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The Selfie Generation: Entering the Workforce

Published on February 27, 2017, at 8:20 a.m.
by Erica Cooke.

“Wait … first let me take a selfie.”

This is a phrase that a majority of Generation X or baby boomers associate with the millennial generation. The common stigma against millennials is “They’re lazy. They don’t work for anything. They are the ‘participation trophy’ winners.”

These simple phrases eventually turn into barriers for millennials trying to enter the workforce. But is this really the case? Are millennials really the lazy and entitled people that older generations say they are?

Jessika White disagrees.

“You’re right; there is a stigma,” White said. “The negative connotation. But the majority of students I have worked with, the stigma isn’t there. They have a good work ethic.”

White serves as the communication specialist for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama. Since she graduated from The University of Alabama, White has made it her mission to foster relationships between students and professionals, and to be a resource to public relations practitioners, ranging from freshmen in college to presidents of companies and C-suite professionals.

“I think every generation brings different strengths to the table,” White said. “By using our strengths and working together as a team, we can help the PR profession as a whole. We are all a team and all working for the betterment of the profession itself.”

White believes that it is up to the millennial generation to break through the barriers and prove that they are not a stereotype. She gives examples of working longer hours to finish a project or asking if there’s anything else you can do before you leave for the day. It shows initiative and guarantees it will improve your skill set.

White also explained how companies are looking at ways to attract, retain and engage millennials in the workplace.

This is something Jennifer Abshire, founder and CEO of Abshire PR, can attest to.

Abshire is in the final stages of writing her book. It is called “Millennials Can Make You Millions,” and she fully believes it.

“It’s been fun writing and re-writing it. I’ve written it three or four times. Everything’s changing, but the foundation of trying to find millennials and trying to get them to adapt to work culture is very fascinating.”

Abshire explained that she has a few millennials who work for her, and they are great to work with, but they don’t think the way she does. She said they needed more feedback than she was used to giving, but once they broke the communication barrier, the millennials also broke the “lazy” and “participation trophy winner” stereotype.

So how can millennials set themselves apart in the workplace?

“I think millennials need to think of a way that they can promote themselves to get a seat at the decision-making table,” Abshire said. “It’s all about having a seat at that table. Divide and conquer.”

Photo by Bill Koplitz

“It’s going to feel weird that there’s a 29-year-old at the table telling them what to do, but they need to get over that. It’s about learning to have respect. Our generation was told ‘don’t do anything and fail at it’, but now it’s just ‘do better.’ Get a bad post, make a new one. You have to recover fast.”

Abshire’s goal is to “demystify millennials.” She aims to teach professionals how to use millennials to their advantage. She said that the key to making any campaign work is to tap into millennials, make sure they buy into it and make sure it works.

So what’s Jennifer Abshire’s piece of advice for professionals working with millennials?

“Give them a chance and the right direction. A millennial can make a huge impact at a company of any size. They deserve a seat at the table.”

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