I have been to enough conferences in the past few years to see a trend that I find comical. Apparently, Millennials are a force to be reckoned with, and nobody knows what to do with us. (First though, I want to give a shout out to Gen Xers—see, I didn’t forget you.) Topics at these events include “Millennials in the workplace” or “How to incentivize your Millennials.” Even as I’m working in groups I’ll be called upon to provide “the Millennial perspective,” like I speak for “my people.”
So here’s the secret for everyone wondering: Millennials are here, ready to work, capable of doing the work, and are a lot like you.
Millennials are driven, capable, aware of their surroundings, and are excited to be here. Seriously, nobody I’ve met professionally in my generation is hoping to jump between six jobs in four years or is unwilling to work hard because it keeps them from having experiences. The things you’ve read about what motivates us—that’s all there. Millennials are motivated by experiences over things, they want to work for a company that has values that align with their own, and they care about the community and having a cause. Knowing that, though, here’s the skinny on managing the workforce that now is the majority.
Give them a chance. Every leap I’ve ever made in my career is because someone trusted me. Half the time I was probably the only option and given a fair shake, I never would have been given a shot—but someone trusted me (and helped me out) and the result was amazing! I definitely wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of the people above and below me in my organization, and I have had more help than I probably needed.
The result is an independent, capable craftsman that is grinding daily and getting stuff done—and I think every company wants that from their workforce. Giving a shot to a green employee shouldn’t be a chance to prove your assumption that they aren’t as good at 23 as you were, or a chance to see what they’re made of. Give them a chance, be their life preserver and keep them just above water, and be their friend. The result will almost always be a confident and motivated young person who wants more—not to mention less on your plate.
Turning my attention to my Millennials now. I’m assuming you’ve listened to/read Gary Vaynerchuck (because that’s the Millennial thing to do...?) and it’s pretty obvious what you should be doing: HUSTLE. Hard work eats talent for breakfast. If you expect people to give you a manual for how to be successful in your job, wake up. You are the only person who is responsible for how you turn out, and that’s a good thing. Stay late, volunteer for everything at work, sell your TV and start reading everything (includes audiobooks and podcasts), learn that lunch doesn’t always happen at noon, take new technology home and read the manual, ask for a shot, ask again after you get told no, and don’t sleep.
This sounds extreme, but this is how you hustle. (Side note: getting married and having kids makes this harder, so get busy!) The main thing to do coming into a job is figure out your trade; you can’t BS your way to success. Our industry has the CTS exam—read the book and pass the test. I failed it the first time, so don’t give up. After you pass that test, find a veteran in the industry and ask questions (ask too many before you know the basics and you’ll just forget everything they say). Learn something everyday, and maybe keep a journal of what you’ve learned.
Gen X: I’ve gotta give y’all some love. The most supportive people in my career have been Gen Xers. These folks are the ones who are in the prime of their careers right now and really know how to makes moves. So if you’re a Millennial, the last advice I have is find a mentor or two. I personally have a mentor in his mid-late thirties, and another in his sixties. The perspectives and advice I get is top-notch, and I’ve found that people are delighted to share their wisdom and advice for free.
So that’s it! Millennials are a good sign of added value to the workforce, and aren’t all that bad. We will have to wait and see if Generation Z can hold a candle. My prediction: they can already write code and brand themselves socially… they’ll be fine.