Letter from a Millennial
First of all, I want to preface this by saying I do not speak for everyone. Millennials currently span from ages 19 to 35. Within that age gap exists quite a wide range of personalities, worldviews, life experiences, and cultures. The thoughts and opinions I am about to present are my own, and have been slightly influenced by conversations I have had with peers that are dealing with a similar feeling of being stereotyped and put into a millennial “bucket”.
There has been quite a bit of conversation circulating among hiring managers about how to attract and retain millennials, how to lead us, and how to expect us to behave in the workplace. In no way do I think this is a bad thing. I think it is crucial for management to adapt their leadership style depending on the individual. I think that is incredibly strategic and honestly, that is how you build a stellar team, because everyone is different.
With that said, I want to talk about why I think millennials (myself specifically) act the way we do.
Access to information
I have grown up with information at my fingertips. If I need to know how to cook chicken, what to wear for the day or what critics are saying about the latest Star Wars movie, a quick Google search instantly gives me direction. With that said, I am used to getting answers immediately. I am proficient in receiving, processing, and reacting to information extremely quickly. Because of this, when I don't have an answer or the facts are unclear to me, I feel anxious.
Many millennials have a reputation for wanting to know how we are performing, where we fit, and what our career path is going to look like. For me, all of those things ring true. Hiring managers shouldn’t consider this a bad thing. It signifies engaged employees. Employees that are not only eager to please, but also want to stick around if you give them a path to follow.
Shifting status symbols
What was important to previous generations is not necessarily important to me. Even twenty years ago, the ideal life plan revolved around a tenured career, an established nuclear family by the age of 30, and a purchased three-bedroom home in a suburban cul-de-sac… It’s just not the norm anymore. Many young people are drifting away from this or putting it off until later – myself included...
The things I want right now don't tie me down. I value information, I value innovation, and I value my freedom. Some may find these qualities unreliable and selfish, but they’re not. Because as much as I like my freedom, the things that I value make me passionate about whatever I'm putting my energy into. And that passion makes me fiercely loyal… and any hiring manager should be excited at that thought.
So, to combat the millennial reputation for having trouble with commitment, I would say the issue isn't about our ability to commit, the issue is what we value. It's more important to me that I'm passionate and excited about what I'm doing than whether or not I have a Range Rover (wouldn't mind a Range Rover though, just saying). And that is directly tied to the fact that I enjoy my freedom. I can live simply because I don't have a family, house, etc. If I'm flying solo, I can move more quickly and make decisions without having to place a strong consideration on how it will affect my relationships and finances. Look at the trends across the nation – everything from where people are moving to the decline in births – millennials are creating a new iteration of the American Dream.
I am not constantly asking for feedback because I am self-centered and need to hear about how great I am; nor am I brown-nosing or trying to get on my boss' good side. I'm asking for feedback because I want to challenge myself. The last thing I want is to be stuck in a place where I'm not moving forward.
I need to know that I'm doing all I can to contribute to the bottom line of whatever I'm working on. My passion and desire to add value are things that may make me seem flighty (because I change jobs or roles more often than what the traditional norm dictates), but they are also what cause me to take calculated risks that previous generations abandon because of fear or anxiety. The feedback I am seeking from my peers makes it more comfortable for me to take these risks and hopefully be part of some exciting change or growth within my company.
Like I said, these are all things that are unique to me and my "millennial personality." I think it is important to realize we all break away from these stereotypes in different ways. What is important to me is that I understand why I act the way that I do so that I can communicate that to others. I know that my behavior is sometimes non-traditional, but should this really be considered a bad thing? After all, aren't the strongest teams also the most diverse?