Motivated Millennials provide hope

Mentoring, meaningful internships, and interaction with university students are all important approaches to preparing the next generation, but many industry leaders have reservations about the next generation of PR pros. Do the 20-somethings - or "Millennials" - now being hired have the ambition, motivation, and work ethic to advance the profession? Is this generation looking for more than a paycheck and vacation days?

Mentoring, meaningful internships, and interaction with university students are all important approaches to preparing the next generation, but many industry leaders have reservations about the next generation of PR pros. Do the 20-somethings – or “Millennials” – now being hired have the ambition, motivation, and work ethic to advance the profession? Is this generation looking for more than a paycheck and vacation days?

These questions were put to the test at the Counselors Academy Spring Conference this year, when six under-graduate communication students from the College of Charleston were invited to cover the event. Acting as scribes, the students were able to capture key moments from the guest speakers, breakouts, and roundtable sessions, analyzing the important statements and blogging about them before sunset.

The educational opportunities for the students were obvious. While they already had completed good internships, few internships in agency or corporate settings enable students to interact regularly with senior leaders.

That's unfortunate because PR programs in higher education already focus far more on the person's first job than on their career advancement.

Inside and outside the classroom, professionals and educators should introduce students to their possibilities for career progression and, ultimately, to the business and strategic concerns in PR. This conference provided a too-rare chance for students to consider leadership opportunities in the profession and to begin thinking about their own career management. Ironically, such reflection should make today's students better entry-level employees a few months or years from now.

Beyond the obligations of the profession to those hoping to enter it, the good news at the conference was the work of the students themselves. Attending veterans had a chance to learn about the perceptions and insights of students, with implications for selection and development of their own entry-level staffers.

More fundamentally, the work of the students called into question much of what we hear and read about Millennials, not a few of whom have frustrated (and been fired by) those attending the conference. The Counselors Academy members at the conference consistently praised these six students for their knowledge of the profession, their eagerness to learn the science behind what we do, and their inquisitiveness about the business of our business. The students were tech-savvy, did the research before they arrived in Naples, and were not intimidated by the age, experience, and impressive careers of those they were interviewing.

So, if you are discouraged by the research on Millennials, take heart. We believe a strong employee base is presently rising from our university system – at the College of Charleston and at many other great universities. These six students provided conference attendees with hope for the future of the profession.
 
Michelle Olson is chair of The Counselors Academy. Brian McGee is chair of the department of communication at the College of Charleston.

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