We encountered our first Millennial disaster about 5 years ago and it has taken us almost that long to discover what it takes to deal with this odd generation.
We are a sales recruiting company that places only salespeople. We encountered our first Millennial disaster about 5 years ago and it has taken us almost that long to discover what it takes to deal with this odd generation. Read on if you are interested.
But first, a word from one of my favorite comedians, Robert Klein. Years ago, Klein had a routine about how dentists have a very high suicide rate (true) and people in Sweden were always depressed (23 hours of darkness will do that). Klein opined that “ A Swedish dentist has about 30 minutes to live.” Pretty funny, and it makes me think of Millennial salespeople. Combine the high turnover rate in sales , with the Millennial viewpoint of the workplace (“these paper clips are the wrong color, I am out of here.”), Millennial salespeople have a shelf life of about two weeks. Not good for our business.
Much has been written , texted, and Youtubed (Simon Sinek nailed it) about this strange group of young people born after 1984 (interesting choice of year). Our company has actually worked with and placed these folks in actual sales jobs. Our recruiters have physically touched some of them. (in between texts). We encounter, interview, and present them to businesses and when they are hired, we receive a fee (if they last more than 90 days). This is not a tutorial. This is real life. The following examples actually happened. We have changed the names and genders to lower the retainers of the legal profession.
Millennial Case 1.
Rebecca was one of six candidates that we had set up with a large west coast food manufacturer looking for a state wide Virginia rep. About 30 minutes before her interview Rebecca called and said:
- (Rebecca, extreme whining) “Mr. Miller, I really don’t think that I can literally (they love that word, don’t they?) go on this interview. I really don’t think that I would literally like that job.”
- (Me) (badly controlling anger ) “But Rebecca, the client is flying in from California just to meet you. Don’t you think that’s literally a little rude. Ok, forget it, you (“insert favorite curse word”) Millennial. Don’t bother.” We pulled her out of the interview line-up .
Millennial Case 2.
Robert was a finalist with a software company. After making it through a series of local interviews, the company flew him to the finals in Atlanta. I got the call the night before.
- (Robert) “Jeff, I literally need to know the culture of the company.”
- (Me) “How about successful, they are willing to pay you $150K a year before your 30th birthday. Isn’t that enough culture for you?”
- (Robert) “Jeff, that’s your job. And you literally should be a little bit better at it.”
- (Me) “Really, Robert, I didn’t realize that I was answering to you. Isn’t it enough for our company to get you a shot at a six figure job? But you know what, you’ll be great and thank you so much for going to Atlanta “(trophy presentation). Mistake by me.
Guess what happened? Robert blew the interview and my company lost the fee. He was horribly unprepared and botched the interview. If he was a Broadway show, he would have closed that night.
But just when we were going to forget Millennials entirely, a strange thing happened. A Millennial that we placed actually made it past 90 days. And then another. I decided to re-interview these two and then and only then did I discover the secret of how Millennials can be successful in the workplace. (insert commercial break here).
When I sat down with these two millennials, I drilled down on the darling of Human Resource questions, “give me an example of when you faced some adversity and overcame it”. Only this time we went further than “Well, I found out that I had only ¾ of a tank of gas instead of a full one when I went to my Senior Prom“ or “Nordstrom did not want to take back my designer jeans seven years after I bought them but they finally did after I literally saw the manager”. Instead, we dug deeper and unearthed some real life changing events. One young man actually spent a couple of nights in jail (for fighting) and his college suspended him for 6 months. After the suspension, he came back and excelled. A young woman had a lost both of her parents in a horrible car crash (she survived, obviously), became addicted to prescription medication, and got clean, all before the age of 20. We hadn’t probed hard enough for the breakthroughs. That was on us.
Conclusion: If your Millennials have had some real life challenges, and have been scarred, healed, and have come back stronger than ever, you might find yourself with a real stand up human being. Character flaws are good, if you can overcome them. You see, when you assume that everyone of a certain generation thinks they are entitled and therefore may not be a motivated employee, you might be wrong. I certainly was.