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SHRM 2012 Insight: Malcolm Gladwell, Millennials, & Dating Your Job

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I’m at SHRM12 in Atlanta all week, and I had the pleasure of sitting through Malcolm Gladwell‘s keynote this morning!

He is by far my favorite author and he was really the only must see for me here at SHRM12 – yes, I have a complete man-crush! I didn’t stand in line to get his autograph at the SHRM book store, but only because I hate lines!

Gladwell spent most of his time analyzing why generations are different, he’s a great story teller, and gave great examples of why my generation – GenX – is completely different than the Millenials (which we all know) but he really went deeper into the subject.

Dating and different generations

One example that he gave stuck with me — when he used the concept of dating to explain one of the main differences between these two generations.

As a GenXer, you just didn’t go on many dates – you were lucky to go on a few per year – because once you met someone and you liked each other, it immediately became exclusive. It’s what we did.

Millenials network and date much differently and are willing to go on many more dates and continue dating, finding more than one person they might connect with. Because of how Millenials network, they open themselves up to many opportunities to date.

Doesn’t sound like a bad deal based on how my dating life went! I met my wife the first week of college – we will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July! (so, basically, I had one date in college; luckily it was a VERY good date!)

Are Millennials really dating their job?

Here’s where I think we run into problems with this type of mentality with how Millenials network — it’s their job!

I get a feeling way too many are just dating their jobs as well. Many hiring managers are in the GenX age group – which causes them to want employees who view their job like they view their job. It’s a marriage, not a date! Gladwell pointed this out as a difference that was neither good or bad, just a difference that we as organizations will have to work through.

As an HR Pro I think the big hurdle we have to help our organizations overcome is this concept of being married to your job.

It’s easier said then done. Try telling a hiring manager that it’s all right for a candidate to have four (4) jobs in four (4) years. They don’t buy it – heck, I’m not sure I fully buy it – it’s a tough paradigm shift to make.

I do think we have the ability, though, to influence this paradigm with our hiring managers, and to get the best talent we must be willing to look through our own filters to help our organizations. Having multiple positions can be a huge benefit – it’s not always a sign of a “job jumper” – especially over the past few years. We have to provide better tools for our hiring managers to get them to feel comfortable with the skill sets and talent the candidate brings, and less uncomfortable with job longevity of candidates.

Stay tuned for more SHRM12 learnings.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.
  • http://twitter.com/DavidSmooke David Smooke

    Thanks for the Recap, Tim.

    This major generational shift of attention span and expectations by age and work is very Gladwellian.