August 30, 2017

How to Speak Millennial and Understand Your Intern

You might think that communicating with the intern coming in to work for you this summer will be NBD. But if you’re not careful, your interactions may be much more problematic IRL.

Let’s be honest: it’s easy to shake our heads at millennials who are clearly using different ways to communicate than we do. But what if, instead of looking down on them, you actually try to understand them? Turns out, they can be valuable contributors to your company this summer. All you have to do is take the below 5 steps to speak millennial and understand your intern – or any other millennial friends and family you have.

1. Know the Acronyms

In case the first sentence didn’t make it obvious enough, millennials love acronyms. We can debate why (their preferred channel of digital communication probably has something to do with it), but that doesn’t make it any less important: if you want to speak millennial, you better know your abbreviations.

This post gives a great overview of the countless acronyms you might encounter, especially when communicating digitally. And hey, maybe you can even use one of them to speak millennial and impress your intern! 

We’re counting on you knowing the simple basics like LOL, JK, and etc. but here are some other basics you may not know:

NBD = No big deal (not a problem, no biggie)
TFW = That face when (that face you make when…)
IRL = In real life (you know, because everything else isn’t unless you use this term)
TBH = To be honest (speaking totally honestly and bluntly)

2. Understand communication channels

Don’t ever tell a millennial to fax something. Seriously, don’t do it. Chances are they’ve never seen it, or at least never used it. Even emails are becoming a bit less common, as more mobile channels of communication start to prevail.

Do you want to make sure that your intern actually reads your note about the office party (or an important project)? Send a text. Don’t call; they actually hate that. As it turns out, speaking millennial is as much about the ways you communicate as it is about the language itself.

3. To speak millennial, build a relationship

You might have heard the cliche: millennials are relationship-oriented. To them, making a human connection is as, if not even more important than personal fulfillment. That means integrating your interns quickly into the office and corporate culture within your company.

The more connected they feel, the more happy and productive they’ll be. Spend time with them. Ask questions about their personal interests and hobbies. Maybe these interests can even connect to daily job duties. Make the effort to be more than a functional boss, and your intern will pay you back in productivity.

4. Give them responsibility

Whatever you do, don’t stand your intern in front of the copy machine or coffee maker all day. They’ve taken the position because they want to learn something, not be the lowest minion on the totem pole. 

That means responsibilities. Make them feel like they have a seat at the adult table, instead of patronizing them for their inexperience. Give them actual projects to complete, allowing them to actively contribute to the good of the company.

5. Don’t. Generalize. Millennials.

Whatever you do, don’t ever address a millennial as a millennial. Perhaps more than any generation before them, they hate being generalized and thrown into a ‘bucket’ with people they share nothing but a birth year. 

In fact, this post has committed a sin that could create a significant rift between you and your interns. It stereotypes millennials, even though that group can actually differ up to 20 years in age. Chances are that someone born in 1980, while technically a millennial, has actually used a fax machine.

At the same time, they do use phrases and terms that you might not be familiar with. Learn to speak and engage with millennials now and your intern will thank you later.

And of course, encourage them to get brand new headshots that highlight their professionalism.

Nothing says, “first professional experience” like a photo they can actually use on their LinkedIn profile. 

TFW you’re finally on the same wavelength as your new, millennial intern.



comments +