Defying Stereotypes: Being a Millennial and (hopefully) getting the job
Public relations is an ever changing field. This is one aspect of the industry that makes getting an internship or job so difficult. Millennials have the stigma of being self-centered with no work ethic. However, we are in PRSSA, so at least part of that statement isn’t true. At the 2014 National Conference, we heard from a variety of speakers, all who touched on how to defy that stereotype, what remains important in job searching, and what has changed.
The common thread throughout each presentation was that tradition and respect still matter. While it is important to understand the nontraditional landscape and have an experience or skill that makes you unique, you still must rise to a level of professionalism that is and has always been expected in a career.
During the Living Legends keynote session, Thomas Hoog of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Maril MacDonald of Gagen MacDonald discussed what they look for in applicants and what we should be looking for in positions. Often you hear that a professional earned their success because the stars aligned and just when they were feeling unsatisfied with their horrible position, someone in their network reached out and thought about them regarding this wonderful opportunity they had always wanted. Boom: they had this wonderful job. Well, that’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Make the magic happen for yourself. You have the power to make wherever you are the right place at the right time. If you have built your network and worked ethically and readily, then maybe not stars, but something will align.
Here are some other tips the “living legends” had for us:
- Be enthusiastic
- Be ambitious
- Be curious
- Be engaging and engaged
- Be confident
- Love to learn
- Try something new
- Have great writing skills
- Being global makes you relevant
- Take pride in what you do
- Exercise your left and right brain
- Don’t just be interviewed, interview
- The best networking is to offer help
- Ensure cultural fit with the workplace
- Believe in what you do, it will make you a better hire
Additionally, Hoog looks for what he calls the 3-Bone Approach. This is an applicant with a funny bone, a backbone, and a wish bone—a sense of humor, an ability to make hard decisions, and a goal. Constantly ask yourself what do you have to do to enhance your strengths to differentiate against competition and fill in your weaknesses. Both keynotes suggest leveraging the uniqueness and individuality of being a Millennial, but remembering the traditions of a workplace.
In “Who’s Coming to Dinner: Restaurant PR,” Linda Roth of Linda Roth PR said that she refuses to hire anyone who could tell her what was on TV on Friday and Saturday nights. She claims that PR is for people who like to have a social life because so much of the position requires you to be social.
Other advice came from PRSA General Session Speakers Amy Robach of Good Morning America and Polly LaBarre, Co-Founder of Fast Company. Robach’s greatest recommendation for standing out as interns was the old adage: “Get in early, stay late.” As simple as this piece of advice is, it is more important than ever because it helps Millenials defy the stereotype of being lazy. LaBarre suggests that you can be the change that you seek and that you should ask more questions than have answers because it will break the stereotype of Millenials being self-centered.
Lastly, LaBarre gave one more piece of advice: invite a weirdo to lunch. Once a month, have lunch with someone who is weird, because that means that his/her ideas are different than yours, and he/she has the ability to inspire creativity and innovation in you. This experience allows you to open your mind, see from different perspectives, and gives you a greater more humble understanding of the world, all of which will make you more hirable.
Reading recommendations: Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, books by Dan Pink, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Never Eat Lunch Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, books by James O’Tool, Culprit (blog)