Starting Your Career: Three Challenges for Millennial Workers

I pulled up to the window at the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant. The woman blurted out the amount of my order and I handed over my credit card. Somewhere between taking my card and swiping my card, this young, Millennial food worker decided that it was the perfect time to respond to someone’s text. That’s when my jaw dropped and I asked to see the manager.

I don’t believe that the young woman was actually texting my credit card number to someone. If she was, she wasn’t going about it very intelligently. I’m also aware that few employees take their minimum wage jobs very seriously. Still, with credit card fraud and identity theft running rampant in the modern age, you’d think anyone in her position would exercise restraint when it comes to using a smart phone. I don’t mean to generalize, but it’s mostly a symptom of her generation.

The rapid adoption of new technology has been both a benefit and a curse to the millennial generation. Clearly, being able to navigate MS Excel like the back of your hand is going to place you far beyond most seasoned employees who still remember rooms filled with filing cabinets. Unfortunately, technology has also blunted a number of critical skills needed to function in most organizations. If you can compensate for these weaknesses, you’ll find yourself more valuable than most of your peers.

starting your career

Work/Life Separation

Thanks to technology, you can carry your friends around in your pocket. You can post pictures and witty comments on your Facebook page anywhere you go. There is nothing keeping you from responding to all the random texts you receive in a day. It’s a temptation that many young adults struggle with.

Since it’s so easy for friends to carry on digital lives throughout the workday, it can feel like you’ve missed out whenever you turn off the smart phone during work hours. However, it’s the right move to make. Bringing your personal life into the office is distracting. Worse still, it’s inappropriate and can give your bosses a bad impression.

Soft Skills

A year ago, a young relative of mine broke up with a girlfriend using a text message. I would have thought that the now ex-girlfriend would have been offended by the lack of a face-to-face discussion. As it turns out, she preferred the text break up.


Young adults feel more comfortable communicating from behind a piece of machinery than speaking directly. This isn’t all bad. Email is the communication method of choice for most offices. However, most important business transactions happen face-to-face or over the phone. That leaves many in the millennial generation addicted to impersonal contact and ill-equipped to handle these types of situations.

Spelling and Grammar

Spell checker may yet end the practice of spelling in school. What’s the point of memorizing the spelling of words when a computer can correct your mistakes instantaneously?

Yet, spell checkers are not perfect and not all computer programs offer to fix your poor spelling and grammar. My last job (just 5 years ago) was working in banking on a computer system that made DOS look new.

Of course, everyone makes these types of errors. However, it does not go unnoticed and gives the impression that you do not pay attention to detail or are rushing through work.

Workers from every generation have challenges to overcome. Many seasoned workers struggled with new technologies when computers were introduced to offices. The good news is that any issue can be overcome with a little effort.

What are your experiences with millennial employees? What are some quirks with your own generation?

12 Responses to Starting Your Career: Three Challenges for Millennial Workers

    • Definitely! Although, I’ve found that companies that arm their employees with smart phones tend to be more lax, since it’s a job requirement.

  1. At my last job we couldn’t use our phones while on the clock as it was in a brokerage. While I this trend is concentrated, it’s spread across generations now. I love the conveniences, but I think too many times it allows us to have the feeling that we don’t have to think.

    • I now feel more confident in brokerages. It would be interesting to see how increased smart phone usage effects cognitive abilities of elderly.

      Perhaps heavier usage of smartphone from seniors could be offset by more Sudoku?

  2. One interesting trend is that law firms and other professional services businesses have to worry about tracking billable work done on smart phones. They also have to worry about the legal implications of their employees carrying around an easily lost or stolen device that holds confidential or personally identifiable client information.

    • I have plenty of reservations over smart phone. For example, my bank has a smart phone app. Even having email on a smartphone can be an issue if you receive sensitive information like credit card statements.

  3. I agree with you on spelling and grammar problems. Even as a twenty-something I remember spelling class but it quickly went out of style and I never needed to practice it due to spell check.

    We are hardly required to write much in the physical sense anymore so it is difficult to practice. Because typing and writing are different mentally, what comes out on paper often looks different or strange. As a result we second guess ourselves often.

  4. I’m thankful to have a job where we are all trusted to be grownups! (And as we’re given smartphones, we’re expected to use them.) Food service is most definitely not a job where that’s acceptable, though – wow. When I worked in a cafe I kept my phone in my apron pocket and only checked it on bathroom breaks.