Contrary to what our superiors may think, most millennials take pride in their work and wish to excel in their jobs. We enter the workforce post-education bright-eyed and ready to learn.
It doesn’t take long for this rosy fantasy to collapse and for reality to kick us in the face.
Business Insider found that 31% of millennials quit their jobs within the first year. This isn't because millennials are fickle job-hoppers, but because they don't see their careers progressing, citing a lack of feedback and mentorship as top reasons. On the other hand, the same report shows that 80% of employers believe they provide adequate support to young talent.
From these findings, one thing is clear: There is a severe disconnect between millennials and non-millennials.
There are already countless articles out there about how non-millennials can adjust their mindsets and working styles to suit this new generation of workers. But many fail to remember that communication and working relationships are two-way.
What can millennials do to bridge the gap?
1. You are valuable but inexperienced. That's a fact.
We grew up with a fast-paced lifestyle, and we're used to seeing snappy results. Once we know where we’re heading, we take the quickest route rather than stay stuck in the slow lane. As Forbes puts it, “Technology has accelerated the millennial timeline.”
Having the right skills for the job doesn't instantly give anyone the right to get ahead. At the end of the day, we have to accept that we’re still greener and less experienced than more senior colleagues. While their circumstances might have been different, they started out in the same entry-level positions, just like everybody else.
Be urgent about learning, but see your overall journey as a leisurely drive.
Don’t suffer in silence. Rather than throwing in the towel when things don’t go according to plan, try expressing your concerns to your superiors. It’s very likely that they’re not even aware that you feel underutilised or stagnant. Talking things out will also show them how serious you are about your job, and this can only help them see your value even more.
In addition, perhaps rushing into things isn’t the best way to go. If you slow down and look hard enough, there is always a takeaway each day at work, and all these little lessons help to shape you into becoming a better employee.
Be urgent about learning and gaining experience, but seeing your overall career journey as a leisurely drive will help you enjoy work way more.
2. Really, it’s not personal. It’s just work.
It’s evident from hundreds of studies that millennials want fulfilling careers. We acknowledge that attaining this requires hard work, which is why we give each task we’re assigned our blood, sweat and tears. We want to be proud of our work.
However, this dedication to our work is a double-edged sword. We take our work so seriously that we invest all of our emotions in it.
No matter how much we try to say that 'it’s just feedback', receiving criticism on something you’ve poured your heart into can be crushing. And if your work gets criticised constantly, it’s only natural to start worrying that the issue lies not with the work, but with the creator.
Our challenge, then, is to take pride in our work, but also be able to step back and separate the work from our ego. Easier said than done, yes. Still, it has to be done.
Just remember: Business first, friendship second.
If there's one millennial label that rings true, it's that we are emotional and easily bruised. We are a generation who displays our feelings online for all to see rather than store them in bound journals stashed away in desk drawers.
We are the more empathetic generation. But when we let emotion overtake all reason, we poison our ability to see things objectively and damage how we work with others. Tip too far to one side and the whole team is thrown off balance.
Most of the time, it’s really just business. Your manager will often make decisions in the interest of the company without gaining everybody's full agreement.
That said, bear in mind that there's a difference between not taking things personally and keeping your work and personal lives separate. It’s completely fine – in fact, it’s encouraged – to make friends in the office. Strengthening your relationships with peers can do wonders for the team dynamic.
Just remember: Business first, friendship second. Here’s an extreme scenario to illustrate the point. If the business tanks, everyone goes down.
3. Your superiors are trying to improve too.
The pressure is usually on non-millennials to adapt and fit into the new workplace because, well, losing millennials can be very costly. You’ve got to move on with the times to stay relevant. Today, an old dog is expected to learn new tricks.
Learning and communication has to always flow both ways.
Figuring out something new or foreign on your own takes time. We often talk about learning from our superiors because of their wealth of experience. But don't forget that there's a lot to learn from millennials too. We have some tricks worth sharing with older colleagues trying to keep up with rapid changes in the world today.
For instance, our generation basically shaped social media into the powerful networking apparatus it is today. We know the ins and outs of its workings and are constantly aware of the hottest trends circulating the web. This valuable information can be wielded to benefit businesses.
In fact, there are many ways that millennials and non-millennials can learn from each other and build each other up. Listening to experiences of older colleagues might spark ideas that you can adopt for the modern-day context. Just keep in mind that, between generations, learning and communication has to always flow both ways.