I am one of those people the professional world is warning you about:
THE DREADED MILLENIAL.
Apparently my loud music, my free spirit, and my creative ideas are here to ruin the world of business. I see the headlines every day on LinkedIn: “How to Interview a Millennial”; “Millennials: The ‘Me’ Generation”; “How To Keep A Millennial Motivated.” There is an entire user’s manual for us, and we have just started to enter the workforce.
We are really not as scary as everybody is making us out to be. You can get us wet and feed us after midnight. We are not studying your kind so we can be beamed back up to teach our kind how to defeat the human race. We also will not be “phoning home” anytime soon. I realize that I just made references to a bunch of 80s movies.
The professional world need not be afraid of us; in fact, it should be the opposite. We are so eager to learn and we want to be trusted with tasks both small and large. We want to feel like we are actually making a difference.
The reason that we don’t fit into the culture of today’s workforce is that we’re not willing to accept the excuse that “that’s just the way it is.” The status quo is not going to fly with us.
When we get an internship or that entry level job, we want to be neck-deep in the problem-solving. We want to use the critical thinking skills that we spent 4+ years and $100,000+ to acquire. Stop with this “deliver enough coffee and one day you will be promoted and have the corner office”—unless of course we are on the fast track to a corporate job at one of the big coffee companies. Then, delivering coffee is totally fair game.
Not all of us strive for that corner office, a yacht in the Mediterranean, the Ferrari; many of us are just excited to finally have something of our own. We finally have our own job, our own money, our own place, and our own bills; oddly enough, we take a ton of pride in all of this.
We desire a work-life balance.
We are truly the generation that is perfecting the “work hard, play hard” mentality. We may even sacrifice some work-life balance if we are able to work in a cool collaborative work environment. This is why there are certain companies that are thriving in this cultural shift. You think of the Googles, the Apples, the Facebooks, and many other tech companies that are at the top of the list when young pros are reaching for those prestigious internships. It is the “Silicone Valley model” and it is very very popular among my generation.
You see the offices with the low cubicle walls, the high ceilings, the exposed industrial piping, and the break rooms that include ping-pong and cornhole games. There are a million studies on how all of these contribute to creativity and innovation.
Somebody spent money on a study that concluded that twelve foot ceilings induce more creativity than eight foot or ten foot ceilings. The most successful companies are spending money to figure out how to use millennials as an asset, or even an investment, while the rest are treating us as a liability. We are the most innovative generation yet, and we will see which companies survive this transition, and which fall victim to market changes and lack of foresight.
Much of this dialogue is the same spoken when Gen X entered the workforce—and even when the Baby Boomers entered: “It’s the ‘me’ generation, with their lack of motivation, breaking the status quo….” Blah, blah, blah.
You would think that after seeing the same pattern over and over a few times, companies would be willing to break that mold and embrace the change that each generation has brought.
At some point, the older generations will need to hand the keys over to us. We are eager to step up and learn. We are eager to bring our ideas and our drive to the working world. We hunger to make a difference.