Struggling to Get a Job? 6 Qualities Employers Want to See in Millennials

Jun 10, 2015 - Joe Matar
If you’re recent college graduate with a strong GPA, sufficient extracurricular achievements and abundant internship-level work, you have a robust resume that undoubtedly differentiates you from your peers. However, you’ve likely found during your job search, getting a job involves more than a strong resume. Employers are looking for some full-time experience, but most students haven’t worked full-time in their field prior to graduation. So, how do you get experience when it takes experience to get the needed experience in the first place? It’s a young employee dilemma and one of the most unfortunate catch-22s. Add to this sayings like, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," and "It's not who you know, it's who knows you," and it’s no wonder that you might feel less-than-optimistic about entering the workforce.

Are companies giving up on Millennials?

A new survey shows that executives aren't looking to attract workers under age 35, according to CBS News. More than a thousand CFOs shared their thoughts about Millennials in this survey conducted by Duke University and CFO Magazine. While many had positive things to say about Generation Y — they're tech savvy and creative — more than 50 percent thought Millennials weren't as loyal to their companies as older generations. Further, 46 percent felt these young professionals have attitudes and entitlement issues and 31 percent think they require more hands-on management.

Why the misfortune for Millennials?

Another recent report found a considerable skills gap between students' self-assessed readiness and the skills employers actually want. It found students lacked hard skills in areas such as organization, leadership and personal finance, as well as street smarts. This list doesn’t even include the “soft skills” employers seek. Here are some of the behaviors and skills I’ve found young employees still need to work on: (Click here to tweet this list.)

Six qualities Millennials should focus on

  1. Willingness work hard and learn. Employers want to see that you are eager to earn your keep and show commitment to the organization. Prove to the boss that you deserve that high-level job your degree can get you by working hard with a great attitude no matter what the position — it will get you there that much faster.
  2. Patience and tenacity. As a general rule, promotions and perks aren’t easily granted without the effort. So while you may not get to be manager in six months like you hoped, your patience and determination will earn recognition in due time.
  3. Initiative. While it may feel safer to fall in line with the hierarchy of seniority, it’s important for young staff to demonstrate risk-taking abilities. Don’t let apprehension about stepping out and showing others the way stop you from proving yourself as a leader.
  4. Work ethic. Demonstrate old-fashioned grit and the willingness to serve beyond the job description to do whatever it takes to get a task done. It may mean staying late some days to meet a deadline, but putting in the extra hours will build your work equity.
  5. Responsibility. Truly own the job you are given by taking pride in your work product and assuming sole responsibility for your results and outcomes. Ask for help when needed, because recognizing when you need advisement shows maturity and accountability.
  6. Conflict resolution skills. Learn how to work through conflict in a professional setting. Even if you prefer to run from it instead of resolving it, it is a more mature practice to solve problems as they occur, with tact and grace.
These are the pieces of the puzzle that employers consistently said were missing in graduates. While students feel the classroom doesn’t prepare them for the real world and the skills needed in a career aren’t learned or experienced at home, the good news is what’s missing is very much within reach for Millennials. What’s needed to get hired isn’t about talent, IQ or charisma. They’re habits and attitudes that work … at work!

How Millennials need to think about get hired

Whether you are an intern, student or soon-to-be graduate moving from backpack to briefcase, reflect for a moment on the “traditional” approach to education and a career versus the “outlier” path, noting the differences. In the traditional approach, you work on your GPA, become involved in activities you believe will look good on your resume, and interview for jobs you feel will pay the most amount of money. It’s really all about you and what value you can extract once you graduate. The transformational approach is about identifying what value you can add to an organization through your strengths and passions. You seek an employer that aligns with who you are as a person, and not one that necessarily pays the most. To obtain the habits and attitudes all employers relish, it’s important to think like an outlier instead of merely blending into the traditional plan. This means understanding what employers feel is missing from the traditional Millennial employee, having a sense of ownership of your job, and investing extra energy early, when you have more energy than experience. Tim Elmore is president of Growing Leaders, as well as an author and sought-after speaker. He works with thousands of young professionals to ease their transition from “backpack to briefcase” as they enter the real world. Follow Tim on Twitter @timelmore.