This Side Up

What's with millennials?

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Boomers are on the way out. Millennials are stepping in. And in the wake of the last three weeks, I wonder what we’re in for.

For those who follow these pages, you know that Ethan Hartley, who joined the staff two years ago, has moved on to a new job that takes him away from reporting the news. He will now use his communications skills in the business of owning and operating real estate. It’s a wise move on the part of his employer, former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino, who I’m sure will make good use of his understanding of the media and his ability to get a message across.

Ethan was gracious, and certainly Paolino was, too, in giving me almost a month to find his replacement. We didn’t dally, and I falsely imagined if the Rhode Island news network didn’t yield a good candidate, then our advertisement on a journalism trade website would. With newspapers folding and the GateHouse giant cutting jobs to offset the hemorrhaging of declining subscription and advertising revenues, it only seemed logical that there would be job candidates out there.

We got responses and I got an insight to millennials, some fresh from college and others with some but not a whole lot of experience. I also received an application from one veteran reporter who wanted to move to the area. Fearful of passing up an opportunity, he accepted a job elsewhere before we could reach an agreement. It was handled professionally and there was no misunderstanding on either side.

Then there are the millennials, and I don’t know what to think.

I reached out to five potential candidates for the job, four of who responded to the ad and the fifth currently employed. The young woman working for another paper wasn’t prepared to leave and informed us of her decision about a week after the interview. That’s fine, although it struck me strange that her question about pay and benefits was almost an afterthought.

It was a taste of what was to come.

I reached the other candidates by phone and, after describing the job and learning what they’re about, sought to set up an interview. Times and dates were set and two showed up. I fired off emails to the others inquiring if they remained interested. I left voice messages on their phones. When I didn’t hear back I figured they weren’t but texted them anyway. Oh yes, came the replies. Had I found the method of communication?

I set up new appointments. As those times drew near, I thought I better reconfirm.

A couple of days went by with a reply. Then one said she would be in Philadelphia visiting family and she would get back to me. The other pushed me off another week. The girl, a recent grad living in Boston, said she was sick but was interested in the job. We talked and I went over salary and benefits. I asked about coming in for an interview. I didn’t get an answer.

The young reporter, who is working for a paper in New York State, was equally elusive. We arranged to meet a week ago but then he canceled at the last moment because of car trouble. On Friday, he was going to be in New Jersey but would be coming to Rhode Island for the weekend. He agreed on Friday, but when 5 p.m. arrived I got a text it was a tough drive and he’d be in Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Boston area candidate texted inquiring whether we could negotiate salary. I was incredulous. We haven’t even met. I should have pointed that out, but instead asked what she was looking to get paid. She responded with a pay range. Was I to make a pick?

When we finally met, the reporter from New York told me how great he was but didn’t have the clips to back up his stories. He asked some questions about Warwick and glanced at the headlines from the papers I handed him. He told me he was interested in the job and would make a decision, although I never offered him the post. I didn’t hear back from him.

I wondered how either would perform in a job. Would they work and answer calls whenever they felt like it? Would they cover just the stories they thought important? Where did they see themselves going? Where might they be in five years?

Had they asked themselves those questions?

Naturally, you can’t base conclusions on a handful of interviews. In the last week, I’ve interviewed some high school students – Jillian Caruso, who is doing a culinary internship at Le Favorite Bakery, and others competing in the Hack for Global Good: Solution2Pollution held Saturday at Rocky Hill School – who impressed me with their motivation. They’re five and six years behind the millennials I interviewed – almost another generation.

There’s hope.

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Mark

Sigh. They may have a different view when it comes to their work-life balance, but courtesy should be ageless.

Saturday, November 23, 2019