Working with Millennials in College Projects and Beyond

Today’s college classroom is far more diverse than ever before. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that between 2000 and 2009, the enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 27 percent. Enrollment of students 25 and over rose 43 percent during the same period. The NCES projects a 9 percent rise in enrollments of students under 25, and a 23 percent rise in enrollments of students 25 and over.

What does this mean for the modern-day classroom? Students cross-generationally work together to learn – all with the common goal of obtaining a college degree. One large group currently enrolled in college are millennials – or individuals born in 1982 to mid-90s. Generally speaking, millenials are accustomed to working in groups, are eager to become friends with their coworkers, and have no problem with diversity in the workplace. Follow these tips on working with millennials, and achieve intergenerational success:

● In their formative years, millenials became used to a great deal of supervision and structure. As a rule, they are ready to follow, particularly when their managers and co-students are honest and transparent in their approach.

● This generation enjoys learning new things. If a project has the potential of teaching them something, it should be well received.

● This generation definitely prefers a relatively relaxed work environment that is also productive, in contrast to the formal settings of the past.

● As is the case everywhere in the workplace, mutual respect is the key here. Although millennials may be the employees in their department with the least work experience, their ideas should be heard, taken seriously, and possibly adopted.

● Remember that millenials are used to being constantly busy and focus their attention on many areas.

Pros and Cons

Millenials’ technical knowledge is a tremendous benefit and should be embraced rather than feared or ignored. Generally speaking, they have a positive attitude, enjoy working in groups and are adept at collaboration. Also, since they are goal-oriented, they like being challenged as well.

At the same time, millennial employees have little regard for menial tasks, and they also dislike what educators refer to as “busy work.” They tend to be impatient at times and have to develop the skills required when coping with difficult people.

This generation’s sense of entitlement may be their greatest liability, along with the tendency to be over confident. While they were growing up, these young people were told that they were unique and deserved the very best. Their sense of entitlement causes them to feel that they automatically deserve certain things without earning them. They count on being well-paid, but haven’t gotten the message that they must “pay their dues.”

Making a Project Work

As part of the process, experts recommend some reverse mentoring in which millenials instruct older employees in new technology or help them update their skills. This validates both groups and encourages them to work as a team.

Whether you are enrolled in an online school, traditional college, or are a part of the workforce, hopefully these tips on working with millennials will help you navigate through group projects with Generation Y’s.

About Allison Freeland

Allie Freeland is the Editor-in-Chief of CollegeOnline.org. She has been a professional writer for a decade and received her bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. She brings a wealth of information about higher education, online degrees, college life, and career advice. Follow her on G+.