have to say I agree. No, really, I’d have to say it because I, like the rest of us, am compelled to offer my opinion up to the Internet no matter what the topic. We’ve somehow been tricked into believing two things: hard work doesn’t matter and planet Earth is a virtual universe where you can micro-blog your way to your dream career.
In keeping with the theme of quotes and emphasizing my Generation Y status to address the latter point, take this lyric from Mac Miller:
“You could have the world in the palm of your hand but it don’t mean a thing til you change it.”
To Millennials, unfortunately, the concept of holding the world in the palm of one’s hand is less romantic and symbolic than it is ordinary, as most of us tend to view everything around us through the screen of a smartphone. Further, less and less regard is given to “changing it.” In this virtual reality, we bypass the awkward small-talk and expensive dinners once associated with courtship in favor of simply exchanging pictures. Not only are our virtual romances starting faster and ending quicker than the click of an unfriend button but, more importantly, our interpersonal and professional relationships are suffering as well, all as we grow more and more accustomed to the new “reality” and more resistant to changing it.
Maybe we don’t want to change our “world” in the Digital Age because it seems not only easier, but more accommodating when it comes to everything from future planning to getting (and working!) a new job.
Although virtual internships seem to be on the up-and-up, however, the value in personal presentation need not be forgotten: the ability to look at a client or future business partner, shake his or her hand, make eye contact, and have a good, old-fashioned face-to-face exchange are all skills that are still valued in the workplace, especially by members of older generations. If you want to impress someone, pick up the phone instead of sending an email. Anyone can look good on paper, but the power of presentation is not to be underestimated, Gen Y.
This brings us back to my initial point: employers still notice hard work.
People are driven by passion, but that passion doesn’t just come from within. In fact, excitement and determination are infectious and employers know that one enthusiastic employee can change the dynamic, and thus, output, of the entire operation. Employers are looking for employees who will bring their passion to their cause. Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success. And you know what? They probably didn’t post Facebook statuses detailing every move because they were too busy making those moves. Like Lil Wayne says, “Real Gs move in silence like lasagna.” You can be a G in the workplace. You should be a passionate, silent workplace G.
We are a generation of multi-talented, multi-tasking, socially responsible dreamers who want to solve the world’s problems in minutes without spending a dime.
We are a generation of efficiency and impatience that has defaulted to cheap and easy fixes. But what Gen Y forgets is that putting in a little elbow grease doesn’t go unnoticed– especially now that it’s dwindling.
The truth is that hard work doesn’t have shortcuts and, regardless of what generationally-targeted viral ad campaigns would lead you to believe, there isn’t an app for everything. Life, with its complex interactions and decisions, doesn’t reside in the sedentary, virtual world we think it does. Not yet, at least.
Our 2014 reality is that you have to start from the bottom; unfortunately, in this economy, the bottom keeps getting lower and education continues to lose value when not paired with experience.
Millennials will suffer and struggle with their attitude, adverse to putting in any ground work to climb their way to the top. And in a world where you can sell an idea for a website to become a millionaire or rocket to superstardom by posting a YouTube video, who could blame us? Still, it’s time to guide people into finding their passion. Employers want interns and employees who want to dive in, step up, and contribute – not just ride out the summer. While your peers might scoff at internships as companies wanting “free labor,” you should be out there doing it. You’re not being exploited if you prove yourself to be indispensable. You have to start somewhere, so why not an internship?
Internships bridge the gap between post-secondary education and entry-level positions, while giving you the competitive edge you will need when entering the real world after graduation. No company worth working for will hire an applicant without an applicable job history. In fact, a study for Michigan State by Gardner, Chow and Hurst states that 90% of direct-from-college hires will go to those with internship experience on their résumé.
Millennials come up with all the excuses in the book (or so my mom tells me), so we’ve started by refuting a few of them.
You’re better than this internship.
Getting hired as the intern for a well-established company doesn’t make you the man. Conversely, getting hired as the intern for a small startup or lesser-known company doesn’t make you a loser. Humble yourself. You’re not too good for the company. If you were, you’d be making history as the first person pulled straight from college without graduating to work for them. But this isn’t the NFL and you need to graduate before you can be the big man (or woman) on the scene. Your fellow interns have worked just as hard as you have to get into a reputable internship program. Act like you want to be there and remember that you are incredibly fortunate to be afforded the opportunity others were not. Take advantage of every opportunity and soak it all in.
You’re living large if you’re lucky enough to have a paid internship, but most aren’t. There are a number of grants, scholarship programs and financial aid available for those who are serious about their summer internships– you just need to dig! Contact your school’s career services for more information on ways to fund your internship. Heck, go ahead and Google it – this is what the Internet is really for, the information superhighway.
If you’re funding this summer entirely by yourself, get ready to ball on a budget.
Make sure you have the staples: rent, food and transportation. With a roof over your head, food in your tummy, and a way to get to and from your internship, the world is your oyster. You have everything you need; don’t complain.
You’re tired of menial tasks.
Interns are assigned menial tasks to free up the hired, paid employees so they can focus on more important and difficult ones. You’re not just a charity case. Many fail to grasp the fact that most jobs don’t consist of only the most interesting parts, and often involve a lot of drudgery. If you’re being asked to stuff envelopes, that’s because envelopes need to be stuffed; someone has to do it at the bottom level to keep things running smoothly at the top. However, it does become a problem when you spend your whole advertising internship stuffing envelopes. Real interns do real work and they are important to the company. Show them that you’re ready for that real work by being the best envelope-stuffer in the building!
It’s too hard for you.
Some say their internship is too easy, others complain about it being too hard. Challenges are a good thing and internships aren’t supposed to be easy! They’re supposed to prepare you for a career –and a world– that isn’t easy! Once you get past the learning curve, things can only get better. This is your time to learn, develop, and think about post-graduation plans. Experience is what these things are all about, right?
If your direct supervisor or internship coordinator doesn’t have any tasks for you, surely there are others in the office who do. Make an attempt to meet 3-5 other executives within the office, check in with them regularly, and see if they need an extra hand with anything. Network, network, network!
You can’t get anything right.
This company has taken you on as an intern who wants to learn, not an employee who is put on salary. Mistakes come with the territory. Get them out of the way now so you don’t make the same ones when you get your first real job!
Not all work environments foster an open-conversation atmosphere, and some can be downright stuffy for some people. It’s important to push your fears aside and keep the communication bridge open between you and your supervisor. Ask for feedback on your assignments and let them know that you appreciate their constructive criticism. Show them that you value their opinion by applying their feedback on your next assignment. At the end of the day, any conversation you’re looking to have with your employer (be it about full-time employment, your progress with the company, etc.) is not going to happen unless you make it happen; no one cares about your future like you do.
You’re always confused.
Sometimes it can feel like you’ve hit the ground running from day one of your internship and everyone else knows what’s going on but you. If you start feeling like you’re sinking in field terms and lingo, ask your supervisor to suggest reading materials to help you better understand the industry/business you’re working in: blogs, magazines, books, trade publications, etc. A little homework never hurt anyone.
You don’t know what to wear.
If you think that skirt is too short, it is. Stop listening to that bogus “dress for the job you want” nonsense. No, dress to blend in. Interns wearing suits at a tech startup are just as bad as interns wearing summer dresses to corporate meetings. A pair of black pants and a sweater is good for staying neutral and normal.
You can’t make friends.
You’re in an office with a network of important people who know more than you — after all, they’re employed! Say hello to people in the communal kitchen and smile in the halls. Get engaged with those in the office– even the receptionist! Also, network with your fellow interns. Don’t get too friendly to the point where you’re not getting your work done, but these are the people who will be at your same level, more or less, throughout your career. They are a potential co-worker or job contact tomorrow.
Since quotes got us into this topic, let’s allow a quote to lead us out. Martin Luther King, Jr. may not have been part of our generation, but his had its fair share of struggles and he knew what he was talking about when he said,
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
No matter what you do, Millennials, own it and do it with pride, utilizing not only your tech-savviness, but your interpersonal skills, too.