4 Misconceptions About Millennial MBAs
Millennial MBAs, much like the rest of their generation, have gotten a bad rep. It's a challenge every generation faces: Elders think they know better, work harder, and made things easier for those who came after them. As a result, they might criticize or condescend to younger people in the workforce. What is different for Millennials is the profundity of this disapproval and the oversimplification of their generation's goals and desires. Want to separate fact from fiction? Here, experts weigh in on the biggest myths plaguing millennial MBAs:
1. They're lazy
This one has been around since Millennials first entered the workforce. MBAs are known for their ability to work 80-hour weeks on little more than coffee and ambition. The Millennial generation's desire to spend quality time with family and their other passions has everyone else believing they don't want to pay dues by working those grueling hours.
"For Generation X and especially Baby Boomers, after getting your MBA, you still had to put in the time to move ahead in the company, you put in the face time and didn't question every action that was asked of you," says Stacy Campbell, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship in the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. "Millennial MBAs, however, want to know how they fit into the company's strategy, want to be a decision maker from day one, and at that same time want flexibility so they can have a work-life balance."
The truth is that millennial MBAs want to find more efficient ways to get work done and better prioritize tasks. Their ability to use technology really helps in these efforts. Employers who want to get the most out of these MBAs should set realistic expectations, communicate them, and give Millennials some say in business decisions when possible, suggests Campbell. The idea is to make them feel part of the team and give them flexibility, both of which resonate with this group.
2. They act entitled
There is no question that everybody-wins sports, grade inflation, and participation trophies have had an influence on Millennials. They have grown up in a world lacking competition and, in some ways, encouraging mediocrity. Elders have come to chastise these young people for expecting everything -- from raises to awards -- to just be handed to them. As a result, people get the sense that Millennials will negotiate rather than demonstrate quality work, says Lee McEnany Caraher, author of Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide To Making it Work at Work (Bibliomotion, October 2014).
Caraher says we need to look at the positive side of the praise-and-reward system Millennials experienced as children and teens. "Instead of entitled, Millennials are conditioned to know that they make a difference, that they can be change-makers, that they have lots to offer now," she adds. In other words, employers should provide positive reinforcement and delegate some responsibility to Millennials to get the most out of them.
3. They make poor leaders
After a quick analysis, you can easily see how this myth got perpetuated. Around the same time that Millennials began graduating from college, business schools started offering MBA programs that recruited younger students with less work experience. Sometimes, these students were mixed in with more experienced classmates and other times they completed the program with peers. Either way, their resumes looked very different (and rather empty) compared to older MBAs.
Some employers felt this lack of experience meant they made for poor leaders. Certainly, experience helps. But it's not the only factor in developing leadership. "The recent cohort of MBAs to enter the workplace as managers are optimistic, energetic, risk takers," says Chris Ragland, chief operating officer at Noble Capital Group LLC in Austin. "They are also, and quite paradoxically, fiscally conservative, savers, and realists. They seem to oscillate between the two different modes using what can only be described as a gut feel for the moment." By failing to give millennial MBAs a fair shake, employers are missing out. Their gut, when combined with their education and the experience they're picking up as they go along, is adequately preparing them for senior management roles.
4. They don't care about money
Yes, millennial MBAs have expressed their interest in meaningful work, something that allows them to do more than just earn big paychecks. That is why sustainable business, green enterprises, and nonprofit work have become bigger parts of today's business school curriculum and career placement efforts. Still, this does not mean that millennial MBAs have no interest in money. The fact is that they are paying higher tuition than anyone before them, have debt to pay off, and want to maintain the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.
"Whether it is the increase in extrinsic values that has been found among this younger generation or the recession that started in 2008, millennial MBAs are going where the money is," says Campbell. "Recent MBA graduates are more likely to go into lucrative fields like finance and consulting rather than nonprofits. Also popular among this generation is starting your own business as a way to make more money, with a rise in self-employed MBAs up to almost half (49 percent) compared to 24 percent of self-employed MBAs who graduated between 2000 and 2009, according to a GMAC study." The lesson here is that Millennials want to do good while doing well, a mantra that has come up time and again in discussions on the group. It may be true that they prefer work-life balance to higher pay, but they still want to earn a sum that is fair, say experts. Employers, therefore, are going to have to pay up and provide opportunities for work that has the power to create positive change.
Whether the elders like it or not, millennial MBAs are the future of business. "This is the next generation of leaders," says Stephanie Lindquist, CEO and co-founder of The Love Your Job Project in Denver. "Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce in the next 10 to 15 years, and we better wake up and pay attention because it is not business as usual." Giving up on the myths about millennial MBAs and embracing them as part of management is probably one of the best gifts employers can give the future of their companies.