Millennials will make up roughly 50% of the American workforce in 2020. And while individuals in every generation are unique, researchers have painted a broad picture of millennial characteristics, and what they look for in potential and current employers.
For the 2nd year in a row, we assembled a talented panel of four of our own millennials to dialogue with our summer interns, who will soon be the newest millennials to join the workforce. They discussed opportunities, challenges and what makes their generation unique; and tried to frame it all in a way that is helpful for our summer interns as they look forward to new careers.
Our panelists all agreed: work/life balance especially matters to millennials. One of our panel members shared that keeping strong boundaries between personal life and work means that when she leaves the office, she leaves work behind and goes to the gym or listens to music to tune out. This can be difficult since technology puts work emails and phone calls literally in our hands at all hours of the day, so it’s important to be disciplined.
Millennials want bosses who act more like coaches, and they want the opportunity to move around and experience different departments in the company. One of our panelists shared that he’s always looking for learning opportunities, and he appreciates that the person he reports to is supportive. He explained, “Having a good boss gives me the confidence in decision-making. It’s empowering to us as individuals to take on challenging tasks and responsibilities. Leaders should possess honesty, commitment to team (leading by example), and a positive attitude to keep a team motivated.”
Another member advised the interns to make sure to ask for feedback, to discuss with your boss your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and to speak up if there is another area of the company you want to explore.
Values should line up
Everyone agreed it’s important the values of the company line up with the employees’ personal values, discussing that if an employee is not passionate about what he or she is doing, it may eventually show in the quality of his or her work.
Advised one panel member, “Millennials need to be inspired and passionate about the work they are doing. I recommend you pass on companies whose values don’t line up with your own.”
Diversity is important
Embracing diversity has helped panel members’ teams learn more about different cultures and has boosted productivity because everyone feels accepted. Additionally, working with people from different backgrounds makes for a richer work experience.
The panel addressed some of the negative stereotypes about their generation, specifically ones claiming millennials are lazy and entitled. They agreed that some from their generation may expect promotions before proving themselves, and they may grow bored faster, which can be misunderstood as laziness.
Explained one panelist, “If you’re challenged you won’t be perceived as lazy at work. If you feel like you aren’t being challenged enough, go to your manager and ask for more work. It is our responsibility to change that perception by jumping in and asking for more work instead of giving in to boredom.”
Personal advice to the summer interns:
Once the pizza boxes were empty and the panel millennials and interns were ready to go back to work for the afternoon, one of our talent acquisition leaders from a different generation summed it up nicely by saying, “I’ve worked with hundreds of employees from all ages and backgrounds, and I’ve decided that really, we’re all more alike than we are different.”