Survey Offers New View of College Millennials in Media - Higher Education
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Survey Offers New View of College Millennials in Media

by Gregory Clay

Approximately 64 percent of college millennials would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring, according to a recent survey.

An intriguing paradigm, for sure.

In generations past, young folk may have almost reflexively chosen Door No. 2. Remember the so-called “Me Generation” from the 1970s and 1980s?

110916_millennialsFollow the money, as the infamous saying goes.

However, as Khaaliq Crowder, a 20-year-old sophomore from the University of New Haven in Connecticut, said, “I was taught to do what you love.”

But 40 grand vs. 100 grand, come on?

Crowder  explained, “If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. And if you love something, you will always find work. I think most millennials feel like me.”

He was an audience member attending an eye-opening seminar titled “Millennials in the Newsroom” at the National College Media conference recently in Washington D.C. The annual conference, sponsored by the Associated College Press, based in Minneapolis, attracted some 1,300 participants in the largest gathering of college media students in the United States.

Crowder is a communications major with a concentration in journalism and a second concentration in television/video production, plus a minor in sociology.

The newsroom millennials seminar was led by Jane DeRoche, Student Services Coordinator and Student Media Adviser, at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, Calif. Afterward, she offered her summary observation on the survey talking points: “I don’t think millennials will change to meet the ‘traditional’ newsroom. I think the ‘traditional’ newsroom will shape itself in alignment with this new generation.”

Case in point, Fernando Jimenez, a 19-year-old Guilford College sophomore who moved to the United States from Mexico 10 years ago, agreed with New Haven’s Crowder.

“I started out wanting to be an accountant,” said Jimenez, a creative writing/Spanish double major. “And I love math. I took an accounting class, but I absolutely hated it. It wasn’t until I started working for the Guilfordian (school newspaper in North Carolina) that I discovered what I really wanted to do.”

He took a photography class and a creative writing course that combined English studies. Jimenez said he is learning more about structured writing using concrete data rather than writing in an abstract sense.

However, you have to figure working for a five-star accounting firm would pay much more than a career in photography and/or journalism.

Would you really turn down a lucrative possibility at a global accounting firm such as Deloitte & Touche, performing such analytical duties as auditing to tax services to financial consulting? And instead work in the newspaper media, which is steep in contraction mode these days in the United States?

Jimenez explained his reasoning this way:

“When I went to cover a protest about HB2 (controversial bathroom gender bill in North Carolina) as a photographer a while ago,” Jimenez said, “I saw the power of the press. Once I got a taste of how important the press was, I knew this was what I wanted to do once I graduated from Guilford.”

There it was, a eureka moment for Jimenez. He found the mother lode. His life choice was cemented: Jimenez is set on being a professional photojournalist.

Other key aspects of the survey illuminated the idealism and Three Musketeers-like qualities of young folk:

  • 92 percent of college students and millennials believe business success should be measured by more than just profit,
  • 35 percent of employed millennials have started their own businesses on the side to supplement their incomes,
  • 84 percent say that helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important than professional recognition,
  • Millennials and college students are more tolerant of different races and groups than older generations (47 percent vs. 19 percent), with 45 percent agreeing with preferential treatment to improve the position of minorities.
  • 45 percent believe a decent-paying job is a “privilege,” and not a “right,”
  • 56 percent say they wouldn’t work at a company that bans social-media access.

On the other side of the equation, how about the “Stereotype Syndrome” that many young folk feel. We’ve all heard the whispers that millennials have been characterized as fostering a lazy disposition and lacking a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic.

But what about assumptions based on technological skills, a matter that’s rarely discussed, at least publicly or openly. Are all young, professional folk expected to automatically know computer coding, the intricacies of social media and in-demand software programs, such as Photoshop, InDesign, video shooting and video editing?

As if it’s ingrained in their DNA.

And because of that managerial thinking, are college students and millennials subject to monetary short-shrift when it comes to job compensation — because of these presumptions. These stereotypes may place college millennials squarely into the realm of that famous line from the hit movie, “Jerry Maguire”:  “Show me the money.”

Maia Odegaard, 32, also was in the audience during the “Millennials in the Newsroom” seminar. She is the business and advertising manager/adviser to The Peak, the student newspaper at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia in Canada.

She addressed the issue of certain labels that often are attached to millennials.

“When I was younger and working in the magazine publishing industry,” she said, “I took a position as a receptionist as a means of getting my foot in the door in the local publishing industry in Vancouver, Canada. I was keen, so I would accept any additional assignments I was given, and, as a young person, it was assumed that I was naturally tech savvy.

“Many of the extra assignments I accepted involved html coding, Photoshopping images for advertising purposes, and some layout in InDesign. Even though I hadn’t learned any of these programs while doing my undergraduate degree (and certainly not in high school during the late ’90s-early 2000s). It was assumed that as a young person, I possessed this skill set.

“When I told my boss I had enrolled in night classes to build my html skills, she had no reaction. When I asked for a raise, I was denied and kept on as a contract employee with no benefits package, barely receiving more compensation or respect than the editorial interns. While we were always expected to be able to perform technological tasks (rather than the older staff members), we weren’t given any additional recognition for these skills.”

And the bottom line:

“I worry that too many young people get taken advantage of in this way — undervalued for having tech skills because it is assumed that we all grew up with so much technology, that these things are second nature to us. In fact, these skills should be valuable: Many of the young millennials I work with at the university have surprisingly little tech skills or ability to problem solve with hardware or software.”

That’s much to consider for young workers as well as their managers, no doubt.

The statistics mentioned in the seminar  were culled from an article titled “29 Surprising Facts That Explain Why Millennials See the World Differently,” by Gordon Tredgold, founder and CEO of Leadership Principles, an organization that provides corporations, small businesses and individual clients expertise, coaching and consultancy in the genre of goal achievement and leadership.

Tredgold also found that 88 percent of millennials prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one.

“I understand competition is good at times when it comes to ideas,” said Jimenez, the student photographer. “Like Apple vs. Samsung, between rivals.

“However, when it comes to the workplace itself, I see my classmates as a team. I believe in the concept of community care, as opposed to self-care. I think it’s important that we are on the same page with each other. In a collaborative work environment, if you share your skills, then the product as a whole will be significantly better.

“And if you don’t share and be more individualistic instead, sure you will succeed as a person. But you won’t contribute to the bigger picture. Therefore, the company will not be as productive. And you won’t make the corporate goals more attainable.”

Yes, all for one, and one for all.

As Tredgold wrote in his article, “Millennials are now the single largest group within the workforce, and will soon become the biggest consumer group, too. Understanding and being able to engage with millennials will determine how successful your business will be.”

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