After reading the title of this article one of the following thoughts may have crossed your mind:
“Here we go again, another ‘how-to’ list about how to incorporate Millennials in the workplace”, or, “so what is this Millennial asking for this time?” Before you begin I’d like you to clear your mind of these thoughts and just listen.
As a millennial reading this I’d like you to remember one thing: Learn to take responsibility. Not too long ago I completed my post-secondary undergraduate degree and upon graduation, joined the “workforce”. I put that word in quotations because these days it has a very fluid meaning. To the average Millennial, the term “workforce” brings on thoughts of traditional 9-5 jobs, suits, and taxes. I think the real problem with many Millennials, is that they are resilient to changing their perception of the “workforce” and even more so, do not participate in the shifts currently happening to adapt to those who have a millennial mentality.
As you’ve likely seen, heard, or thought yourself, millennials are often painted as either lazy or overly ambitious (which can at times be more dangerous than the former), and spread across that spectrum is the shared quality of being self-centered. The “workforce” to the media defined millennial is temporary, as the individual moves on from job to job trying to find a place that meets their personal ambitions.
Now in my experiences, I’ve found that this can be true. But it is also largely false. I have made an effort to surround myself with millennials who are driven, focused, and don’t seek to improve their own situations but have goals which involve improving the world around them.
The key phrase in the above statement is “I have made an effort”. I’ve read a lot of articles about how companies need to prepare for millennials, adjust their practices, and adapt to the ways of the oncoming crowd of the tech-savvy and unorthodox, and make the best of our skills. The tips in these articles are generally along the lines of:
- Communicate how meaningful the work of the millennial employee is
- Provide opportunity for career advancement
- Invest in their growth
- Give feedback
But rarely do I see the article about how the millennial needs to prepare to join these environments. We are one of the most powerful generations to ever exist and with this power we can make the greatest of impacts in the world’s most complex problems – from international conflict to access to education. But in order to access this power we 1) can’t work alone and 2) can’t expect the world to bend to our needs. I may not inspire you to change your perception of the workforce by the end of this article but the truth is, us Millennials are only strong enough to make worldly impact when our numbers include other millennials willing to take responsibility for their growth. We need to make use of every resource available to us. And what better place to do this than from within the companies at the front lines of economic, social, and environmental change?
As I’ve stated above, companies have been making efforts to go beyond being millennial-friendly to tapping into the potential of millennials. But the shift in company operations from the traditional to the mentally-millennial is a shared responsibility between the employer and the employee. So as a millennial, you too need to take responsibility when creating positive change within the workforce. Upon looking for a workplace or adapting to your existing one I think there are some crucial things you need to do and think about in order to reach your millennial potential. Here are some ways that you can do this:
Actively Seek Work that is Meaningful To You
I can’t stress this point enough for those looking for work or are unsatisfied with their workplace. As a Millennial you may agree with this statement or have read it in an article aiming to profile us: we’re value driven. Big paychecks rarely motivate us (thought I’d be lying if I said they weren’t attractive), and if they do motivate us to accept a job offer it’s not long before we’re searching for something with greater worldly purpose.
Do not expect a workplace to constantly assure you that your work is meaningful. If the work lacks lustre it’s likely because it doesn’t align with your passions or values. And that’s on you for following the wrong motivators.
I found Learnkit by following my passion to increase accessibility through education, and coincidentally, their mission happens to be to change the world through education (along with taking over the world).
Set Ultimate Goals
Here’s where goal setting becomes crucial. Find a company that not only aligns with your passions but can contribute to helping you achieve an ultimate goal. It’s often observed about us Millennials that we shift jobs on average of every 2 years. From my observations of my motivated colleagues, they do this not in search of a higher paycheck but to gain the variety of skills needed to achieve that ultimate goal. This is far different from previous generations who would stay in a single position for 20 years.
Many millennials have set ultimate goals that they would like to achieve rather than having a specific high-level position in mind. Reaching this goal often requires holding many different positions, which results in constant shifts in place of employment; they take what they need from one place and move on to the next in hopes of filling all the proficiencies they need to achieve that ultimate goal. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s a way of continuing life-long learning.
What I’ve learned from working at Learnkit is that the workplace migration isn’t always necessary to gain those skills. Communicating my ultimate goal to my employer is probably one of the greatest decisions I’ve made since joining this team, as now I have been given opportunities to see how this company can be included in this mission and how I, as an individual, can explore different experience within the company to help me on this journey. Prior to moving on to another workplace I’d encourage you to think about how you can improve your place of employment by incorporating your mission for change in its structure. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn from others, and how supportive your current team will be in helping you achieve that.
Become a Life-Long Learner (and actively learn from your company)
The challenges of this world are becoming increasingly more complex and as a result, the minds that are needed to address this challenges must be multidisciplinary. We can’t afford to think of education as a (very expensive) stage in our lives and it is no longer enough to be just a (insert job title here). We have to have a variety of skills and knowledge in order to even begin to understand how to disassemble the chaos around us.
As millennials we generally have the technical know-how to start at these problems but that isn’t enough. We must learn to become lifelong learners and develop an infinitely growing multidimensional tool box.
Online learning is one of the ways you can do this without breaking the bank. Thankfully, by working in content creation and educational technology, I get to become a subject matter expert with every client. But for those who aren’t immersed in the professional world of e-learning, there are a multitude of resources online you can use to expand your tool box.
Aside from this, learn from your employer and your fellow employees. Encourage your workplace to develop professional development practices if they don’t already have them in place. Propose, for example, one of the weekly practices we have here at Learnkit called Personal Professional Development time. Once a week, we are each required to retreat to a corner or comfy sofa and work on an individual skill.
And finally, seek mentorship from millennials and non-millennials within your workplace. As a recent graduate I can empathize with those of you who are just entering the workforce. It can be overwhelming if you don’t have someone to show you the ropes. Observe the personalities you work with and then narrow in on someone you think you can learn a lot from.
Seek Employers who will invest in your growth, but don’t waste it
If a company is going to invest in your personal growth, you better make it worth it. This refers back to my point on goal setting and it is a very simple concept. An investment into a goal which can, in the long run, impact community is a better investment for a company than a goal which only benefits you.
If you find that your company is not investing in your growth as much as you’d like them to, maybe you should re-evaluate your goals and see how they 1) align with spreading or enforcing the company’s mission and 2) influence, impact or improve the state of a community.
Don’t Expect Praise; Appreciate it & Pay it Forward
At Learnkit we make an effort to appreciate the work of those around us, from strategic content creation to the fantastic work of a developer. We share great examples of work to inspire creativity in other teammates.
But it’s not enough to stop there. Receiving praise has no worth unless others can benefit from it, too. Along with personal professional development time, we have designated times each week for partnered professional development so that we can work with someone else to increase their skill in something we have been praised for. We pay the praise forward by teaching someone else the skills to create great content.
The bottom line here is that the (corporate) world can’t change if all we do as millennials is expect and anticipate – we can help ignite that change by taking responsibility for and nurturing our millennial minds. I can’t tell you everything you need to do to make this happen. I can only tell you what I’ve practiced and the results of those practices (which turned out to be great). I changed my perception of the previously dreaded “workforce” and took responsibility for my growth. Each time the sun rises I get to look forward to the work I am about to do, and each day I can show up to my employer knowing that we’re working together to ensure I reach my millennial potential, inspire others, and ultimately create change through education.
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