Cuddled of Coddled?

If you had to boil down anti and pro-millennial sentiments into a single word each, you could get pretty close to understanding either camp’s perspective with the words “cuddled” and “coddled” respectively.

Cuddled is the easier of the two to generalize and it’s the argument that we’ve already addressed a few times in our earlier postings. Gen-Y is the generation that grew up with everyone getting a trophy and whose parents still haven’t kicked them out of the house yet. The belief is that millennials are spoiled because they haven’t had to work as hard as previous generations, and they are entitled from growing up in era of iPhones and Netflix.

Coddled is perhaps a little more challenging to understand. Age and experience have traditionally been synonymous with wisdom and success, and the very real argument against giving millennials greater responsibility in companies is that they are young and have not yet had the work experience necessary to be successful. That’s a fair argument to make. However, from the millennial perspective, it’s one that may be growing increasingly dated.

When I graduated college it was far more difficult to find a job than I had anticipated. I had a dual degree from a good university, but I found myself in the same position that so many millennials find themselves in as well: “well we’d like to hire you, but we really need someone with more experience.” For an entry-level position? Seriously? Each job search is unique and with its own professional goals and encounters, but it seems that more and more college graduates find themselves frustrated trying to even find their first job.

And that’s an interesting paradox. If Gen-Y is the most diverse and highest educated generation to-date, then why have so many of us heard our friends lament the difficulty of finding a job. We’re tech-savvy, worldly, (and very humble!), so wouldn’t you think employers would be jumping at the chance to hire us?

From the millennial perspective, older hiring and promotion systems that don’t immediately recognize the energy and time that went towards graduating college amidst a swirl of academic, social, and personal growth can feel unfairly restrictive. As we mentioned in our previous post “Ready, Set…Done,” millennials are the most energetic and ready to perform right at the onset of their new careers. But when those new careers don’t immediately offer gratification or growth, it can begin to feel as though we are being held back, even coddled.

“I know I can do that! Just give me a chance to show you.”

And that’s the juxtaposition we’re trying to examine. For employers, they want their employees to be trained and experienced before being given greater responsibility. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their best people are calling the shots. Yet, internal systems that promote slowly and offer little feedback, or involve large teams that offer only minimal individual contribution, are not going to be appealing to Gen-Yers who’ve studied International Business abroad in Hong Kong, and went to college on a bull-riding scholarship (real guy! very nice). The workforce is now more worldly and specialized than it ever has been, and a by-product of this is that these new employees who’ve already had a plethora of learning experiences, want to hit the ground running and be given more responsibility and exposure than previous generations.

It might sound a little silly to think that just because you have a piece of paper that says you’ve graduated from college that that makes you an expert in a certain field. And of course, you’re not an expert after only four years of school. But a friend of mine who is an engineer three years out of college offered an interesting perspective on this matter that I think is worth considering:

“It’s the inconsistency that’s the most frustrating. Sometimes it seems like I’m a vital player, helping design a lifting system that can raise pipelines thousands of feet in torrential weather, but other times I feel like I’m just twiddling my thumbs at my desk, waiting until enough time has passed that I’m deemed experienced enough to take on a certain project.”

So therein lies the issue. In the case of this particular engineer he feels that he is being coddled at times by his management, but it’s very likely that that kind of attitude will cause him to be viewed by his management as being a cuddled millennial. Everyone wants to feel like they are valued in their employment, and I’d argue that the majority of millennials don’t believe that they really know everything about how to do a particular job. Their rub instead comes from being able to do more than they were expected to be able to do early on, which leads to an awkward period (weeks, months, or years), where they can feel unchallenged and unappreciated.

“I have a degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. Why am I filling out spreadsheets all day?”

Cuddled or coddled is a question that doesn’t get asked often, but it’s one that clearly defines another gap between the established workforce and millennials. The “most-driven generation” wants a chance to prove themselves because they believe they have the skills necessary to make an earnest attempt, but it’s not inherently in a manager’s best interest to “gamble” on a new employee not making costly mistakes. Gen-Y may have a larger knowledge base than previous generations, but the question remains just how much of that knowledge base is relevant and can be trusted as untested professional experience.

It’s a difficult question. What do you think, cuddled or coddled?