Millennials’ life experience may mean more than work history

Good Work - Lisa Cefali
Good Work – Lisa Cefali

The Canada Winter Games held in Prince George, B.C. brought together a collection of Canada’s finest junior athletes across a multitude of platforms. Individual athletes and teams competed to attain personal bests and medals for their provincial organizations.
For some, the Games would bring them one step closer to possibly representing their country at the next Olympics.
From the start of the opening ceremonies, Prince George was electrified with excitement, pride, and positive energy that everyone could feel. Each training day and competitive event was evidence of the best of the best on display, but also of the many hours, determination and dedication needed to get to that point.
I was fortunate to attend the Games with the freestyle ski team. What struck me every day as we moved from Village to Mountain and back was the skill and attributes so many of these athletes shared. There were 2,500 young adults across over 20 sports – whom at some point had started out with a mere interest in sport which led to their journey toward competing at the Games.
Separate from the pack
These were not just your everyday teens and young adults. Well, these were definitely not the teens and young adults we’ve heard classified as reluctant to do anything but stay indoors and game or pass numerous hours online – or that seem entitled to have everything given to them.
They didn’t seem to have been directed by a hovering parent telling them what they should do every minute of every day. What I saw was a group of team and individual athletes who were also independent thinkers: who were focused and dedicated, and who understood that an investment of their time and effort would get them closer to reaching their goal.
I saw a group who understood that they had to eat and sleep well to support their training, train hard, take direction, and execute on advice from their coaches – who they believed did know more and had experience and knowledge to share.
As a group, these were the ones who now had gone beyond the “participation trophy” and knew that at the end of the day, there would be winners of medals, and disappointment and frustration for those who did not win – but they had already won the experience of a lifetime they could take with them.
I was among a group of kids who did not expect to win the gold medal after entering their first year, but knew that devoted training hours and a focused attitude would get them to the next level.
These individuals, a mixture of seasoned athletes and nervous first-timers, looked up to each other and admired each other’s talents and sport. Some were envious of each other and may have even been driven to exceed their own expectations.
As I passed my days among them, I thought of the comments often heard regarding the next generation of employees who are entering into the workforce. Issues of a lack of engagement, workers who do not have the commitment to do a little more to succeed, or who feel that after 12 months they are experts and should be rewarded with a raise or a promotion.
Those who are job-hopping because “they don’t like their manager” or that they simply do not have the patience to put in the time to excel in their role.
I considered the questions often asked: “how come we don’t have the strong work ethic amongst the newly hired that we have seen with the baby boomers and other generations?” Yet, as I saw these athletes compete in Prince George, it struck me – maybe here was the answer.
Perhaps it is time that every HR director and manager not only look at work experience and simply gloss over that section of the resume that presents involvement in sports and activities, but instead, bring the exploration of that experience to the forefront, and see how it will translate into the workplace. Maybe this generation just needs to be analyzed differently.
Hiring the best of the best is not about simply finding that one gold-medal-winning athlete, but finding the individuals who can perform at that high level, and have a great skill set that is ready to be transferred to a new role.
That type of talent, attitude and dedication is easily transferable. So, the next time you consider a millennial for an entry-level position, or perhaps a Gen X employee for that next promotion, rather than only focusing on their recent work-related accomplishments and experience, scroll down to the bottom of that resume, and really delve into their story.
By hiring someone who’s seen a few competitions, you bring on someone who knows what it means to want to win.
Lisa Cefali is the vice president of executive search with Legacy Bowes Group, where she uses her many years of business experience and assessment of emotional intelligence to uncover organizational insight and those attributes that provide the best fit for her clients with their strategic planning needs. Please feel free to contact her at for your executive search, recruitment, coaching, and strategic planning needs.

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