Work Ethic. You either have it or you don’t.

If there’s one piece of advice I want to tell my fellow Millennials, it’s read and read a lot. I’ve heard this consistently throughout my years as an over-achieving student and athlete but, not really having to try as hard to be that way. It kind of just goes in one ear and out the other, however, I’ve always been one to enjoy reading. Even if you don’t like it, you can’t deny that you learn when you read. While I’m not truly into romance novels or the latest teen fiction series, they are still a way to use your brain and stretch your thinking capacity. I’m more of a Nixon junkie who likes to read about sports and government, non-fiction is what I like. Now that I’m out of school I find myself still wanting to learn and it’s because I never really minded school, I found it kind of easy once I learned how to study and do as little as possible to still graduate with a 3.9 GPA. I could definitely be a professional student but, teaching was never my passion, at least for now. Whatever you enjoy or find challenging – read about it. Knowledge is power.

With that PSA out of the way I want to talk about work ethic. In my blog readings I came across a title that I couldn’t pass up Slackers or Stars. The article discusses the work ethic of the two youngest generations, “X” and “Y.” It states that the question should not be “How do I improve the work ethic of my younger employees?” but rather, “How do I recruit, retain, and motivate younger employees?” This is a key difference because with work ethic, you either have it or you don’t. It’s not something that can just be cultivated. You’ve got a young kid that’s hungry or you’ve got one who’s just along for the ride. It’s as simple as that.

For Gen Y, what’s our strength? We aren’t just technically savvy; we’re “technology sophisticated.” It’s engrained in us. For the younger part of Gen Y, we never had to learn how to use a smart phone, we’ve just always had one. While employers may think we’re high maintenance, I think the point made in the article that we have more potential, is finally a glimpse of hope for us tykes. Now where employers need to be careful is identifying not only high potentials within their organization but, identifying high potentials with work ethic. Our work ethic may not be that of our parents, it doesn’t necessarily mean working overtime or having one bread-winner to bear all of the economic pressure. But, maybe what was once done in 8 hours of work? We quite possibly may be able to do in 4 or 6 with technology. You’ll attain that type of production with high potential Millennials who work hard.

What do you do now that you’ve identified these hard working high potentials? There’s a quote in the article that has been a mantra of mine for a few years now. The author writes,

 “Management will need to give Y’s a lot of positive feedback and only after you have their trust, coach them on the value of constructive criticism.”

 If there is a young kid out there worth your time, then take the time to earn their trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t work hard for you. In all of my small-town college glory of being a nobody on the court but, elected a three-time captain? I have always told those younger than me that “saying something positive is much harder than saying something negative.”

You’ll never connect with a Millennial jumping out to a negative start, telling them how spoiled, inexperienced, and high maintenance they are. It’s like that freshman on the basketball team who is constantly throwing the ball out of bounds, it’s easy to write them off. But, if they are worth my time? It takes a hell of a lot more guts to walk up to them and say, “Hey let’s get it next time,” than to roll my eyes and talk about them to the other seniors. You’ve got an entry level HR coordinator who can’t seem to schedule candidates with the right hiring managers? Help them. Show them. Be their advocate.

I have torn into some of my teammates at practices, speaking up, I’m the leader right? But, if you watch in pre-season and all the events leading up to that boiling point? I knew I had to be that person always talking to them, helping them along, and earning their trust. Without it? No amount of criticism will end in positive results for your company. It’s the Millennial’s job to prove their high potential and their work ethic, it’s up to the leaders in the organization to recognize it and earn their trust. Yes, even in the role of “boss” you’ve got to put some effort forward for us to succeed.

It’s what leaders do, make sure those around them are the best they can be. You’re not a leader if no one is following you.

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