When it comes to establishing our careers, most of my generation was taught to finish school (university preferred), start our careers and then a family. Most of us were taught that we can be everything and anything we want to be. We can have it all if we want it and work hard for it. While I totally agree that you can be anything you want to be I often step back and wonder “but do I really want it all? and at what cost?
Enter the Millennials, a generation that is shifting the traditional workforce in ways that the previous generation is trying hard to understand. Millennials have a reputation of being unpredictable, trophy kids and the generation of “me.” So, what’s going on?
I was recently introduced to Ryan Coelho, a Performance Coach and Millennial Engagement Consultant who works with both employers and employees. Coelho provides unique insights to help wade through all the confusion and maybe generational misunderstandings.With a background in Aerospace Engineering, Coelho’s interesting perspective is backed up with an analytical approach… in other words, he’s no daydreamer. So, I chatted with Coelho to find out how the generations have changed in the workforce and how to prepare for the future.
And here’s what Ryan had to say on the topic of what Millennials really want out of their careers and life.
The wants of any individual is greatly shaped by the culture that they grow up in. Ultimately, each one of us is always looking to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives, and our culture influences where we look for it.
For Baby Boomers, the culture was about getting a job to pay off a mortgage and give their family a good life. This was especially meaningful to accomplish considering the hardships their parents endured during the Great Depression and WW2. With technology still in its infancy, things happened at a relatively slower pace and the only social media were the family, friends and co-workers you interacted with in-person.
For Gen X, technology was still slow growing and social media pretty much non-existent; however, looking at the success of the Baby Boomers before them, getting a job became more of an expectation rather than a meaningful accomplishment. Gen X thus turned their focus towards career advancement as their source of purpose and fulfillment. For many the goal was to find ways to make it to the top of the ladder the fastest and live a better lifestyle.
For Millennials, technology has been growing at an explosive speed and social media is now a norm. Both these cultural factors, plus the expectations built from the generations before them, are really impacting the wants of this generation.
From my research I found that there are four core aspects to the wants of the millennial generation (in general):
Work That Provides Purpose (i.e. more than just money)
Struggling to identify their worth in an ever-growing and ever-changing world, millennials don’t just want to work a job – they want a career that gives them purpose. This is often why we sometimes hear the term “Generation WHY” – for millennials, context is everything.
As an organization or parent, helping young people discover what gives them purpose on an emotional level is key to their positive growth. Since careers take up a large part of their life, finding this purpose in their work can have a life-changing impact. Now I’m not talking about superficial “you’re special” type statements, but rather a deep understanding of how they add value in this world.
In my coaching with young people, much of the conversation at first is helping them see just how important they are on a tangible and practical level. We often do inventory of all the impact they’ve had throughout their lives (often unintentionally forgotten) and how it can provide them with a sense of purpose as they move forward. The key thing here is that it’s all about perspective. It’s not that millennials are struggling to find importance in their lives, it’s more that they are not actually looking for it or believing that that they are when they see it.
I suggest sitting down with your teen, university or college aged child and have a sincere conversation of what brings them purpose in life. Withhold any of your reservations of whether it’s ‘realistic’ or ‘possible’ and allow them to just explore what gives them emotional meaning. From there, support them as they find ways to act on and further explore this purpose and from there build a career related to it.
Positive Social Change For Others
Social media has connected this generation like never before. Now what happens on the other side of the world doesn’t seem so foreign when it shows up in someone’s local online newsfeed. They feel like their actions impact the world at large, not just those immediately around them. With this in mind, if they don’t feel like they’re having an impact on others constantly, they feel like they are failing.
As an organization or parent, it’s important to communicate to millennials how their work and actions are benefitting others. We live in a world where we often condemn others for taking actions that hurt others, but for millennials making it known when they’re taking actions that benefit others is much more compelling in influencing their behaviour. If they feel successful on an individual level and societal level, they will have more genuine confidence.
When I consult organizations on millennial engagement, I always suggest they think of their organization in a way that serves society. For instance, instead of a transportation company just delivering packages to make money, they should see themselves as a company that allows all types of businesses to connect resources so they can grow and succeed in fulfilling their individual missions.
Ask your child how they believe their actions benefit others. Don’t judge them on their response or try to direct what their actions should be, just guide them in becoming more aware of the impact they are having on society and what they can do to continue to increase that impact. Support them in staying on this positive train of thought and when they do something that you perceive to be hurting others, try to help them see how they can alter or change their actions to help others instead. (i.e. Instead of saying “Sally just do what I say and don’t ask questions” try “Sally, the faster we can get things done the more people we can help. Ask me any questions you have now and after that let’s move full steam ahead!”)
Processes That Are Culturally Relevant
Millennials are growing up in a world where anything they want is available immediately with the click of a button. Patience is an unfamiliar term for them. In addition to speed, they want things that add immediate value to their lives, are efficient to use and allow them to access any resource with little to no barriers.
As an organization or parent, realizing how the modern culture millennials have become accustomed to, you will need to make sure your processes’ (at work or home) are keeping up. Out-dated technologies or inefficient systems will frustrate young people and often cause them to disengage, especially if their recommendations for improvement are falling on deaf ears.
Have a sit down meeting with some millennials and ask them what systems and processes they feel are out-dated and what they would change to improve them. Once they provide those details, ask them who would be willing to help with the upgrade. Not only will you modernize your company assets, you’ll leverage the talent of your young people in doing so!
Doing Things They Genuinely Enjoy
While the end destination for a millennial is important, the journey has become even more important. They love the experience! They want to feel excited as they go through the process of achieving their dreams. This makes sense with the culture of immediate gratification they are accustomed to. If things feel painful for too long, they’re not used to it.
As a parent it is crucial that you guide and support your millennial child along a path they are genuinely passionate about. Even if it doesn’t seem like an ‘ideal’ career path, always remember that their passion will act as a huge motivator in making them a valuable part of economy. Not in a million years would my parents think I could make a career out of being a coach, speaker and MC, but sure enough my passion has led me through. Had I stayed in engineering, which didn’t excite me, it would have caused me to be miserable and not as valuable an asset in the economy as I am today. Talk to your kids about what they are passionate about and help them think of ways they can gain experience in that passion and eventually turn it into a sustainable career. Even if all the answers aren’t evident at first, trust the process and allow the journey to reveal different pieces of the puzzle.
If you’re an employer, ensure that you are always aligning young people with roles they genuinely enjoy. The work may not always be glorious to do, but if they are clear on purpose, have the right processes’ to support them and contains a majority of things they like to do, they’ll be able to find that intrinsic motivation to stay engaged and productive. This alignment can be found through regular meetings that allow millennials to be open about how they feel and what they’re struggling with. This open communication policy builds trust, and trust build family.