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Ooh La La, Millennials

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Though the exact years differ depending on the source, millennials are roughly defined as anyone born between 1980 and 2004. That’s quite a large group.

As a so called millennial myself, I have worked with many fellow millennials but also with leaders and managers in organizations struggling to balance a multi-generational workforce.

In a few recent discussions I have been asked, how do we build the next generation of leaders in our organization? How do we keep millennials engaged but at the same time focused? What do they even want and why are they so difficult to manage?

The internet is full of resources and information on how to manage and engage millennials, what they look for in an employer and much more. At times, the more you read, the less positive the image of millennials becomes.

While this is of course a generalization and not true across the board, as millennials we often do not have a very good reputation for hard work, tenacity, patience, resilience, grit and focus. We are often seen as arrogant, self-centered, in need of instant gratification and constant recognition.

No sooner have we entered into a job, are we already seeking out a promotion or more responsibilities. We want to be managers and leaders but don’t want to be managed and led ourselves. We want to be recognized and appreciated for our work but don’t always recognize and appreciate those who were there before us.

We want to be heard and give our opinions on most things but struggle to listen and observe.

We want to be able to challenge others but crumble when given feedback on our own performance. We want a workplace with purpose, but don’t take time to reflect on what we are offering in return.

We want to grow, learn and be part of a workplace that invests in our professional development. We see it as a right not a benefit. We are demanding and quick to complain when things don’t go our way.

For any organization even one with leaders and managers who are themselves millennials, this is quite a tall order to fulfill.

Having ambition, drive, goals and a vision for ourselves is of course a positive thing. But we do need to hit pause, take stock and reflect. Success does not come out of thin air or from complaining.  

The basic recipe remains the same. Hard work and effort, a positive attitude and a continuous openness and willingness to learn through feedback, challenging ourselves and admitting what we don’t know are the foundations for getting ahead.

Here are some simple steps that we as millennials can take ourselves to help us move ahead but also stay grounded and humble.

  1. Start making the most of where you are instead of being obsessed with where you want to be. You may not be in your dream job right now but think about how you can make the most of your current situation. What can you learn? Who can you connect with? What pieces of work can you take up that will grow you for the future? What skills can you develop right now and right where you are?

2)     Surrounding yourself with people who are already doing what you want to be doing in future. Learn from them, ask them to mentor you, follow them online or invite them for a coffee if that is feasible. Be open to their advice, feedback and guidance. Remember it is highly likely they know a lot more than you about certain topics and have gone through experiences already that have helped shape and mold them into the successful individual they are today.

3)     Ask for feedback widely and accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Be proactive in seeking out your colleagues from other departments, your peers, team members and line manger. What do they think you can improve on? What skills or competencies do they recommend you develop? What do they see as your biggest obstacle to move to the next level?

4)     Think about your own value and what you bring to the table. The relationship between an employer and employee is a two-way street. It should offer a return on investment for both parties. So, what makes you unique? What value do you bring to the team or company? What do you have to offer that is different? It will be much easier and also reasonable for you to ask for something from your employer if you are clear on what you are offering in return.

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