Social entrepreneur Christie Garton first started working with millennial women in 2008 when she launched UChic.com, an online magazine written by and for college women. More publications soon followed, including four editions of UChic: A College Girl’s Guide to Everything, a best-selling guidebook for women entering college.
Along the way, Christie also founded the UChic Foundation, a social enterprise that she calls “fashion with a purpose,” selling fashion accessories to young women and applying the proceeds to funding the dreams of other young women through the “1000 Dreams” scholarship program. Her latest venture is the 1000 Dreams Fund.
Once I got over my deep disappointment that Christie was not around back when I was in college, I connected with her recently to hear more about her book UChic’s Diploma Diaries: The Chic Grad’s Guide to Work, Love, and Everything in Between. Here’s what she had to say.
Diploma Diaries seems to be a natural progression from the College Guide. It’s a book for millennials who grew up, graduated and joined the “real world.” What inspired it?
The transition from high school to college is one we at UChic.com know well. But we also know that the transition from college to the real world is also a difficult, if not even harder, one. We took that very same approach to this guide for college women graduating into the real world.
We had a lot of women who wanted to contribute and the stories that made it into the guide are full of great advice for any young woman who wants hard-won advice from her peers on how to better navigate this complicated transition and life stage.
This year millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the American workforce. What are some misconceptions that older managers might have about millennials?
I think the big descriptive buzzword for millennials has long been “entitled” – that the millennial worker feels entitled to opportunities and work experiences they may not yet have earned. To some degree, there’s probably a bit of truth to that perception, but you can’t completely blame them for these expectations.
Thanks to the instant gratification culture where information and access is available with a swipe of the finger on a mobile device or through a quick Google search, millennials have in a sense been programmed to want or expect things fast. This same desire for fast access can translate to their careers. If they aren’t getting access to cool opportunities or new work experiences, millennial employees are quick to look elsewhere. And they can and do, thanks to the myriad of freelance job opportunities they have access to these days.
However, that sense of entitlement isn’t always such a bad thing. I encourage managers to channel a sense of entitlement toward positive activities. Look for ways for millennial employees to have a voice on important company initiatives that could use a younger point of view. By creating win-win opportunities, managers will likely see that what initially may have appeared to be a sense of entitlement is really more of a desire to have a positive impact on the company.
Say it’s a millennial’s first week on the job. What are the three things that you can do as a manager to help ease their transition?
- Create as many ice-breaker moments out of the gate as possible by giving millennials the opportunity to get to know the company – and each other – in a social setting. While millennials are “always on” their devices, they also crave ways to meaningfully connect with each other and their communities offline.
- Take them out to lunch. Aim to establish a personal connection as soon as possible so they feel more at ease with the person and company they’ll be spending so much time with in the coming months. By showing you care enough to get to know them personally, they are more likely to feel committed to and ultimately more loyal to you and the company.
- Give advice! Over that lunch, be willing to peel the lid back, so to speak, and share advice that would be useful to someone starting out at your company. Get them up to speed on what the company culture is all about and give them advice on how to best get acclimated.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to a millennial to make a great first impression?
- Act interested, even if you aren’t at first. You may be at the bottom of the totem pole, but a positive attitude will win your colleagues over and help propel you into more interesting opportunities before you know it.
- Be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Sometimes the more interesting projects are found in other divisions of your company, but you’ll only get access to them if you step outside your comfort zone and get to know the folks leading those different divisions. Speak up in company meetings with well thought-out questions. Show enthusiasm. Be a standout when it makes sense. Others will get to know you and may start seeking you out for what could be more interesting opportunities.
- Win them over with honey. Always have a positive attitude, no matter what. This is especially important when starting out in a new job. People pay attention, especially to attitude. Show a willingness to take constructive criticism. Do whatever it takes to be a positive influence on your team. Come in with this attitude from day one, and you will quickly become a valued member of the team.
And now, readers, it’s your turn: What advice would you share with a newly graduated millennial joining the workforce? Please share in the comments.
Lindsey Pollak is a New York Times best-selling author and a nationally recognized millennial expert who helps employers recruit, train, manage and market to the millennial generation. Her speeches and training sessions inspire multigenerational collaboration and foster lasting organizational success. Contact Lindsey to learn how she can help your organization understand and connect with millennials.