Jason Nazar’s recent advice in Forbes to 20-somethings would be so much more useful if he didn't get such a kick out of making fun of us (like when he suggests a satire video by "Official Comedy" as an actual training video for millennials in the workplace).
With a mass media consumption mechanism like the internet, it should not be so difficult to do a little Googling in order to separate stereotypes from reality. There is value to understanding the generation now entering the workforce as one with potential that can be captured and directed, without maligning us with assumptions. There's an opportunity to step back and try to understand the challenges, desires, and expectations that you have of us. If you find yourself condescending to an entire group of people, maybe it's time to change your perspective.
Given that at least some advice-givers are well-intentioned, here are some things to keep in mind. We want to succeed, and we want your help. But we're not lazy, or entitled. Here's a primer for the next advice-writer targeting our generation. How interested you are in knowing us might be a good indicator of how qualified you are to direct us.
1. We enjoy purposeful work
We value entrepreneurial freedom because it provides opportunities to transform a market, engage a new demographic, and/or address a social need.
A company that understands this, and facilitates an environment where younger workers can connect emotionally to our jobs and a chance to contribute to the growth or mission of the company will find we'll work very, very hard.
2. We like to know why
It’s easy to write us off as "resistant," but the truth is that we like to have a understanding and clarity on the job. Tru Pettigrew rightly points to the success of the AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” campaign as representative of how less complexity makes a positive impact on business and can be translated into improved productivity for a millennial worker.
Most workers, millennial or not, appreciate when tasks are translated to how they contribute to the company mission. In environments with good communication, we don't ask "why," because the answer is obvious.
3. We are innovative
We like to be the first to know, ahead of the game, and the first to adopt new technologies. We believe innovation is one of the top three "purposes" of business and 78% of us think innovation is essential to growth (according to a Deloitte study), but only 26% of us believe our place of work encourages innovation.
Internal structure and attitudes were ranked as the second-biggest barrier to innovation. Give us some room to innovate, with proper reviews and feedback, and we will surprise you with our willingness and resourcefulness.
4. Our world is fast-paced
We move fast, a trait often stereotyped associated with instant gratification paired with an unwillingness to put in long hours, but is there really something wrong with wanting to achieve results faster? The desire to achieve rapid results could be channeled into a refocus on productivity and results-oriented management. Accelerated timelines provide businesses with more productive employees and give workers greater opportunities to build a portfolio of achievements.
5. We are planners
In order to succeed, we have become a generation of meticulous planners. We have grown up mired in war, economic collapse, and constant uncertainty and have been (for better or worse) raised on outcomes-based education (teaching to the test).
Businesses can provide a procedural construct to promote accountability and give their workers clear expectations on how to achieve success. A primary reason we go from job to job is the lack of opportunity to make career leaps on the job, and because we value a broad skill set. We may stay longer in places where there is a clear opportunity to advance or get a promotion, but need to know where they stand to make that assessment.
Regular communication and process transparency regarding advancement helps to set and manage expectations with millennials who are eager to advance.
6. We want mentors
We are told we must seek out a mentor, but that requires a willing partner. Even articles describing how to find a mentor rely on a successful professional opening themselves up to cultivating a young professional’s talent, and 75% of us are left wanting. While I value self-reliance, Bruna Martinuzzi offered a number of tips that focused, correctly, on how to encourage and promote mentors within an organization to provide greater support for young workers, business continuity, and leadership succession. Building mentorship into your business, or even your professional life, can help make the workers and leaders of the next generation develop into better professionals and executives.
At the end of the day, we’re the next generation of workers and consumers, no different in many ways than those that came before us. While lectures and advice columns have their place, broad assumptions don’t provide a solid foundation.
So, well-intentioned elders, instead of tearing millennials down, be the reason we succeed. Contrary to what you've heard, we really, really want to.