By Sarah G. Dougherty
“Ready or not… here we come!”
While the public relations industry isn’t a game of hide-and-seek, it has braced itself in unique ways to adapt to and embrace the Millennial generation—my generation—in a trial and error, learn-as-we-go type of approach.
It seems like there is so much commentary about this generation and our actions in the workplace. The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Institute for Public Relations’ recent study by Dr. Juan Meng and Dr. Bruce K. Berger, Millennial Communication Professionals In the Workplace, offers a major set of comprehensive data regarding the manager-employee relationship that has evolved with the saturation of Millennials in the industry.
As it turns out, Millennial Communication Professionals (MCPs) and their managers have extremely different expectations, approaches and goals when it comes to the workplace, professional development and, well, just about everything else. And, spoiler alert: the results are interesting, exciting and align very closely to my personal and professional approaches/values. (Does that make me a #basic MCP?)
As I prepare to graduate in May and begin an entry-level position in public relations, I’m seeking a company that is known for producing strong, meaningful work, exhibiting a unique office culture and providing clear professional development opportunities. Looking at the results of the study, it turns out I am among the majority of my peers.
The surprising part of the results is the major gap between manager and MCP. I feel that I’m ready to lead (70.9% of MCPs do), but it’s likely that my future manager is a little apprehensive about my abilities just yet (49.0% feel we’re ready). I feel passionately about investing in an organization and working hard to get ahead (83.3% of MCPs do); my manager doesn’t quite see that ambition (just 51.7% do).
So while the game of hide-and-seek seems to be coming to a close with 35 percent of the work force falling into the Millennial generation, the future of the industry is looking bright—and different. With the growing expectation of diversity, social responsibility and office engagement, recruiting and retaining MCPs will be the name of the game. Read that again: diversity, social responsibility and office engagement. Those are all extremely positive things for public relations practitioners to embody moving forward. The more MCPs that enter the workforce, the stronger these elements will become in the industry. And the more MCPs that are productive in the workplace, the stronger (and hopefully better) impression their managers will have of them overall. I’m curious to see if in five, seven or 10 years, these current gaps close up a bit.
Reading through this research was extremely interesting, especially after taking Dr. Berger’s Public Relations Leadership course last semester at The University of Alabama. He developed a sense of value and strategic growth in my classmates and me. We created a personalized Leadership Development Program, worked with mentors and conducted a communication-based service project on campus. After reading the research, it occurred to me that this type of class is probably one of the reasons why my generation is the way it is—we are taught to seek personal growth, we have given ourselves a sense of responsibility to the community and we seek guidance from others often. This unique priority of professional development and personal growth happening in tandem is new, blurring the lines between “work” and “life,” something that is increasingly the norm.
It is evident that we’re making our presence known. And it is evident that maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.
Ready or not… here we come.
Sarah G. Dougherty is a senior public relations and Spanish major at the University of Alabama. She currently serves on the PRSSA National Committee as vice president of career services and fellow of Nationally Affiliated, student-run Capstone Agency.