Columnists Suzan Alexander Weir Reach out to Millennials - our future industry leaders

Reach out to Millennials - our future industry leaders

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How did you get started in the jewelry business?  Most likely, back in high school, you were not saying that you were going to grow up and be in the jewelry business.  Something influenced you though!  What?

You are this industry’s best asset!  You know this business!  You have been there through the ups and downs (including gold prices!).   You have the knowledge and experience to be the passionate resource to lure the brightest and most creative into our business.

Approximately 76 million strong, the Millennials as they are being called, number more than 30 million more than the previous generation.  That is approximately 1/3rd of the current world population.

All young people are different!  Now that we have that out of the way, there are significant commonalities among this group born from 1979 to 1998 (depending on source).

Who are they?

Millennials grew up with technology, constant interaction and social media as their norm.  Many experienced over involved parenting (nicknamed Helicopter Parents).  This group played sports where winners and losers both received a trophy.  That is the norm for them.  Similarly they will also expect all participation in workplace activities to be acknowledged.

To be successful with this generation, your role as their leader or mentor  is to be more of a coach who encourages, rather than the boss that simply tells people what to do.

Well educated, the Millennials are a very social conscious group.  They also crave challenges and desire development.  The practicality and value of experiences and brands are more important than just a brand name.  Brands, both products and stores, are challenged to create an experience and a connection to them and not live off of the name.

To entice this generation you will need to let the Millennials discover who you and your business are and what you represent.  Your business may have a great name that is well respected to their parents and now it is time to resell your identity to this newer generation.

What are challenges Millennials face?

With the highest unemployment statistics in some of their lifetimes, Millennials also face higher student loan debt after college graduation and lower wages than expected.  Today it is harder to qualify for credit, loans and credit cards.

Many Millennials are unclear on career choices.  On career site Monster.com’s discussion board there are numerous college career seekers posting questions on how to apply their current degree choice to the marketplace.  They are in a desired degree program but unsure how to use the degree to make money and what career choices are available.  Numbers as high as 2 out of 5 being unemployed have been quoted for the Millennials and 13% of 22-29 year olds are said to be living with their parents after having lived on their own according to the Washington Post.

Your role to coach, mentor and possibly even offer an apprenticeship/internship can show the Millennials a positive way to take their interest and put it into use in the jewelry business.

Why do we need to introduce them to fine jewelry?

The jewelry industry needs future passionate jewelry store associates, leaders, owners, bench jewelers and gemologists.  And for some the need is sooner rather than later.

Millennials need to be introduced to the possible career opportunity that we are all so passionate towards.  So what is their first contact?

For many, schools used to be one of the first contacts in a very basic way.  Business and marketing classes may offer a glimpse of the business. Many school systems due to budget cuts, no longer offer programs such as:

• Art classes - So designing and making jewelry is not an experience that all students can interact with.

• Shop classes - So introducing metal design and sculpture are not hands on for their experience.

• Earth Sciences have less labs in the curriculum - So students are not introduced to mineral crystals in classroom experience.

• Lab based class’s high material and equipment costs have caused them to fall prey to budget cuts.

What economical impact could this have to your store?

For jewelry store owners and businesses in the industry, this directly impacts your new employee source for a talent pool.  Hiring the right team members with a jewelry passion can mean the difference in a make or break year and future.

What influences them towards jewelry?

Millennials are influenced by the Internet, Pop Culture, entertainment stars, family and friends.  Teachers and mentors also play a huge role and that is where you can reach out and make a difference.

Who can we reach to mentor?

By waiting until you need to hire, you are adding yourself in with all the others who are looking for the perfect passionate associate.  Start identifying the potential earlier and mentor!

Look for ways to partner with your local schools that offer programs that have connections to your business.  Participate in career days, volunteer at the school in classes that creative students take such as; Journalism, Art, Yearbook, Business, Metals and Photography classes;  Sign up to be an internship site for a work study program.  This is how and where you can discover creative minded students that often have an interest in jewelry, design and our business.

Reach out in your communities to groups like Girl/Boy Scouts, sponsor a class on design or jewelry trends at your local YMCA.

Every community is different so be creative!  Let me hear from you.  Think about ways you can interface with today’s youth and next month in Part 2 we will take this to the next level.

Suzan Alexander Weir is a Graduate Gemologist, GIA, DCA Graduate and has a BFA in Metal Design.  Her career includes corporate training and development for jewelry industry leaders developing and delivering sales, product and trend materials.  Suzan is the owner and designer for Alexander-Weir Designs, LLC and can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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