Millennials- a generation of people defined by their ascension into adulthood at the turn of the 21st century. To some, the coined term “millennial” is a title carried with pride. The millennial is technologically advanced, motivated by passion and open minded to innovation. They are healthy eaters, green thinkers and utilize their GPS. It is also a term easily associated with unfortunate stereotypes: the millennial is sloth, has an inherent need for praise, is self-centered and cannot “unplug.”
The millennial is entitled, and though highly inclined to think “outside of the box” is blockaded when faced with challenges in attaining his or her dreams. Unaccustomed to challenges, millennials are used to technology that solves their qualms (“hand a millennial a road map and see them scramble”) or elders who congenially come to their aid because they were raised in an “everyone gets a participation trophy” appeasing environment. Due to their self-centered natures, the millennial is interested in a media of pleasure and gossip: “reality” television, and scenarios in which they can compare their selves and identities to others. Think MTV. Think TMZ. There is a fear of instability associated with the generation now grappling to get a foot hold in today’s workplace.
Is there heft in these claims, or are they the empty taunts of generations previous, reverberating off the walls of a progressive, ever-evolving generation-a generation that is accustomed to adaptation? Will the millennial generation ever concede to a steady career, a day-in day-out punch the card job, something stable with a reputation? Are we doomed?
This is what the media, our parents, and potentially our employers jovially (or less jovially) poke fun at. How will we survive the grit and grind of a workplace environment?
The notion of the millennial worker being a drifter became a point of personal interest when I noticed the adaptability, flexibility and mobility of positions in my workplace. A company with an overwhelming large majority of young professionals on staff, I have witnessed how coworkers move fluidly in and out of positions. It’s by no means out of discontent- it’s borne of opportunity. Fresh graduates enter the company, work for a few months to a year, earn excellent experience, and then explore their opportunities within and outside of the company. There is a great deal of promotion inside, but there are also interns that are present one moment and gone the next.
A detriment? Certainly not. Many coworkers have picked up more duties, taking on different positions and titles, when others promote or move on. Interns and temporary workers bring insight, new ideas and fresh perspective. The environment is upbeat, with new faces and connections to make.
In actuality, the millennial is not a different breed from their parents and grandparents, Generation X and the Baby Boomers. In fact…there is a healthy family resemblance in work ethics and the quantity of job hopping in the early stages of their careers. A CNN Money study found that the average millennial worked an average of 6.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 25. It sounds like a lot, but those internships and summer jobs add up! Interestingly enough, the youngest baby boomers worked about 5.5 jobs before the age of 25. Yes, the newbies are beating out the older competition, but not by much. Working approximately one more job than our more experienced colleagues doesn’t exactly scream “flighty.”
What do we gain by working many jobs? A Forbes article entitled “The Pros and Cons of Job Hopping” explains that feeling guilty about the barrage of odd jobs on the resume is a thing of the past. Workers broaden their networks, keep their skills fresh (especially in regards to tech positions), and may have the opportunity to make more money with each new hiring. Technology impacts many different avenues within the workplace-the timeless struggle of experience versus innovation may be at hand again. Would it better to have fresh knowledge of “this” or “that” technology, or the experience of the worker who has been in-field ten years?
A con the millennial faces is that of loyalty and dependability. A new hire equates to resources and time, spent on training. An investment is made with each new hire, and with the final handshake that seals the deal, the employer is hoping their fit has been found. Time spent searching, background checks processed through HR, resumes shifted through…it’s a task to find a fit for a position.
It will be interesting to see the future of the millennial worker, as rearranging is almost to be expected with young workers who are fighting to discover their potential. The question will be if mobility in the workplace will continue into the mid-thirties range, or if the millennial will discover that permanence our parents define with impending certainty-a “career.”