This week we will be writing a joint blog post because on this subject we have slightly differing opinions. One of use will be talking about how professionalism should stay along the traditional train of thought and how the generations before us continue to have good ideas regarding professionalism. The differing opinion will be written about how professionalism should be rethought now that millennials are taking over a majority of the workforce.
By 2020 it is estimated that the millennial generation will comprise about half of the workforce. This means there will be more millennials working then any other generation. So why do they have to continue to act according to how previous generations think they should act? There are a lot of stereotypes regarding millennials and how they act in the work place. I am not here to defend against all of those claims. There are plenty of millennials who meet those stereotypes and bring down the rest of us. On the other hand, there is a majority of millennials who were raised to be professional and function correctly in the workplace. I am here to defend those millennials whose names’ are besmirched by the former group of millennials.
One major difference between millennials and the generations before us is what we consider appropriate dress in the workplace. The millennial generation is very big into individualism and being able to express ourselves. I think that one can be both individually stylistic and professional. However, the style may look a little different than traditional professionalism. Guys should be able to have haircuts that are not just the gentleman cut; maybe they want to have a tight fade with a well groomed beard (in some places only a clean shaven face is considered professional). For girls, a pants suit can be super uncomfortable and skirt suits can be even worse. They should be able to wear clothing that allows them comfort, style, and is still presentable. Millennials place a bigger emphasis on how someone performs at their job then how they are dressed while performing.
Another major difference is how we act in the workplace. Millennials like to have fun at work, whereas, the previous generations separated work from fun. It should not be wrong to have enjoyment at work while still accomplishing the job to the best of your ability. Joking around and laughing allows the day the move quicker and in many cases increases productivity. A sad, depressed work environment is not going to facilitate hard workers. This is not to say fun should trump the job itself, but there is room for fun to be had.
Now, this opinion will address one stereotype regarding millennials. It is often said that millennials in the workforce have to be taken by the hand and shown how to do everything. For a lot of millennials this is true. For some reason millennials do not always have the ability to figure things out for themselves. Oh wait, that’s probably because the generation that raised us did not let millennials figure things out for themselves. The generation that raised millennials had a term created for there parenting style: “Helicopter Parent.” That generation would hover above everything their child did and micromanage their lives. The millennial child never learned how to figure things out because the parent always did it for them. We didn’t ask for this. It was something the generation before us thought we needed. The generation that raised also ingrained the idea of individuality into our minds by telling us “You can be whatever you want to be” and “You are special just the way you are.” So, don’t get mad when a millennial asks a question or wants to have their own style because their parent probably told them they were a precious snowflake that was unique and couldn’t act without someone helping them.
Like this opinion stated before, there are plenty of millennials who fit the stereotypes. We are a generation raised on social media and raised to think that we should always be true to ourselves. Please don’t think our want to be individual is at war with the want to be professional. We just think that sometimes what the older generation deems professional is a little outdated. We also think that it is okay to have fun at work. But, also keep in mind that the generations complaining about millennials were the ones who raised them to think they are special. We are only acting the way you taught us.
As the millennial generation quickly enters the workforce, there has been a push for more of a lax dress code and for room to express themselves in their appearance. I understand the idea behind it, but I disagree with it as I believe you can wear professional attire, without sacrificing who you are. When you’re professionally dressed, it sends the message that you are dedicated to your position. First impressions are important and attire speaks a lot more than you might realize.
When I’m dressed in professional attire, I don’t feel lazy but that I’m actually showing up (mentally and physically) for work. When I meet with clients, I don’t care that I might not be comfortable, because I know my attire resembles how I want to appear if my supervisor stops by. I want my attire to demand respect and show that I am serious. I do believe there is truth in the damage that helicopter parents and participant trophies has done to the millennial generation. But I think the real damage has been done with the over inflated self-esteem that almost all millennials have. “It’s all about me” and “I don’t want to wear this because I don’t like suits and I want to be comfortable” are not reasons to toss out traditional styles of work clothes. Now are pantsuits ugly? Yes, if you haven’t updated your wardrobe since 1992. But, if you’ve shopped anytime within the last five years, it’s actually very hard to find that pantsuit, a lot of work clothes come in separates and in comfortable fabrics, and if you really need that matching set, they come in flattering cuts and fabrics that can be worn separately or together and will not make you look like you just walked out of Hillary Clinton’s closet.
Attire is frequently determined by the industry you work in, which helps determine what is expected of your attire. If you’re a second grade teacher, it wouldn’t make sense to wear a suit every day. If you’re an administrator, then professional attire is warranted. Think about how you expect certain professionals to dress. When picturing a medical doctor, I don’t picture someone who’s not in scrubs or a white coat with professional attire underneath.
There’s something to be said for dressing for the job you want. It can help motivate and inspire you to continue working towards your dream job. Dressing in this manner can help show your supervisors that you are serious and that they should not overlook you for a promotion (which happens more than you might realize). A 2010 national poll, conducted by York College of Pennsylvania, ranked attire as the second quality most associated with professionalism, just behind communication. It is definitely worth remembering that first impressions are crucial and you only get one shot at a positive first impression.