If you read news online, by now, you’ve almost certainly stumbled on an article by a writer desperate to make millennials seem lazy, entitled or narcissistic. The borderline insulting trend has even spawned a Chrome extension that replaces “millennials” with “snake people,” just to make the Internet more palatable.
It’s easy to be led astray by pundits pushing a narrative about millennials, but according to a Pew Research survey, 53.5 million people aged 18-35 (millennials, if you’re not paying attention) now make up the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Based on sheer numbers alone, that makes it likely that eventually, you’re going to have a millennial for a boss. And when you do, you might want to prepare for how to how to handle it.
Master New Skills
Maybe you’re a recent college grad realizing that what you learned about corporate culture doesn’t apply in the real world, or you’re a longtime professional looking for advice on how to best get along with your new boss. Either way, there’s one key that will help you connect with your millennial boss — and more importantly, impress them — and that’s the willingness to go above and beyond by learning and perfecting new skills that may not necessarily fall within your job description.
If your millennial boss sits you down and asks you if you can take on a new challenge or come up with an inventive solution to a problem the company is facing, the only wrong answer is, “That’s not part of my job description.” There’s no shame in not knowing something – in fact, your boss most likely knows that you don’t have a full grasp on how to solve that problem – but that’s not the same as not wanting to know.
We are the “search engine generation.” To a millennial boss, there is no excuse for not wanting to find out more. Certainly time will always be a limitation in the development of new skills, but access to knowledge rarely is. With tools like CodeAcademy and Stack Overflow just a few keystrokes away, there’s no reason to be baffled by learning new skills.
For example, when I co-founded Rukkus, my background was in architecture and design – not elements that you typically associate with tech startups. But I took my eye for aesthetics and turned it toward a whole new field: front-end web design. I learned HTML and CSS from the ground up, and it was hard work: at first. In time, though, I stuck with it and built piece by piece until I had a beautiful, functional site. Since then, I’ve just kept building, and there’s nothing stopping you from learning how to build whatever it is you want, either.
Be Passionate About Your Work
There are a lot of articles out there stereotyping millennials as just about any set of contractions you can think of. But there’s only one thing that I’ve found to be consistently true as the co-founder of a startup staffed primarily by millennials (and as one myself): Millennials are passionate about the things they care about, and they respect the passion they see in other people. If you can be passionate about your company and step up to fill a problem, you’ll earn your boss’ respect.
This doesn’t mean that you have to pretend your job is the only thing you care about. I get it: work is work, and some days, it’s just not what you want to be doing. But I don’t mean come into the office forcing a smile every day and pretending spreadsheets are your No. 1 hobby. Instead, take pride in your work and in the company you work for. Think about metrics you can improve, both as an individual employee and as a member of your team. If your boss sees you tackle challenges head on, they’ll be impressed by your dedication, and it won’t go unnoticed.
Take the Initiative
Okay, so you’re open-minded and ready to take your company to the next level by putting in the time to solve problems creatively. That’s an amazing attitude to have, and further along than many employees ever get. But if you’re sitting around waiting for your boss to drop a brand new project on your desk, it may be a while before you get that opportunity.
Then, ask your boss for a minute of their time and bring up your research. If you can recognize issues that the company is facing and challenge them without being asked, you’ll prove that you’re committed to the company, and your boss will reward the value you bring to the table. By proactively searching, reading, and studying online, a new team member proves both their engagement as well as their value to the company.