HR people seem to have trouble understanding the needs of the millennial generation. But are these young workers much different than the youth of yesteryear? Here's some sound advice for job-seekers of any generation.

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Young people today — how can we ever expect them to be diligent workers and responsible professionals? They’re so coddled and flighty and desperate for validation. Here are some quotes about young workers from Fortune magazine:

  • “Young employees are demanding that they be given productive tasks to do from the first day of work and that the people they work for notice and react to their performance.”
  • “Some companies are avoiding brand-new graduates because of their penchant for moving on.”
  • “One experienced personnel man sums up his duties by saying, ‘We’re dealing with a lot of tender little egos. They have to be told they’re loved frequently.’”

Spot-on description of millennials, right? Actually, these quotes, reprinted in a recent MarketWatch post, were all from a 1969 Fortune article, fretting about the first wave of baby boomers to hit the professional world. You remember the boomers — they invented the 1970s fashions every hipster is copying today. Well, they also invented the historic run of prosperity in the 1980s and ’90s, so it’s safe to say the aging former hippies did quite well in the business world.

I think most of us can agree that the hand-wringing discussions in the HR world about “how to understand the millennial generation” have gone way over the top. Some articles can seem as if they are trying to research a new species of alien creature that has descended from above. In reality, they’re just the latest crop of kids struggling to get their start in the professional world, albeit with a lot more technical gadgets than the previous generation had.

To get beyond this talk of generational differences that aren’t really all that different, here are a few universal tips that go beyond generational stereotypes.

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Start looking before you need to start looking. Few of us at any age love the process of searching for a job, but it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open in case something better comes along. While you’ll have less time to search while you have a full-time job, you can still attend after-work networking events and make some progress with your connections via LinkedIn.

Zero in on a job you actually want. Too many of us with fresh memories of the Great Recession are used to saying yes to any job that comes along. Now that the Puget Sound region’s unemployment rate has dropped back to a healthy 4.3 percent, you can afford to be more discriminating. Start with your ideal employer and see what connections you can establish both online and via in-person networking to reach hiring managers.

Translate your past successes. Even if you’re making lateral move, be sure to tie all of your skills and achievements to the business plan of the new position. Do some research of the prospective employer and see how your benchmark achievements stack up against the needs of the job description. Can you replicate those previous successes in the new position? Don’t tell me, tell the hiring manager!

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at