What My Summer Intern Taught Me or Why I Love Millennials

Aug 21, 2014 | Career Development, Communication, Innovation

ClaireandJulieMillennials are the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Generally speaking, they are the children of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. They’ve been called everything from entitled and narcissistic to entrepreneurial, confident, and engaged. And their increasing numbers in today’s offices are causing many to take note of this new generation’s work style and how it compliments or differs from their own.

As a lifelong student of personality type and what makes people behave as they do, I can tell you we all have our quirks, blind spots, strengths and weaknesses. Some of these can be categorized by generational tendencies, personality type, and birth order. Others occur based on regional and cultural aspects of our environment or our profession. Choosing to understand and appreciate these traits, and identifying what you can learn from those who exhibit these qualities is a secret to successfully mentoring and being mentored by others.

I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to work with a lot of senior executives — both in age and experience. I’ve learned incredible things from them. As someone who has worked in the administrative profession for more 20 years, I’m now entering a new phase of my career. And I find myself working with a lot of professionals who are much younger than I am. I’m learning incredible things from them, too. Here are some reasons why I’m a big fan of the millennial generation.

Millennials are enthusiastically willing to learn and teach themselves new things.

There wasn’t a single task I asked our summer intern, Claire, to do that she couldn’t figure out or learn. She became a proficient user of a new software tool and taught me how to better utilize it, too. She did troubleshooting to resolve technical issues at our office. She researched the answers to questions she came across. And when she couldn’t find an answer in a timely manner, she asked for help.

Millennials have a more blended approach to their work-life balance.

They are willing to put the time in to be good at and recognized for what they contribute at the office. Yet it’s just as important for them to have time to spend with family, friends, and on activities they enjoy. Our intern worked for us during the day, taught swimming lessons in the evening, helped a family member launch a new business, and did lawn work for neighbors on the weekends. But she was also committed to her youth group, its activities, and spending time with her friends and family each week. It wasn’t an afterthought or something that got squeezed in; she scheduled it. I realize now that I need to do more of the same!

Millennials are power-users of technology tools.

They don’t shy away from new tools. They aren’t scared of learning how to integrate a new app or software into their routine. Technology is a vital component to just about everything they do. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a vital component to just about everything we do, too. I applied this lesson to researching and making the transition to my new MacBook Pro after being a dedicated PC user for more than 20 years. With a focused approach and some dedicated training, I went from zero proficiency to 85% on a brand new tool I had no previous experience within less than a week’s time. Anyone – not just young people – can become a power-user of new technology if they set their mind to it.

Millennials prefer messaging as a primary means of communication.

With technology integrated into millennials’ lives, it makes sense that text messaging is a preferred communication style. No matter how the older generations (myself included) feel about it. It became clear to me this summer that it’s important to articulate your preferred form of communication with everyone in your life – personal and professional. I also realize that we all have to be willing to adapt our styles to accommodate the differing styles of those around us. I hate texting. I prefer a phone call or an email. Better yet, let’s talk face to face if we can. But I texted with my intern this summer when necessary. Conversely, my intern realized she was likely to get a hold of me more quickly if she emailed or called. So she adjusted her style to accommodate mine. We can’t expect people to read our minds, so being clear about your preferred means of communicating and maintaining adaptability yourself makes a huge difference for everyone.

5. Millennials embody the innovation mindset.

One thing you’ll likely never hear out of a millennial is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” They are proactive and willing to take action and implement. Looking for new ways, better approaches and more efficient methods of doing things seems to be hard-wired into their thinking. One of the projects our intern helped us with was getting all of our handwritten procedures typed and stored electronically in a shared folder so everyone on our virtual team can access them. It didn’t take long for her to catch the vision of how procedures could help a family member’s business run more smoothly. So she created a procedures binder for her family member, too.

By 2015, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s employees will be young people. We have a tremendous opportunity to mentor and support their career development. We also have a fantastic opportunity to be mentored by and learn from the unique and fresh approach they bring to the 21st-century office. And I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this two-way street. I certainly will be.

© 2014 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker, and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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