When helping students in their job search, career professionals already have to overcome obstacles such as the economy, unrealistic student expectations, and a lack of resources. When students lack communication skills, career professionals’ jobs become much more difficult. The 80 million-strong Millennial generation (individuals born between 1980 and 1995) permeate the current college landscape. Although technically savvy, having grown up with a smartphone in their hand, iPod headphones in their ears, and a Facebook account, they notoriously demonstrate an inability to write complete sentences, listen to instructions, or hold a face-to-face conversation. In the poem, Totally Like Whatever, Taylor Mali asks, “Have we just gotten to the point that we’re the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, you know…a long time ago?” He must have been talking about Millennials.
Employers who participated in the Job Outlook 2011 NACE survey, indicated communication as the number one skill sought after when hiring new college grads, yet it tends to be the skill most severely lacking for this generation. Anyone who is a career professional will tell you that they have consistently made this observation as they see it in the cover letters and resumes they review, the interview training they conduct, and in the email communications with Millennials that often look more like drunken text messages. Millennials grew up texting, using emoticons, relying on spell check, and condensing their messages to fit the 140 character limit required for their tweets. Abbreviations, acronyms, emoticons, and poor grammar are arguably a part of their culture yet we expect them to be strong communicators? More importantly, what does this generational characteristic mean for career professionals educating Millennials on professional development and self-branding? What does it mean for employers hiring Millennials?
For career professionals who work with Millennials, they need to attack this problem in an entirely different manner than simply providing “tips” or top 10 lists when helping students write resumes, write cover letters, or practice their interviewing. Career professionals need to create frameworks that help students organize their communication, concentrating on relevancy to the employer. The well-known STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model is a perfect example of a framework to help Millennials organize a cohesive, relevant response to behavioral interview questions. Another great example is the Rockport Institute’s model for writing an objective for one’s resume which asks writers to identify a specific position (xxx) for which they are applying, and two skills, experiences, achievements that make the candidate stand out (yyy and zzz). The information is then incorporated into the following formula:
OBJECTIVE: An xxx position in an organization where yyy and zzz would be needed (or, in an organization seeking yyy and zzz).
Providing frameworks for Millennials helps them organize their information and communicate more effectively. For a generation so accustomed to IM, Twitter, and spell check, we need to fill in the gaps for them and provide them with “training wheels” so-to-speak, to help them communicate effectively. However, career professionals need to develop more frameworks to expand the tool set available to adequately address the communication problem. For employers hiring Millennials, they will need to invest more in employee training and should consider providing experiential learning opportunities to take a proactive approach in addressing this problem because they too have a stake in it. Helping Millennials to articulate relevent, persuasive messages to employers via resumes and interviewing, will also help them with their confidence. It is important that we help this generation to “use their words” and as Taylor Mali says, do more than question authority, but speak with it too!”