I often hear older people (baby boomers and Gen X) complaining about millennials (AKA Gen Y). “They don’t like to work.” “They’re entitled.” “They expect recognition before they’ve done anything.”
While these are common thoughts, the comments show a lack of understanding and appreciation for the younger members of the work force. I’ve been working with students at UC Berkeley for the past 20 years and have seen some changes in the generations. Millennials don’t want different things than past generations; they simply expect things to happen at a faster pace.
And why shouldn’t they? They were born after the personal computer was invented. The younger members of Gen Y were born after the World Wide Web was created. Technology improvements have increased the speed of information exchange and, consequently, life in general.
If you look at the school systems and how kids are taught today, they pack in far more data in much less time than in my generation and I’m only in Gen X. The pace of instruction for baby boomers was even slower. Millennials have learned to move quickly and keep up. They’re given instruction and told to “go do it”.
They are surprisingly eager to learn and aren’t afraid to try new things. With the ever-present help from modern technology, millennials are used to receiving and processing much more information than their parents and grandparents ever could. Looking up information on how to do things is almost as automatic as breathing for millennials. They’re curious and are capable of processing a lot of data.
Millennials have also grown up in a very cycle-oriented society. Once the school year was up, they advanced. There is no such thing as holding a kid back a grade. The shift in schools and parenting towards increasing self-esteem and treating everyone the same has led to an expectation by millennials that adult life will be the same. That “do action/receive response” cycle is mirrored in their use of technology. Millennials are accustomed to getting and giving information quickly and from a variety of sources.
Millennials are NOT lazy or entitled. Far from it. They’re just following the patterns they’ve followed all of their lives. The same way those of us in the older generations follow our patterns. They have the same drive and ambition as previous generations. They work hard, but the difference is the patterns they follow and speed they expect are different.
They’re used to working like a computer. They’re used to trying to do several actions at one time. When they perceive a lull in work activity, it’s natural for them to fill it with another activity–even a non-work activity. From their perspective, so long as work is getting done, that’s all that matters. Advances in technology enable them to mingle play and work in a way previous generations didn’t and couldn’t. And since that technology has been around them their whole life, not using it would seem as strange as not watching TV for us.
In Search of Work Life Balance
So as a career strategist, I have some advice. When I’m providing leadership coaching, I tell my clients that when you’re interviewing millennials for a position at your company, be clear about how your company does things.
- When and how are new projects handed out.
- What should they do if they hit a lull in their project or don’t know what the next step is.
- What might their career path look like and what checkpoints are along the way.
- What do you as a manager look for and expect in your people?
- What skills need to be shown in order to be promoted.
If you don’t provide this information, millennials may look for it online or from their peers and have no way of realistically determining how valid their sources are.
Conversely, from a career coaching perspective, I tell my younger clients to ask questions in the interview that give them a good sense about the company’s culture and work style. After all, the primary purpose of the job interview is to see how good the fit is between the candidate and employer in required skills, experience needed and job performance expectations.
Hopefully this article sheds a different light on millennials and helps members of the different generations relate to each other better.
Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.