Dear HR: Stop chasing “Gen Y”

It’s one of the most discussed topics in the world of work and beyond: Generation Y. In an attempt to nail down what this “Y” actually means, numerous big corporations conducted one study after the other, hoping to “get a clear picture” about this new workforce. What are their beliefs, how do they want to work, what motivates them and how are they different from past generations?

Sociologist, Marcel Schütz claims: “The discussion around Gen Y is affected by subjective judgments, speculations and is full of contradictions: some experts claim that Gen Y lacks solid work ethics, some say exactly the opposite. Some say they are individualistic hedonists, others say they are anxious over-thinkers.

I am classified as part of the so called Gen Y, based on my age and degree of education only (yes, there is no classification that is more accurate than that).

Here are some of the characteristics that apparently define “my generation” based on popular studies by corporations, universities and other institutions:

  • Value time autonomy more than money – flexible working hours and “me-time” are more important than a steep career curve
  • Request openness, transparency and tolerance. Also from institutions: Open Data, Open Science, Open Education, Open Innovation, Open Government and much more
  • Digital natives that can’t live without a smartphone and internet
  • Hedonistic and want to enjoy life “to the fullest”
  • Wish for an autonomous and self-determined life
  • Personal fulfillment, family and purpose in life is more important  than a marvelous career
  • A good relationship with colleagues and supervisors is a top priority in the job environment

Funny enough, some studies say on the contrary that money matters more than flexibility, purpose and a nice working environment. This doesn’t particularly allows for a clear picture of the Gen Y.

According to my personal observations, my Gen Y peers can be divided up in two main groups when it comes to work:

1.Hard-working, ambitious and ready to climb the corporate career ladder. Value a good income and security in their job, but also life-long learning. Want to become experts in their field. Value security and stability (good income, secure job). Practical and traditional – the careers of the past generations are a role model to some extent.

2. Ready to take risks, start their own business instead of pursuing a corporate career. Also value life-long learning but prefer to stay generalists. Value flexibility and home-office opportunities. Value excitement and change in their job as well as having  a purpose instead of only a good paycheck. Likely to move to a different country and experiment with “alternative” life models.

Some other things that describe Gen Y beyond the 2 groups just mentioned:  tech-savvy and aware of the importance of “work- life balance” – but these things are only “natural” and also apply to other generations as technology and social trends develop. If people are given new opportunities like better technology, they will take it. This is not a Generation thing.

When it comes to the work environment, these two groups require different things So, let’s assume an HR manager wants to attract Gen Y. If he plans campaigns to show how fast-paced, purposeful and exciting working at that company is, he will likely attract those who value excitement and change in their job, especially if there is a chance to travel. Those who value security though and value money more than purpose will look for a different company. And this is how it’s always been! Poeple are different, even within one generation. What have changed is that there are more job opportunities and paths than ever before in history. Naturally, people will choose what they see a good fit for themselves.

So what’s the lesson? Companies shouldn’t go crazy about the “Gen Y” – and focus on what makes their company unique. They will attract the right people if they communicate their values right – independent of trends. It’s more important to think about the global trends like new technology and work-life balance – as this is a new standard that all workers expect.

 

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Body language at work: the neglected power

We all know how important our body language is – after all, about 80% of our communication is non-verbal. The crossed legs, our shoulders, the position of our chin – people need only 1/10th of a second to make a judgement, even before you open your mouth! And several studies have shown that we are very accurate in our judgements about other people – even if we have only facial expression and body language as our yard stick. But how much does body language account for who we actually are? And how does it influence our work life?

1. We can fake it!

When we meet poeple that communicate non-verbal power, we tend to rather make ourselves smaller than to mirror their dominant body language. This applies especially for women. But what if you’re just not the typical Alpha (fe)male? Can we fake dominance and power just through our gestures and posture? Amy Cuddy, a famous social psychologist, analyzed the effect our body language has on our awareness and confidence. She came to the following conclusion: Hormones play a major part! Two of them in particular- testosterone that is important for the feeling of confidence and cortisol that is in charge of our stress level. People with power have ideally both qualities: they are self-confident and stress resistent. Amy Cuddy instructed the study participants to take either a dominant pose or a low-power pose. Before and after the two minutes, she took saliva samples. It turned out that the participants who took the dominant pose had higher testosterone (more confident) and lower cortisol levels (less stressed) than before. So what can we take away from it?

Our body language is a two-way-street and by being aware of it, we are not only able to influence how we are perceived by others, but also to influence our own feeling.

Posture autopilot

We all know about the power that our body language has and how folded hands for example are perceived in a discussion. Despite our knowledge, we rarely use our body language consciously in the work environment and therefore neglect a powerful tool. Most of us have tailored certain postures for different situations – which we take almost automatically and unconsciously – because its convenient. When we see our colleagues holding a presentation with hanging shoulders, we instantly think: he or she doesn’t look very self-confident or convincing – the boss won’t buy her idea! However, recognizing our own body language blind spots is more challenging! How do I walk, how do I stand and sit vis-a-vis other people? It’s worth the time to think about those questions! After all, colleagues, clients and your boss are just as quick to spot your body language signals. Why it matters and how you can train your awareness:

2. Observe to understand group dynamics

Observing the body language of colleagues interacting with each other, helps you to understand group dynamics – especially if you’re new in a team. You start to see which colleagues are dominant, which are less confident, which colleagues really like or dislike their job etc. It also tells you about the “inofficial” hierarchies in a team. It doesn’t mean that you have to “use” this information, but it certainly helps you to train your awareness and don’t step on somebody’s feet unconsciously.

3. Observe to understand yourself better (and improve relationships)

Observing yourself in certain situations throughout the work day, helps you to recognize situations in which you adopted “unconscious” body language patterns. Some of these patterns may not fit the situation. This allows you to change your posture pattern and take control back over how other people perceive you. Maybe you never realized that you look very tense when you talk to one particular colleague, giving him the signal, that you don’t like/trust him (even if that’s not the case). In turn, this colleague is pretty closed up in your company, because he thinks you don’t like him. Ask yourself why you look so tense in his company – maybe it’s only because of the way he talks or the dialect, which makes it necessary for you to concentrate very intensely. Once you know the reason for your uninviting posture, you can decide to change it and probably remove obstacles.

 

4. Body language is sometimes more important than knowledge

Several studies have shown how accurate we can predict outcomes just by looking at people’s body language and facial expression. In a study conducted by Alex Todorov from Princeton University, people had to decide within a second whether the shown politician will be elected for the US Senate. 70% of the estimated outcomes were correct. What does this say about your organization? To what part does management account it’s position to body language? Or the other way around? A former colleague of mine was smart and easily as knowledgeable as his superiors. Nevertheless, he was always left out in the yearly promotions – partly because of his hanging shoulders, shy look and lack of assertiveness.

What can we take away from these learning? Body language is a tool for:

  • influencing your own emotional state (fake it till you make it)
  • influencing how you are perceived by others
  • Analyzing how others feel and how groups work

USE THIS TOOL – IT’S A GIFT WE ALL HAVE EVERY SINCE WE WERE BORN!

It’s the age of talents: engineer your own job opening

Industry 4.0, talent shortage, employer branding, demographic shifts and candidate centricity. All buzzwords which we see a lot when we read about the labor market of the future and especially in these days, when the world leaders are meeting to discuss the outcome of these trends at the World Economic Forum 2016. Undoubtedly, the world is changing at a speed and scale which we never have seen before, bringing lots of change. As with so many changes, this one poses an opportunity – or an obstacle, depending how you deal with it.

The opportunity for talents lies within flexibility, lifetime learning, mobility, developing an individual career path etc. The downside could be a lack of job security and the need for constant qualification as technology and labor market requirements are changing rapidly. In this new realm, we, the talents, have gained a new power. A power that we suddenly “gained” through the global talent shortage that is about to get even bigger. Already today, about 38% of companies worldwide say they have difficulties filling jobs!

So, what do we do with this power? The first step would be to get a job that excites you everyday, right? Talking of which – how did you get your last job? Was it a contact that could make an introduction to your current employer? Did you skim several hundrets job ads and applied online? Have you attended a job fair?

This is the conventional path that most people choose to find a job – and there is nothing wrong with it – it worked after all for many people. There is only one thing that makes these methods seem quite at odds with current labor market developments described above and therefore inefficient: Talent Shortage, the so-called “war-of-talent” or the “Human Age“, which describes “talents” as the main resource for companies to increase their competitive advantage. Finding, developing and retaining talent is not only part of the HR department anymore. This task started to appear on the agenda of CEO’s, CTO’s, CMO’s and other management departments. Employer Branding is the keyword of the year with many companies trying to identify every benefit they have to polish it and afterwards “sell” it to potential candidates.

So if we, the talents (let it be a good college degree or a good training paired with drive), are so in demand, then why are we choosing application methods that mostly suck? Filling out long application forms on websites that might crash any minute while you’re thinking to yourself: “Why can’t you (#%&/)), (fill in corporation of your choice) just look at my carefully prepared CV? The same applies to tedious career fairs.

“But there is no other way to reach my dream employer” you say? Let’s think about the unconventional path for a minute.

  1. You know what you want to do, in which industry and where. This is enough to find several companies you can imagine working at! Make a list.
  2. Take a close look at the companies. What is their culture, their main topics? Can you find the pain points of the department you’d like to work at?
  3. Define what you can bring into that company. Clear, precise, pro-active and goal oriented! Write it down. Why wait for a job opening for your dream job? But please do not call it an unsolicited application (especially in the subject line) –> it goes right into trash at most HR departments.
  4. Research the head of the department of interest. LinkedIn is a great resource.
  5. Write him or her a message with the content of #3 and explain how you can help – and why you’re the right fit. Explain your interest in the company (which is the reason why you’re writing even if though there is no job ad. Include your CV and some good references. What else can you bring to the table besides good grades? Example: you see that they have a corporate blog or facebook page which needs some polish. Mention it! The trick here is to make is actionable. If you say you speak French but the company obviously doesn’t need it, then it’s useless (for them). This bold approach shows an employer that you have drive, guts and will to take the unconventional path. Innovation is a sought after skill after all!
  6. Take some risk! Include something personal. Of course you shouldn’t go overboard with very private details of your life, but give the other person something to identify with.
  7. Polish it! Your first, second,thirst and probably even 10th draft will suck and still contain grammar mistakes. Take the time to go over it until you feel it’s you speaking in the email.
  8. Comment: Of course this approach works better in certain industries than in others. Finance and management consulting might not be the right industries to try this approach. But many other industries, like HR, marketing, etc. are worth the fun.

How did I came came up with this and why did it work for me? When I just finished my Master’s in marketing in London, friends of mine invited me to spend the summer with them in San Francisco. I was thrilled and ready for the adventure. At the same time I wanted to explore the start-up scene in Silicon Valley and get some first hands-on experience in the marketing world. So I started applying. Most of the start-ups there either did not have the job ads I was looking for or required a US citizenship/work permit. I couldn’t offer neither of it. I had to find a start-up with my envisioned internship opening that would at the same time organize a work permit for me. My chances seemed slim, but I got started. I wrote to more than 80 start-ups, following the steps described above. I got some rejections, but most of the companies didn’t answer at all. Except for 3. I had a skype interview with all of them and then decided on one.The feedback I got from all three of them: we had to talk to you – your “application” was bold! I spend three wonderful month at WahWah networks, a startup in the heart of San Francisco, gaining first marketing experience while enjoying the bay area life.

So, what are you waiting for? The power is your’s!

 

A cook’s mind: Cantina Divino

Ein Kellergewölbe, mehrere Weinschränke und ein Blick in die Küche. Die Cantina Divino ist stilvoll und klein. Ich muss sofort an gemütliche Weinabende mit guten Freunden denken. Im Herzen des Bankenviertels, verwöhnt die Cantina Divino Mittags die umliegende Business Welt und Abends Menschen des guten Geschmacks, die diesen Geheimtipp kennen. Koch und Inhaber Azimi nimmt sich vor der Kreation der Mittagsgerichte für mich Zeit und erklärt mir bei einem Cappuccino seine Kochphilosophie.

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Azimi, seit wann führst du die Cantina Divino und wo hast du davor gekocht?

Ich habe einen kleine Reise hinter mir durch die Gastronomie Szene Frankfurts. Meine Ausbildung habe ich im Adlon absolviert. Anschließend war ich bei Nizza am Main, dem Ivory Club, dem Frankfurter Hof und zuletzt 3 Jahre lang Chefkoch bei Buzzano. Danach habe ich den kleinen Laden hier entdeckt und führe ihn nun seit einem Jahr.

“Ich verstehe Kochen als eine Kunst mit endlosen Möglichkeiten”

Wie kamst du zum Kochen?

Ich bin der Einzige Gastronom in der Familie, deswegen weiß ich nicht so genau, woher diese Leidenschaft kommt. Schon von klein auf habe ich gerne gekocht – da war ich gerade mal 4 oder 5. Auf die Frage meiner Mutter: “Sohn, was möchtest du später mal werden?” wusste ich deshalb bereits damals schon die Antwort: “Koch!”

Was reizt dich am Kochen?

Selbst nach 20 Jahren Erfahrung kann ich noch sagen: dieser Beruf ist wie das offene Meer – wohin du auch schaust, du siehst nie das Ende! Ich verstehe Kochen als eine Kunst mit endlosen Möglichkeiten. Ich habe eine große Liebe zu den Waren, die ich jeden Tag selbst einkaufe. Ich weiß ganz genau, was ich daraus tolles kreieren kann und wie es aussehen soll- das Visuelle ist sehr wichtig beim Kochen.

Was kochst du jetzt wo du komplett freie Hand hast?

Mediterran. Die meisten Menschen denken dabei nur an Pizza und Pasta aus Italien. Zur mediterranen Küche zählt aber genauso auch Ägypten und Griechenland. In meiner Küche kombiniere ich die orientalischen Einflüsse mit den italienischen und kreiere dabei manchmal verrückte Kombinationen, die einfach schmecken. Dabei gehe ich immer mit der Saison.

“Man darf als Koch nie zu stolz sein um Kritik von seinen Gästen anzunehmen”

Woher nimmst du deine Inspiration?

Wenn ich früh morgens über die Großmarkthalle laufe. Ich bin meistens einer der Ersten dort und lasse dann einfach meine Fantasie spielen. Das, was zur jeweiligen Jahreszeit am besten schmeckt, gute Qualität hat und mich anspricht, wird zu einem Gericht komponiert.

Während ich alles mitschreibe, fragt der Kellner, was er heute als Tagesempfehlung auf die Kreidetafel notieren darf – Azimi überlegt kurz und nennt dann etwas mit Steinpilzen und Lamm. Sachen, die er einige Stunden zuvor in der Großmarkthalle gekauft hat.

Was ist beim Kochen besonders wichtig?

Das allerwichtigste ist Leidenschaft. Falls ich die eines Tages nicht mehr spüren sollte, dann höre ich auf. Zudem ist Kritik sehr wichtig. Man darf als Koch nie zu stolz sein um Kritik von seinen Gästen anzunehmen. Manche Gäste haben mehr Erfahrung als Köche, da sie oft Essen gehen bei verschiedenen Adressen. Nur durch hilfreiche Kritik entwickelt man sich auch weiter. Ich schätze die ehrliche Meinung meiner Gäste sehr. Das ist mir lieber als wenn ein Gast nichts sagt und einfach nie wieder kommt. Als Drittes ist die Vorbereitung und ein sauberer Arbeitsplatz enorm wichtig. Nur ca. 20% aller Köche sind organisiert. Die 20% haben dann auch erfolgreiche Restaurants.

“Seit 15-17 ist Frankfurt auf einem hohen Niveau”

Ich höre oft, dass der Beruf des Kochs sehr stressig ist. Ist das bei dir auch so?

Grundsätzlich, ist der Stress kaum spürbar, wenn ein Koch mit Herz & Seele arbeitet. Dennoch arbeitet man sehr hart und viel. Meine 3 Töchter sehe ich selten und habe zudem nicht wirklich ein Wochenende. Mit dem eigenen Restaurant ändert sich das aber langsam.

Was ist das Besondere an der Gastronomie Szene in Frankfurt?

Gute Küche gibt es in ganz Deutschland. Aber seit 15-17 ist Frankfurt auf einem hohen Niveau. Hier kommt außerdem alles zusammen. Jede Nation bringt etwas mit und daraus entstehen viele bunte Kreationen wie z.B. beim Ivory Club, wo sich indisch mit amerikanischem Steakhaus mischt. Zudem gibt es in Frankfurt eine sehr große Vielfalt. Von Malaysisch über Eriträisch bis hin zu Marrokanisch, ist viel vertreten.

Vielen Dank für die spannenden Einblicke, Azimi. Ich hoffe, die Kochleidenschaft bleibt noch lange bei dir.

What I learned from 15 years of journal writing

I started writing a journal when I was 12 (now I’m 25). I’ve always enjoyed writing and in the beginning it also served as a creativity outlet (very colorful journals with glitter, stickers etc!). With 16, I started to realize that these little treasures between two hardcovers had more to give than I initially thought. Going back 3 , 5 or even 10 years, allowed me to recall forgotten experiences and linking my present self to my past self by simply reading my thoughts when I was younger. It also turned out to be a very helpful tool to see patterns in my thoughts and my life in general — being aware of those patterns, was the first step to change them or develop them further.

fashion-legs-notebook-working

  1. Journal excerpt: “Now that I think about it while writing my application: I can’t offer the “hard tools” like a large network in that industry or 10 years of experience, but I have many tools in my tool box I can develop further … maybe that’s just as valuable?” Instead of acquiring resources only, focus on resourcefulness! Resources, like money, business partners, etc. can come and go and while its important to keep those in mind, too— don’t forget to cultivate your resourcefulness, too. Resourcefulness is about adopting to new situations, keeping an open mind and just be willing to experiment.
  2. Journal excerpt: “I’m pretty content with my journey so far, but every time I see someone in my network who have achieved way more than I do, I stop and think what I’ve done wrong..” If you feel the desire to track your “success”, don’t let the comparison with others be your ultimate yard stick. Some say “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness” — I felt this unwelcome feeling many times. School, university, hobbies and even advertisements-they all render very potent fields for comparison with others. While it motivated me to accomplish new goals and push forward, it also made me feel frustrated and sad when I was performing poorly comparing to others. When I realized that, I started focusing on my own growth only. This was not only more rewarding but also allowed me to see the next steps instead of feeling lost.
  3. Journal excerpt: “It took me some time to regain confidence in my own abilities and strengths.” Transitions often come with doubts. Sometimes it‘s a break-up, sometimes it’s as new work environment where you feel small and unexperienced, sometimes it’s a significant financial loss. Self-confidence (at least to me) came only through mastering tough situations. I really think of it as a muscle which we can train.
  4. Journal excerpt: “I felt insecure and not at the top of my game that day — I just got refused for a job I felt excited about and didn’t feel any motivation to continue sending applications”. Having a healthy self-confidence doesn’t mean you will always feel confident about yourself. There will always be moments where you feel insecure. It helped me to realize that this feeling comes and goes (just like most other feelings, too) and that I shouldn’t bother concentrating on it.
  5. This goes hand in hand with #1: Ego! Why do we want to compare ourselves with others, why do we want to be “better”? It’s because we have this drive in us to be and do something “special”. Our ego can be a pretty nasty thing — while it can be a motor in life, it can also lead to feelings of depression, frustration and anger (towards others and ourselves). Sometimes, we make stupid decision based on our ego. I studied finance major for 2 years in my bachelors because I wanted to work in investment banking, which I regarded as very prestigious at that time. Pretty soon I realized though that finance is not something that brings me joy. Today, I ask myself WHY do I want to start a new project? If I can’t see any benefit in it beside an ego stroke, I’m out.
  6. ASK many fucking questions! When I was younger, I was too afraid to ask questions. I was afraid at school and beyond to ask questions, out of fear I might be labeled as stupid. Especially the basic questions are crucial. If you don’t get the answers to those one, you are making your further learning pretty inefficient & unpleasant.
  7. Take care of yourself first. Although that may sound selfish , it is actually a prerequisite to help others. You know these security instructions on planes, right? First, you have to pull the oxygen mask over yourself before you help kids and other people in need. This is true for many other situations in life. Like many others, I have a desire to help people in need (not just with 2 Euros but on a larger scale like famous philanthropists) . The truth is though: You can’t help anyone unless you help yourself first (make sure you are in good health, financially stable, mentally healthy etc.).
  8. Journal excerpt: “If I’m honest with myself, I spend the entire evening worrying about the outcome of my Bachelor exams instead of enjoying my birthday party…such a waste!” If you can’t influence it, stop worrying about it! For me, this is the toughest one! Although I would consider myself an optimist, I would sometimes keep thinking about everything that might turn out “worse” than I want. It helps to ask yourself: “Can I do anything about it?” Being aware of the fact that you can’t influence a certain outcome, is the first step to a peaceful mind. Another possibility is to embrace the “worst” outcome and ask yourself, what is actually so “bad” about it. Maybe this outcome holds valuable possibilities to grow or start anew.
  9. Journal excerpt: “The entire room was crowded and everybody looked so sharp! Everybody was super dressed up — except for me! I started to feel slightly uncomfortable and thought about all the possibilities to get a nice dress somewhere near and sometime soon…”. Everybody is way too busy with themselves to care about you or your dress! Especially if it’s at a casual party…the only thing that counts is your own perception. How you feel is how you will look like.
  10. Journal excerpt: “And again I ask myself: what the hell am I doing here? It’s super expensive, many successful people haven’t even studied and my Bachelor maybe already enough to start the career I have in mind right now…” I think I can say I didn’t waste my time by getting a Masters degree. While you’re at it, the hype of the “unconventional” super kids might distract you and make you question your “lost” time on formal education. Our education system is not perfect by far but we are still living in a system, where formal education is required to get into many jobs…a proper degree just gives you more options and it’s worth the time. Plus, these “Wunderkinder”, who started coding at 6 and sold their first company at 16 are rare!