What Tech Leaders Really Think About Gen Y’s Ideas

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Never before has an age group entered the workforce with more hoopla than Generation Y, those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Pundits prognosticated about how these text messaging, social networking, brazen millennials would revolutionize the workplace with their unconventional habits and beliefs.

Indeed, after several years of working with them, IT leaders and recruiters acknowledge Gen Y has had an impact. But wholesale change doesn’t come overnight. So here’s a list of the most notable beliefs espoused by Gen Y – and the corresponding realities reported by IT managers.

Belief: Frequent Job Changes are Okay

Reality: Although even employers admit there’s little loyalty in today’s workplace, it’s still important to stay in a job for a reasonable amount of time.

"Realistically, employers are not expecting employees to stay forever, but they do expect them to stay for at least three years," says Cathy Ashbaugh, president of Pacific Shore Resources, a technology recruiting firm based in Yorba Linda, Calif. "Three years gives the company time to recoup its investment and the employee time to acquire knowledge and experience, which benefits both parties."

Employers avoid hiring tech job hoppers. If you crave frequent change, you’re better off pursuing a career as a contractor. But even then, remember you’ll be judged on the ability to keep your commitments to clients.

Belief: Prospective Employers Will Find Me

Reality: Yes, recruiters source candidates from professional and social networking sites. But you shouldn’t abandon traditional job hunting techniques because you can’t always control your own destiny. Along with traditional business etiquette, a multi-dimensional approach to the job market is still required.

"Many Gen Y-ers don’t review job postings or send post-interview thank you notes or e-mails," says Ashbaugh "They also speak too casually to phone interviewers. Instead of being eliminated, if they would just make a few changes, they’ll be able to stand out from the crowd."

Belief: Why Talk When You Can Text?

Realty: Gen Y prefers to text and tweet, but communicating in sound bites isn’t always appropriate. Outside of the IT department., phone and e-mail are still standard. Building relationships with co-workers is important, notes Dick Shay, chief of research for Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance, so he constantly reminds his Gen Y IT staff to stop texting, walk down the hall and have a face-to-face conversation.

"Gen Y-ers need to understand that the company has an existing framework which includes team meetings and e-mail, and they need to work within that structure," says Rob Barocas, global business systems technology director for the New York-based research firm TNS. "Everything isn’t going to change to suit their preferences."

Belief: Work Should be Fun

Reality: Sometimes work is fun, but not always. IT managers say Gen Y-ers want to cherry pick their assignments and avoid doing tasks they don’t like. It’s a constant challenge at General Networks Corporation in Glendale, Calif., where David Horwatt, vice president of professional services, regularly passes on Gen Y candidates who won’t do full lifecycle software development.

"Gen Y-ers seem to feel that they’re entitled to do something they enjoy," says Shay. "That’s why it’s called work. They aren’t free to pick and choose. They have to do the whole job."

On the other hand, employers have accepted the Gen Y habit of socializing with people from the office. But they need to proceed with caution, warns Shay. Some older members of the staff may be uncomfortable with the idea of mixing work with pleasure.

Belief: Legacy Technologies are Obsolete

Reality: It’s great that millennials are Internet-savvy and grew up on open source software, but they still need to embrace the older programs embedded in the infrastructure.

"COBOL is an example of an older programming language that Gen Y techies need to know because it’s not going away," says Shay. "They also need to realize that they’ll be working alongside professionals who have spent their entire careers working with COBOL, and show them some respect."

Belief: Expect Frequent Promotions

Reality: Although the recent economic downturn may have tempered this Gen Y expectation, promotions are seldom earned quickly, even when the economy is hot.

"Gen Y techies have short attention spans, so they want to move up or move on," says Barocas. "But what they don’t realize is that location and market conditions influence those decisions, and they haven’t mastered everything in nine months – even though they think they have."

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a writer and career professional based in California.

Comments

  1. BY Mike says:

    So, then explain why an experienced professional with knowledge of the “legacy” and open-source, is frequently bypassed in favor of the knows-only-open-source Gen-Me-er?

  2. BY Mike says:

    So, then explain why an experienced professional with knowledge of the “legacy” and open-source, is frequently bypassed in favor of the knows-only-open-source Gen-Me-er?

  3. BY James Grimes says:

    The way I see it is if you do not know both closed and open sourced software, then you are very much limited in what you can do. While you should have one or two specialties under your belt, you should have general knowledge of other areas within the IT/IS/IM department/division.

  4. BY James Grimes says:

    The way I see it is if you do not know both closed and open sourced software, then you are very much limited in what you can do. While you should have one or two specialties under your belt, you should have general knowledge of other areas within the IT/IS/IM department/division.

  5. BY Angelo Losito says:

    I’m a little bit older than the GenY. I was born in 79. I do know this however, many bosses are annoyed the minute they hire GenY employees. This will improve however. I do embrac that GenY has ideas to upgrade business in all fields. I myslef am trying to freelance because my job search is stuck. GenY bosses will be frustrated by the next generation folks you watch. It’ll be no different than today.

  6. BY Angelo Losito says:

    I’m a little bit older than the GenY. I was born in 79. I do know this however, many bosses are annoyed the minute they hire GenY employees. This will improve however. I do embrac that GenY has ideas to upgrade business in all fields. I myslef am trying to freelance because my job search is stuck. GenY bosses will be frustrated by the next generation folks you watch. It’ll be no different than today.

  7. BY Al Haffar says:

    I red your article and I thought it was very exacting description of our social progress, we must keep in mind that Gen Y is our product and during the raising period before the release to the world to live on their own we did not do a good foundation building? but I must say good portion of Gen Y is good at what they do and need to be polished in certain areas and their energy channeled in the correct direction, this is where the role of managers comes in they should be life teachers not school teachers.

  8. BY Al Haffar says:

    I red your article and I thought it was very exacting description of our social progress, we must keep in mind that Gen Y is our product and during the raising period before the release to the world to live on their own we did not do a good foundation building? but I must say good portion of Gen Y is good at what they do and need to be polished in certain areas and their energy channeled in the correct direction, this is where the role of managers comes in they should be life teachers not school teachers.

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