Why Millennials Should Make Copies


I’m a millennial who often works with and manages other millennials. I don’t want to judge my own generation, but after engaging with them on a professional level, I’m disappointed to say that I understand where the stereotypes and assumptions come from. Don't worry - I get bucketed into those stereotypes too! The ones that say millennials come across as being entitled and lazy, constantly seeking praise and reward for doing the bare minimum of what’s expected. And while I'm still working to break the assumptions put on me, I do want to help others break the millennial stigma as well.

I once had an intern with a stellar resume. He aced the interview and I was excited to see what he could do for the team and the company. When he arrived, he acted as though he already knew how things operated and would interrupt the people training him. I received feedback from my peers that he acted like a know-it-all and felt like the tasks asked of him were below his pay grade. He was looking for praise around tasks that were part of his daily duties. 

One day, I pulled him aside and told him that while he may be given remedial tasks that are tedious and mindless, we worked in such a small company that if he didn’t do it, I would do it. That, in fact, those were tasks that I was doing up until the day he started.

I then shared a story about my first boss and mentor who taught me a valuable life lesson. She was known in the company as a control freak who never trusted anyone to help on her projects. She got in early, stayed late, and was the picture of a workaholic. For some reason, she trusted my 20-year-old self and took me under her wing. She’d embarrassingly sing my praises for doing what was expected and one day I asked her to stop because I didn’t want recognition for doing what I’m supposed to do - I’d only want recognition for going above and beyond. I asked her why she trusted me to work on her projects and she said that it was because of how I made her copies in my first week. 

I laughed and said that a monkey could have done the exact same thing. She looked me dead in the eye and said that she could tell by how the pages were stacked, collated, and organized, that I paid attention to detail and if I was that careful about copies, I’d be careful about everything. 

No task is too small and no task is below your pay grade. I respected my boss more because I knew she could do my job and do it better - that's what made me want to impress her day after day. If it's something that has to get done to achieve the bigger company vision, it’s something that will ultimately help you learn and grow, and you never know who may be silently noticing your efforts. 

After I finished telling my intern the story, he asked why I didn’t trust him with bigger projects. I told him it was because I’m still catching mistakes in the smaller projects and he needs to work his way up to earn the big stuff. After that, he began paying more attention to detail. 

He recently reached out and told me he now feels awkward when people praise him for doing the bare minimum, and about how he now only strives to get praise for going above and beyond.

We all want to feel appreciated in our workplace - I know I do, and some tasks can feel a bit junior. But it's important to figure out how your small task plays into the larger picture and understand that it's a growing process.