Working with Gen Z and Millennials with Penny Kirlik

Written by Jamie Hunter

May 18, 2021

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Millennials and Gen Z-ers get a bad rap. In the last few years, 20- and 30-somethings have been blamed for everything from tanking the economy to exacerbating the spread of coronavirus.

They are often labelled as ageist (“Okay, Boomer”). 

And they get collectively, albeit unfairly, blanketed as entitled, lazy employees in the workforce.

We’d like to quash those pigeonholed beliefs once and for all, which is why we invited Penny Kirlik on to the podcast. Penny is the executive director of the Centennial College Student Association Incorporated at Centennial College in Toronto. And as you may have assumed from her professional title, she works with a lot of students, often for short periods of time. 

“I’m lucky if I get somebody for two years,” Penny says on the Leading With Nice Interview Series podcast. “Most of the time it’s 80 or 90 per cent turnover.” 

One of Penny’s strategies for getting the most out of the young professionals and students who work with her is actually quite simple: talk to them, spend time with them and get to know them as individuals. 

“I get to know them and their mom and their dad or where they grew up or their brothers and sisters, and I try to remember those kinds of things in conversation,” she says. “Because we have so many international students, I feel like we’re their family in Canada, and I feel that really strongly. I feel an obligation and a responsibility to support them that way, and I think that helps them be successful, too.”

Could it all be so simple?

Be sure to check out the podcast below to learn more about Penny’s 20-plus years of experience with Millennial and Generation Z employees and how she navigates the challenges and celebrates the successes of working with people in this age group.

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