Members of Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, may be experiencing a tough job market, but they also face another challenge—negative perceptions of hiring managers and future co-workers.
To succeed, Millennials must work hard, seek guidance and avoid the pitfalls that every worker has faced early in their careers, a Fordham alumnus told a group of undergraduates on Nov. 4 at the Rose Hill campus.
“There is a perception that your generation is spoiled and entitled, lazy, self-centered and not committed to work. You have to prove them wrong, but you must also take steps that will help you succeed,” said Angel Rivera (FCRH ’83), chief diversity officer at Kingsborough Community College/City University of New York.
Rivera, the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Diversity Networking Banquet, boasts a successful and varied career. The native New Yorker knows about promoting inclusive workplaces, having worked in the public sector, advertising and film industries, and in higher education.
Under New York City mayors Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani, Rivera led efforts to diversify the New York Police Department and the Fire Department of New York. Most recently, he served as national director of affirmative action and diversity at the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles.
Diversity in the workplace doesn’t just apply to race, gender and religion, but having policies that provide equal treatment for people with disabilities, he said.
Rivera cautioned the more than 130 students in attendance against having workplace discussions about religion or politics, or making jokes that generalize about ethnic or racial groups.
He recalled an awkward situation in which the CEO of a large advertising agency made an ethnic joke during a one-on-one meeting.
“I looked down at my feet and said, ‘I forgot something in the next room; I’ll be right back.’ When I returned, the subject was changed and I avoided the joke, but it was pretty unbelievable,” he said. “But that’s life, and you have to avoid these situations.”
Rivera gave advice on what has helped him get ahead in his career.
“Have a mentor. I found one at the Screen Actors Guild and he happened to be a Fordham alumnus who is still a good friend today,” he said. “Also, know the corporate culture and look to see that the company’s values are in line with your personal values. Try to avoid office gossip because it can get you in a lot of trouble.”
Rivera also told students to be happy.
“I like people who are happy, so whenever I’m looking for people, I’m looking for that trait,” he said. “And it’s a good idea to be nice to the gatekeepers of the powers that be. And that’s not the CEOs or the head of human resources, but the administrative assistants and executive assistants.
“I’m sure there is a lot of anxiety when you think about joining the workforce in this economy,” Rivera said. “But with a lot of hard work and using what you have learned at Fordham, you can do it.”
Rivera, who grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side during the 1960s and 1970s, a neighborhood teeming with diversity, attended a Jesuit grammar school and went to Fordham Preparatory School before coming to Fordham.
The Diversity Networking Banquet, sponsored by the Office of Career Services, gives employers an opportunity to meet with students with diversity recruitment in mind, said Andrew Cronan, executive director of career services. Students can meet with employer representatives to gain insight about a possible career path.
Representatives from more than 12 corporations attended the event, including those who are CORE partners supporting the initiatives of Fordham’s Office of Career Services. They are: Deloitte, KPMG, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network—the Russo Group, Smart Business Advisory and Consulting, Standard Motor Products and Target.