I am a millennial. I am quite sure about it as I show all the symptoms and it seems I quack pretty much as a millennial duck would.
But what does that mean?
One way of defining things is by category, let’s try to identify the right population and label it with the briefest of descriptions, allow me to use Wikipedia for the task.
There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.
[…] the generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. In most parts of the world, their upbringing was marked by an increase in a liberal approach to politics and economics; the effects of this environment are disputed.
As you might have guessed I was born in 1982, 9th of February to be precise.
Acquarius in the Age of Acquarius with the Moon in the 7th house and Jupiter (probably) aligned with Mars I entered this world before the term millennial was inventend and attached to people like me, probably by people like me.
Beware of categories, astrology and songs but try to understand the impact of communications, media and digital technologies, the liberal approach to politics and economics or if you prefer the environment that changed my generation and the choices we made to change the environment in a way never seen before and from which we won’t be able to come back.
This, in my opinion, defines millennials.
Picture if you may the previous generations and their working environment, careers that lasted a lifetime, the social contracts between government and workers, the social meaning of a position and the defined, precise and sure answer to the question, what do you do for a living?
Picture their meaning of company culture.
Your work defined your social status, you were part of a pretty static class, the relation employee-employer was a clear work-for-money deal and you could count on the rule of the law for your rights, your pension, your healthcare and social welfare in general: as I’ve said before a job was for life and you would think that that level of security and stability was the final target, achieved at last and happy forever after.
Apart from the fact that it wasn’t.
That stability became stagnation with horrific consequences for global economics and together with capitalization, globalization, the coming of the Age of the Internet, technology and the advent of new markets both geographically and product-wise with software as a service, service as a product, technology as palpable and true as bread, information as a currency and so on in an uncontrollable overdynamic vortex of fastest-than-light ascents and crashes by private companies and public institutions alike…
Well you get the meaning: technology changed economy, economy change the job market, the job market changed the meaning of positions, social status and as a direct consequence politics and our rights, safety, stability, our idea(l) of stability, our concern for the future or lack of it.
If you compare a millennial worker with last century ones you might be induced to see differences and therefore you might (wrongly?) agree on categorising us as a different kind. We are the same as our fathers and mothers, with the same dreams and hopes, the same pursuit for happiness and a dignifying job, but thanks to them and our efforts combined we live and work in a different environment.
Work as a Millennial
For want of space I won’t go into the reasons that made the world what it is today, so let me dwelve instead with what we can assume of its characteristics, in particular on what work has become.
The industrial revolution brought with it a series of lengthy faught and hardly earned rights in our working environments. These where the result of pressure by the political and social establishment and not a voluntary gift by employers. Things have changed now, employers are now the first actors of this revolution because in the information era knowledge is priceless and understanding how much an employee is worth has become critical.
Pick recruiting companies for example, did they even exist 20 years ago? And in what form? What was the value of the job market? If company responsibility was a mean to keep customers, company culture is one way to attract and keep close good workers.
Say goodbye to 9 to 5.
I’m not kidding, you must leave strict schedules behind. Even if work represents about one quarter of your waking adult life you have many other things to do and they are important as well, and in any case you don’t want to find yourself taking time off to fix your car, pick up your kids, buy groceries or cut your hair.
In many companies you will get core hours where you need to be at the office even if just to meet your co-workers and the most common mandatory time is 10am to 3pm, with exceptional almost free working hours. Come at 7am if you wish to leave at 3pm and use the rest of your day to fit your busy schedule or work 10 to 6 to be able to pick up your kids in the morning or to get more sleep and play MMOs up to 1am.
What about working remotely? I would need an entire post just to talk about that, but in short if you had the freedom to spend a couple of days a month – or twice a week – working from home, and if you find out you are actually more productive, why won’t you do that?
Flexibility means freedom, the freedom to keep doing your work while living your life on your terms; not having to worry about external things keeps you on the task at all times while knowing you are not wasting your paid free time queuing at the post office makes you feel blessed with a schedule you can actually handle.
Technology gave millennials a incredible freedom of information and tools to work from everywhere and whenever they want, while it takes effort from both employer and employees, accepting and embracing flexibility is essential, maybe guidelines and rules are to be set and some training maybe necessary but productivity and happiness would peak to record levels.
Behold the real deal!
In some countries, notably the UK, you get a job proposal with a fair salary and a ton of goodies to choose from: discounts on child care or to the local gym, a bonus on production, company phone or tablet, free coffee or why not free eye check or cycling scheme.
Free food? Healthy, maybe even organic. How about a company gym or sauna (my greatest appreciation and respect goes to nordic societies)? What if anything you get is health-centered? Mandatory 15 minutes break every 2 hours in front of the computer screen, all the salad you can eat, free green tea, walks and excercise, relaxation and meditation, yoga courses and so forth. You get the meaning, what if a company gets into its central dogmas the well being of its employees, what if a company defined, followed and thrived in its own culture?
Now think social responsibility, you are more likely happy to work for a company that reinvest in your own community, that helps others and allow you to share in its positive outlook and that gives a bit to the rest of humanity.
It might not sound likely but for many millennials company culture is a critical point in making a decision. Of course money is essential who said otherwise but a rich culture – and bonus package! – can really make the difference not only in accepting a job but in generating loyalty and (oh my God I’m actually saying this?!?) love, love, love for thy company!
Ok that’s a big word I admit it, but it is a cornerstone of the millennial thinking: get paid for the quality of your job and the amount of effort you put into your daily tasks. Pure Utopia, that will never happen, but the closer you get to feeling underappreciated and the faster you’ll walk away from your current company.
Economy more than anything is pushing companies to try and find the best candidates for their position because they know the importance of quality workers, forgetting this at any point will cause a fast and expensive departure that can seriously harm company business and employee’s career.
Just to remind you about the previous chapter, merit, gender and race equality are concrete cultural foundations, but talks won’t go as far as actual proof in every day activities.
This is millennial at its best: social justice is important for us. We want to feel we are appreciated, but then again we don’t want to crash people less fortunate or less skilled than we are, that’s why we don’t want a pure meritocracy, but bang for the cash, money for the job and a minimum social help that we could need one day, if we suddenly find ourselves in more troubled waters.
Education, knowledge and experience
In the last decade and a half I have worked in many fields, companies and organizations accumulating an eclectic experience and from what I have seen there are two kind of workers, the precise single field experts and the jack-of-all-trades like me.
We could trace this division down to pre-history and what changed is the balance between the two. A title and education have less and less value if compared with knowledge acquired in the field as a plethora of start-ups and tech companies of all sizes are born every day and need the most help they can get, the greatest experience with a small budget; a team of experts is expensive while a well determined, passionate and experienced worker could give you a sensible solution for a fair price.
Again and again the value of a single worker and its skills become important, sometimes to the point that success is granted only by the team you choose and the way you keep them working [for/with] you.
I love work with start-ups, you get a lot of experience and learn how to handle entire projects alone or in very small teams. It is part of one’s career as much as learning how to work in big structures and teams where it is important to learn how to work together, communicate and adapt to a company’s every departments, but it’s not what a big portion of the market needs.
Now let me stop here for a moment, I’m not saying you should throw away your degree or that you wasted your time at Uni, but that you should try and have as much working experience as you can way before entering the job market and to expect to have to move from a company to another because that’s what market is asking right now.
If this is not what you want for your life you better stay away from start-ups and get a solid slash boring position in a local administration. A large amount of millennials have experience in different fields because they are not afraid to travel and get to know the world and its many cultures and languages and this believe me counts as education: most jobs are not as tough as fixing your docs as an expat.
Do you remember the initial quote from wikipedia?
I’m talking about the increase in a liberal approach to politics and economics that we should not underestimate. I see the expression “liberal approach” unconnected to left-right / red-blue rivarlies and so should you: the word liberal in this case reflects its Latin roots of freedom.
Take our freedom of expression. Right now you are reading an article that expresses my view, I believe anyone should have the same freedom I have and by direct relation every person should have the right to define their career or invent the next big thing no matter the colour of their skin or blood, their gender, upbringing, origin or place of birth.
It is the American Dream to the Nth power, the social revolution Generation X was talking about, our single voices matter more than ever and we want to be seen as individuals capable of amazing things, able to push progress without leaving anyone behind, people that matter, people that could change the world for the better.
And so again and again you see a positive environment allowing us to dream of a better world and our efforts and our definition of society, priorities, wellfare and work that changes the environment into a never ending cycle of improvements.
Happy employees make the difference in society, companies make themselves attractive, the best workers keep on doing a good work, employers increase their business and try to find the best employees and so on until modern companies thrive and old school dictatorships die out in sadness and loneliness while the world becomes a better place.
A dream born in pre-history is changing life as we know it while millennials here and now are doing all they can to make it real, sometimes even without knowing they are the central actors.
Bear with me while I dive into music culture for a bit to try and explain what future is for us.
Punk came and went with their idea of “no future” then Grunge took over with their “future, nah” attitude and we are here… And that’s it, we are here, now, the time is now and future is something we are fixing in the present.
As you might have noticed we lost much of our belief in politics and we don’t expect to be saved by our governments. This is not a new feeling but never before was so strong and we are determined to fix things ourselves, we are used to do so since the beginning of life on earth, but since the modern era we have being lulled through the idea of paying taxes to get something back, accumulate retirement money for the future and so on. Millennials don’t believe this anymore.
We are now living with the idea that we are the only ones that can help us, but instead of screaming about it we simply accept it and aknowledge it with easy spirit.
I would appreciate free money, thanks, help raising my kids and other social bonuses or basic survival cash while I’m unemployed? yes thank you I’ll get all you can give me, but I’m not going to spend my life expecting my taxes to actually come back to me as my due. A millennial invests its money wisely and expect to work until way into its eighties, live and work now, get as much fun and happiness today.
The ant complex of working hard all summer to get the reward in the winter is dead. Relax your life a bit if you can, while you have the power to work and enjoy because you don’t really know what kind of retirement money you will get and if you listen to the news it looks like a pretty grim prospect.
But we know this, right? We are millennials and the future is as good as what we’ll make out of it when it comes.
Millennials are seeing the most striking revolution of all times, technology is changing how we live and work and money is shifting from old established hands to new fast moving higly competitive job makers.
Take a look at the great Capital in the Twenty-First Century to get an insight of the changes in our economies where even money has a different value.
We are adapting and we have chosen to believe in ourselves because we finally understand the power of the single individual, everyone is unique and have their value and this matters. We make a great difference in companies like never before. Factories needed mindless workers and labor was cheap because you could hire anyone, even kids to do the job while now companies need skilled people and they are willing to pay knowing the value they represent.
We are forcing the environment to be the best we can get because we have seen an hint of possibility, a dreamland where your mind is the most valuable thing you can sell.
Experience, creativity, intuition, passion, commitment, intelligence, logical thinking, problem-solving, resolution, attitude and all the best human being have to give are the qualities a company need. In this crazy era of fast moving giants and fast growing startups your team is worth all your company represents, so be nice to them and they will rejoice with you in your quest for success.
Please do not underestimate the choice for the title of this post: with “Work as a Millennial” I intended to show the beauty of embracing the way millennials work and choose their occupation, I invite you to work as a millennial because if you do what you love, if you work with passion and if you continue to do your best as we strive to do you will see incredible results and the entire Universe will be a better place. This world is built on the shoulder of heroes and it is shaped by the hands of our generation that silently but surely is working toward great things.
We never had so much power to change the world, let’s make the best of it.
While writing this article in my free time I have been talking to fellow millennials and I have seeing differences in their thinking even if most of the central concepts remain the same. I have welcomed their criticism and I am looking forward to your ideas.
Thank you for reading. Peace.