The Top Three Workplace Challenges For Millennials

May 4, 2016

I recently received an email from Columbia University’s School of Nursing, inquiring about an innovative image coaching seminar I’d just created. They wanted me to conduct the workshop for their graduate students. The focus would be professional branding through communication, highlighting the importance of email etiquette and networking. They also wanted to briefly address the importance of wearing appropriate attire when scrubs are not de riguer. I find these three areas prove the greatest challenges to millennials in the workplace.

Email etiquette 

Written communication poses a unique challenge for young professionals because it’s difficult to convey and perceive tone without seeing the sender’s facial expressions or hearing their voice. When sending an email, we should always keep our audience in mind. Ask yourself, is this a private conversation? Should I really “reply all,” and would everyone need or want to know what I’m sending? Remember, it can be forwarded to anyone, at any time. We are inundated with hundreds, if not thousands of emails daily. Here are three common types of email offenders millennials should avoid becoming:

Offender 1: He flags every email as urgent, not realizing that if everything is urgent, then nothing is. He becomes “the boy who cried wolf.” When something critical does arise, our default response is to dismiss his email out of hand.

Offender 2: She barks her intentions, beginning emails without the common courtesy of a greeting as simple as “Hi” or a formal “Good morning, afternoon, or evening” can come across as rude.

Offender 3: He writes in ALL CAPS. Don’t do it, it’s offensive, and an easy way to cause misunderstandings and create enemies.

If your emails are too casual they’ll be perceived as unprofessional, therefore, young people should refrain from using slang and profanity, regardless of what others in your office may do. You should always check your spelling and grammar as you type and review before sending. It’s a fail-safe measure to avoid accidentally sending out a shoddy email. Approach each interaction as an opportunity to prove yourself worthy of a promotion, even if you just began working there. Remember, “please” and “thank you” will always serve you well, sprinkle them liberally throughout your emails.


There’s a direct correlation between our network and our net worth. It’s no wonder we’re constantly encouraged to expand our networks in new, innovative ways. This can pose a challenge to millennials that aren’t naturally inclined to widen out in their association due to introversion or unfamiliarity with the nuances of creating and maintaining lasting business connections.

An example was recently related to me of a young woman who mustered up the courage to introduce herself to an individual of stature at a social function hosted by her company after hours. All her friends were ready to leave. The person she wanted to meet was already deeply engaged in conversation with several others, but our young friend was determined to meet the person before leaving. She strode over to her target, and without skipping a beat inserted herself into the conversation. She did not bother to apologize for the interruption because in that moment she was so preoccupied with her own agenda, she disregarded the feelings of those around her. Needless to say, that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and reflected poorly on her mentor and instructors. They received several complaints after the affair. Although I commend her for her assertiveness, I must point out her lack of decorum.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you should not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity that has been availed to you. However, never become so consumed with your own objective that you disrespect the dignity of those around you. Pause, collect your thoughts, politely interrupt, and wait to be acknowledged; then introduce yourself.  Briefly declare your admiration and express a desire to talk on another occasion more conducive to both your schedules (if that’s feasible). Apologize to their companions for interrupting and then quickly take your leave, with a smile.

Your primary goal when networking is to leave people with a favorable impression of you and a desire to know more. Allow them a chance to express themselves then share sparingly. Sometimes when we meet a new person and there’s immediate rapport we can unintentionally overshare. Revealing personal details about ourselves, our colleagues, or family, especially when unsolicited can make a pleasant conversation very awkward (cue the crickets). Speak about your field, the successfulness of the event, and non-controversial current events. If the topic of politics or religion is raised keep your comments neutral and steer the conversation back to a safer topic. Less is more when getting to know someone.

By: Isabella Clivilez-Wu


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