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5 things Gen Y can do to survive recession, layoffs

Meridith Levinson | Nov. 5, 2008
That's an awful lot of ego-swallowing for Gen Y'ers to accept.

If Gen Y professionals want to hold onto their jobs, they need to change their managers' and co-workers' negative perceptions of themselves by showing some investment in their employers, says Mary Crane, a business consultant who's worked with graduating MBA students.

One way millenials can demonstrate that they care about their jobs and their employers is by acknowledging the challenges their organizations are facing and by offering solutions, says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of human resources.

"They're going to have to do a sales pitch for themselves and say, 'Here's how I can be helpful. I understand we're short-staffed, here's what extra projects I can work on,' " says Haefner. She adds that offering specific ways to help demonstrates an employee's creativity and ambition.

3. They need to change their work habits.

For Gen Y employees-who grew up on the Internet, chatting with friends over IM and text messaging systems-the importance of "face time" in the office strikes them as an antediluvian notion. But they would do well, in these desperate times, to spend more time in the office, says Orrell.

"This is clearly the time to show up early and stay late," she says. "That's kind of a foreign concept for millenials. They grew up in a world where as long as they were getting work done, it didn't matter [where or when]. It would behoove them to recognize that for some key decision-makers that face time is a way for them to build relationships. It's not just about keeping tabs on their work."

4. They need to take an active role in their professional development.

An economic downturn is not the time for Gen Y employees to ask their employers for tuition reimbursement. Training budgets are often the first line items slashed in a recession.

If they want training, CareerBuilder's Haefner says, millenials will have to suggest low-cost programs, such as peer mentoring, to their employers.

5. They need to assimilate and make friends with older workers.

Speaking of mentoring, now's a good time for Generation Y to get chummy with the gray hairs in the office, say Crane and Haefner. Boomers and Generation Xers have been through layoffs and economic downturns before. Millenials can learn from older workers what to expect during a recession and how to survive in the workplace.

Crane also recommends emulating the most successful people in the organization. "Dress in a like manner, communicate with people in a like manner and comport themselves in a like manner," she advises members of Generation Y. "Right now their goal is to understand the culture of an organization and to fit in," she says, not to boast about how young and cool they are.


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