I’m a Millennial: I Can’t be Managed, but I can be Inspired
I have a confession, a dirty little secret that I need to share with you: I’m a millennial. I’m not sure if I’m proud of it, and I certainly can’t control it, but it is who I am. I work with managers across a variety of industries and the thread that binds them all together is a singular question: what the heck do I do with the millennials at my company?
As a member of this confounding generation, I’m not always sure how to answer. To me, it’s obvious: treat me with respect, ask for my input and participation, and invest in my growth. But that’s probably because that’s how us millennials think everyone should be approached. That we should just keep our heads down and work hard for the sake of it is, firstly, boring, and secondly, dismissive of our potential.
The perception of millennials is that we were told our whole lives we’re special, bright, and capable of anything. That wasn’t my childhood, as I remember it, but the outcome was still the same: I do feel special, bright, and capable of anything. So what should you do with me? Turn me loose and see what I can do!
Respect my knowledge and help me use it
As a generation raised with the internet, we are naturally curious and know how to find information. Can everything be learned by a quick internet search? Of course not! This is where you come in. We generally know a little bit about everything, or if you give us a few minutes, we can know enough to hold a basic conversation. Your job, as my manager, is to give me an opportunity to turn this information into something of value for our organization. And the best news? I genuinely want to do this!
As a former teacher, I used to get frustrated that my high school students’ default process for solving problems was to see whether or not someone else on the web had already done the hard work. Over time I came to realize that what needed to happen was not information retrieval, but information synthesis.
Younger generations’ problem-solving approach differ greatly from older generations. Side note, our education system has definitely NOT figured this out. Our brains are no longer needed for memorizing trivial information (though we still do this) and that’s a good thing. We have the internet for that. What we need to be able to do is take information from disparate, reliable sources, and create something useful with it.
So find me a project! Better yet, find me a project that might be a stretch for me at the moment. This shows you have faith in my abilities and also gives you the opportunity to assess my readiness for different types of work.
In the end, we millennials want to work according to our values. In the workplace, this means believing in the work we do, and also believing that we’re playing a meaningful part in a bigger picture. Push me. Show me how what I do matters. I want to have an impact and I’m ready to work hard to do so. Once we all get over how differently millennials work, we can all learn how to work together. And hopefully we’ll all be pleasantly surprised by what we build together.