5 Ways Gen Y can Succeed in the Workplace

May 26th, 2015

5 Ways Gen Y can Succeed in the Workplace

By: Dr. Shaun Davenport, assistant professor of management


You’ve heard the stories. You can’t escape the labels… “The Entitled Generation,” “The Narcissistic Generation,” and “Generation ME.”

There is research to suggest that Generation Y is more narcissistic than previous generations. But their stereotypes fail to take into account some of the unique skills and qualities that make Gen Y some of the most valuable members of an organization.

The Class of 2015 faces mammoth competition as negative perceptions persist and the United States produces more college graduates than ever before. The key to their success is to shine light on how their differences are actually strengths – not weaknesses – and leverage them in the world. Here are five tips every Millennial can harness to transition into today’s multigenerational workforce.


  1. Downplay YOUR needs.

You may have heard that every interview is a two-way street. Not only is the hiring organization looking to see if you are a fit for their needs, but you also are investigating to find a career home that meets your needs. While this is certainly the case, given the sensitivity to the “narcissism” stereotype, the last thing a Baby Boomer manager wants to hear is what YOU need or want. They are looking for people who want to come in and contribute right away…to give without first thinking, “What’s in it for me?”


  1. Highlight diversity.

Gen Y is the most open to diversity, more so than any previous generation. As a whole they are not ageist, racist, sexist, or any other –ists. Market yourself as someone who sees the value in diversity of all shapes and sizes and reference experiences you have had working with diverse groups of people. Show that you can speak the language of other cultures and that you want to help the organization reach new markets and segments of the population.


  1. Leverage your networks.

Gen Y is the most connected and networked generation in history, even if much of its membership doesn’t realize it. What millennials lack in face-to-face interpersonal acumen, they make up for in their ability to reach out and connect virtually with people all over the world. They are fearless in online communication and, over their lifetimes, have built networks far and wide. The key is understanding the value of those networks. Certainly this can be helpful in the job search, where your network may not have a job for you, but they may know someone who does. However, it can also be helpful on the job. Millennials can use their networks to garner information and resources to solve problems or complete projects efficiently.


  1. Embrace uncertainty.

If you want to stand out amongst the soon-to-be largest generation in history, embrace uncertainty. One by-product of the over-scheduled and over-supervised childhoods of millennials is their tendency to prefer structure and clear, well-defined tasks. However, the business world today is going in the opposite direction. Problems and projects are often ill defined and complex and management is looking for young talent who won’t shy away. So put aside your anxiety and attack problems, knowing that you may not always succeed, but that you will grow, learn and adapt.


  1. Show your passion.

Gen Y is perhaps the first generation in history to be told, “Don’t worry about the money; just find something you love to do.” And they have. Millennials want to make a difference in the world. They are passionate about giving for the greater good, and should highlight this at every opportunity. When interviewing, reference projects and causes where you worked hard, not for acknowledgment or rewards, but simply because you believed in the mission. Nothing is sweeter to the ear of a manager than to hear an employee say that he or she is a team player and will do whatever it takes to help… And ironically, these are the people they tend to promote!