Generation Y, also known as the Millenials, were born in the early 1980s and later, and are one of the fastest growing generations. No other emerging generation has demanded as much choice, meaning and freedom in the interplay of their work and life than ever before. Companies are faced with trying to retain this young generation, while the Millenials are in a crisis of finding the best career fit amidst a plethora of choices and organizational change. While our Millennial kids face challenges in career planning, their problems are not stand-alone issues, but rather are a contextual aftermath of technology and business changing faster than ever. Just as organizations are scrambling to adjust, so too are the Millenials. In fact, the behavioural characteristics of generation Y, can be seen in the larger context as an emerging trend impacting all generations.
Millennials have lived vicariously through their parents’ experiences of being downsized after years of commitment and loyalty to their company. There is no denying that this has impacted Gen Y’s comfort in setting a goal to be loyal to any particular company. Research from the Conference Board of Canada reveals that Gen Yers have difficulty trusting their organization and thus, the value of loyalty is low on the list. Interestingly, as organizations have gone through mass re-organization and downsizing, Gen Yers have learned from their parents’ experiences that instead of focusing on loyalty to an organization, they should focus on being most committed to the development of their own skills and development.
The common tutelage is to treat yourself as your own business and take full responsibility for your own career. Parents can teach their children that the one thing a company can never take away from its employees are their accomplishments. Rather than viewing companies as untrustworthy, they could be perceived as an opportunistic environment in which to build up accomplishments that will shape a Gen Yer’s career. Accomplishments remain with the employee just as much as they do with any company. It’s a win-win situation. Think of it as training for the “dream job”.
Rather than being won over by money or prestige, Gen Yers are seeking meaning and a sense of purpose in their work. It’s not simply about working for a paycheque but it’s about working to be fulfilled and happy. Gen Yers want to live their dreams now, and believe that with more options and choices than ever before, they can make this a reality.
As the founders of “Invisible Children” (a group of twenty somethings who raised awareness and money to end child soldiers in Uganda) put it – “We want to tackle the seemingly impossible.”
Given that Millenials also value personal development, learning, and staying closely connected to their peers and a team, it would be wise for them to be reminded of some of the classic career advice that may have been forgotten (or maybe never even considered):
Find a mentor who’s already living the dream you want.
Find meaning through volunteer work – there are plenty of options and choices. A little inspiration through volunteer work can go a long way and penetrate one’s attitude at work.
Join an association related to one’s ideal career. This enables meaningful peer connections to be formed, and encourages the power of networking. Being part of an association and learning from others will expand horizons for what is realistically possible within a career.
Perhaps start a part-time business on the side. Given how technologically savvy this generation is, more and more online businesses are coming to fruition at very affordable prices. Creativity and risk need not be stifled by a job that one doesn’t believe is very meaningful.
Career planning and development is a lifelong process. There is no such thing as perfection, but rather it’s important to get the ball rolling in the right direction, and adjusting the sail as needed.
The corporate workplace doesn’t give anyone permission to achieve their goals. Creating meaning through goal achievement is something that everyone has to own for themselves. Everyone, Millenials included, need to give themselves permission to achieve their own dreams.