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Entry by Pat Patterson

Before you pack up your materials to begin recruiting interns on college campuses, take some time to strategize how you will market your organization. More importantly, think about the characteristics of your target audience – Millennials, those born between 1977 and 1998. The more you know about Millennials, the more you can tailor your recruiting efforts to entice their interests. Here are some Key Characteristics of Today’s Adolescents:

Self-reliance – They believe that becoming successful is up to them, and they are not depending on others for help. Finding a good job is a priority. They are the young navigators. They must chart their own course and captain their own ship: “It’s up to me to create my own well-being.” They value personal experience and are prone to seek out critical thinkers. They are independent and emotionally and intellectually open. They strongly value individual rights: the right to be left alone, the right to privacy, the right to have and express their own views. They want to be treated fairly.

Empowered adventurers – Research shows that this generation has a confidence that comes from a strong sense of their ability to accomplish things that have been entrusted to them. They think and learn in interactive, nonlinear ways. They are willing to explore, search and navigate.

Love of family – In light of all the troubles in the world in which they live, there seems to be a surprising trend toward relying more on their family as a sanctuary against the difficulties of life. They view their parents as the most important source of guidance and emotional support.

Relationships are paramount – They rely strongly on close personal networks of friends and family. They also have a desire to be connected with others: friends in school, interest groups, and online virtual communities. Peers are important and are not always a “pressure.” There seems to be a significant shift in how this generation responds to peer pressure. When asked, “How pressured do you feel to do the following?” these figures show how many indicated “Not at all” for the listed activities: drink alcohol – 77%; smoke – 77%; take illegal drugs – 84%; have sex – 72%. This is far different from some of the images of adolescent life that we see portrayed in the media today.

Global icons – Brand identification in the consumer market seems to be at an all-time high. It’s important to wear the right jeans, wear the right athletic shoes, and drink the right kind of beverage. The generation is returning to the tried and true dream of all marketers – brand loyalty.

Educational achievement – Their main priority in life is to get a good education, and their core value is personal competence. This generation identifies a good education as the gateway to success.

Diversity is important – This generation values diversity unlike any before them. They have a high tolerance for differently held beliefs. They believe strongly in equal rights. Discrimination against minorities is in the top five issues about which they are very concerned. They know they are growing up in an increasingly multicultural world.

Consumerism – These kids know how to shop. They are not going to be fooled into buying products that don’t meet their needs. They are skeptical of slick marketing promotions. They are working in order to be able to purchase. Eighty percent of the teenagers in the U.S. are working 15 or more hours a week.

Mobility equals freedom – This generation promises to be one of the most mobile ever. They don’t intend to stay at home. They have aspirations to travel, not only around this country, but also around the world. They already travel on the Internet to many places, and now they want to go there in person.

Mediavores – This generation is addicted to media. It is not uncommon for them to be doing their homework, listening to a CD, watching television, and communicating on-line at the same time. They are giving new definition to “multitasking.”

Unabashed fun seekers – After all, this generation is still mostly made up of kids. Kids want to have fun, and this generation is no different. They will not be bored, because there are so many options open to them.

Service-oriented – They have a strong sense of the common good and of collective social and civic responsibility. They are more knowledgeable than any previous generation about social issues. They are very social concerned about the environment, AIDS, drugs, homelessness, crime, and discrimination. They engage in service activities more than any previous generation.

Keep these characteristics in mind when deciding how to market your organization and its work opportunities. In particular, if you plan on sending a recruiter to a career fair in the near future, perhaps your best bet would be to send a millennial (if you have one).

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