RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
On Wednesdays, we talk about the workplace. Today, we return to the generation of workers that seem to be at the top of most managers' worry list these days -the 20-somethings known as the Millennial Generation.
The Harvard Business School's newsletter for business leaders is featuring yet another article about how to deal with the newest generation of workers.
And the Millennials themselves are getting advice from, among others, career counselor Alexandra Levit. She joined us from our Chicago bureau. Welcome.
Ms. ALEXANDRA LEVIT (Career Consultant; Author, "They Don't Teach Corporate in College"): Hi.
MONTAGNE: Now this piece in the Harvard newsletter called "Millennial Employees." I'm quoting here, "high maintenance, high risk, and also high output employees." The author, Jim Heskett, advised that they are often not a good bet for long-term employment. Do you think new graduates and 20-somethings are less prepared, in a sense, for the workplace than previous generations?
Ms. LEVIT: I do think this generation of 20-somethings is slightly different in that they grew up very coddled by their parents. And so they're coming into the workforce really not prepared to do some of the grunt work associated with being an entry-level employee and want to do meaningful work right away. And this cuts both ways, because in one sense, you have people who are very motivated, very smart, and know how to leverage technology. But on the other hand, you have people who tend to want to be general managers by the age of 23 years old.
MONTAGNE: For the 20-something of today, if they are looking for meaningful work, does that mean changing jobs more often, or does that mean pulling back on your own desires? Or is there a way to do that?
Ms. LEVIT: Renee, I get this question a lot from, you know, 22 and 23-year-olds who e-mail me and say, I'm stuck at the bottom of my company. They want me to do administrative work all day long, and I'm really frustrated. And what I tell them to do is, you know, look around. There may be areas where you can actually add value, and perhaps you're familiar with a new type of technology. Social networking would be a great example of this. You can really feel much better about yourself by adding value on a daily or weekly or monthly basis.
MONTAGNE: A traditional way of trying to avoid being at the bottom of the heap for a lot of young workers has been going to graduate school. For this generation - the younger generation - is graduate school a good option?
Ms. LEVIT: What you should do if you're thinking about grad school is do a cost benefit analyses to determine what such a program is going to bring you in terms of increased job prospects and financial compensation. I see a lot of people going into graduate school either to get a Ph.D. or an MBA right out of undergrad, which, in my mind, is not the best idea because you haven't had enough practical experience in that career to even determine if that's what you want to do. And you're going to put tens of thousands of dollars and get yourself into major debt when you could get out and realize that that degree doesn't really bring you any closer to what you are wanting to do with your life.
MONTAGNE: Although I would say, again, it's time honored to go to graduate school precisely because you don't know what you want to do, so get that law degree or that MBA. So I'm wondering if the cost benefit analysis has changed.
Ms. LEVIT: Well, I think one of the issues with Millennials now is that they're so much more in debt than previous generations, so the money is one aspect. Also, the fact that when you're in a graduate program, you don't really get to necessarily experience your 20s to the fullest. And one thing that today's Millennials are really focused on is having life balance. So during your 20s, it's the time to experiment. It's the time to have relationships and move around a lot. And graduate school kind of puts you on this solitary path.
MONTAGNE: What about you? Did you or are you going to graduate school?
Ms. LEVIT: People ask me all the time why I haven't gotten an MBA myself. And here's the reason: I work for myself and so I don't have a company that's subsidizing, you know, the $50,000 a year tuition. And that's a lot of money for me to pay out of my pocket. So if go and do that, I want to be sure I'm going to make it back with my post-MBA income.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much.
Ms. LEVIT: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Alexandra Levit is the author of the book "They Don't Teach Corporate in College." And you can read some of her tips on getting ahead in the business world at npr.org.