As I approach my senior year at the University of Colorado Boulder, the thrill and anticipation of the next chapter of my life begins to unfold. Interning at Newmeasures this summer was an experience that not only allowed me a unique glimpse into Industrial-Organizational Psychology but also provided the opportunity for me to grow through exciting challenges and gain new perspectives. As a Millennial who is about to break into the workforce, an organization’s culture is vital while deciding on a place to work, as detailed below.
Millennials in the Workforce
The term “millennial” is accompanied by a plethora of not so favorable connotations. Born between the 1980s and early 2000s, Millennials, or “Generation Me,” as sometimes referred to, now comprise a substantial part of the workforce. When someone hears the term Millennial, often an image of a mid-twenties young adult, sitting in a coffee shop with headphones, typing away on her MacBook while sipping an organically-sourced latte comes to mind. Student loan debt laden, yet sprinkled with optimism and a pinch of overconfidence, Millennials, are navigating the professional world. And I am about to join them.
Before packing away the last school mascot flag, or set of cherished pom-poms that have made it to every football game, it is important to consider what it means to be a Millennial making the transition from a student into the professional world, and what we value as Millennials when it comes to designing our career paths. After reflecting on this myself, I realized there are a few distinct qualities and characteristics that I, as a Millennial, value when taking the next steps in committing to an organization.
Millennials Are Going to Change Jobs
First, I value growth and opportunity within the organization. According to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, which surveyed almost 8,000 Millennials across 30 countries, 44 of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years. Reasons behind this include a “perceived lack of leadership-skill development and feelings of being overlooked” coupled with larger issues around “work/life balance, the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values.” Attaining and maintaining one single, lifelong career is becoming less common, therefore, the ability to explore and be exposed to new opportunities is more desirable than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, the average young adult has held an average of 6.2 jobs by age 26, I feel right on track with 4 jobs by the age of 21. One thing that provokes anxiety for myself, and I’m sure for many other young adults making the transition from student to the professional world, is the feeling of losing the ability to change, explore, and experience new things. Providing or considering the opportunity for young professionals to shift careers within an organization is without a doubt desirable in today’s professional world.
The Importance of Work-Life Balance
I expect that work-life balance and work-life integration will play an important role in my career. The smartphone is undoubtedly an integral part of daily life for Millennials, and increasingly for their preceding generations as well. A company that displays trust in their young employees being able to handle their workload without peeking over their shoulders throughout the day, provides an environment of work-life integration that is a strong selling point for Millennials. Work-life balance is important, as Millennials place a great deal of value on flexibility. Flexibility in this context does not necessarily mean time off when requested, but an understanding that in today’s fast paced and innovative mind-spheres of young professionals, desk-sitting from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. may not ensure optimal productivity.
It’s no secret that growing up immersed in a technologically advanced, fast-paced era of instant gratification has influenced the attention spans of today’s emerging workforce. According to a study published this year by comScore, online ads targeted toward Millennials now must be around 5 to 6 seconds to be effective, quite a contrast from the traditional 30-second television commercial. While that statistic is considerably unfortunate, here poses an opportunity for employers to acknowledge the rapid overall “pace” of this generation and approach the incoming class of young professionals, smartphones fused to their hands, with the understanding that a proper work-life balance will arise naturally when given the opportunity.
My Experience at Newmeasures
I gained personal experience with this over the summer while interning at Newmeasures. Half of my work was done in the office and the other half was done remotely. I was new to the idea of a remote day, being given goals and focus points for the day and then deciding how, when, and where I was going to approach them. I had grown accustomed to having designated times and places for learning, studying, working, etc., so having the ability to design and approach my work this summer allowed me to locate my own work-life balance.
Being handed that responsibility instilled a sense of trust, which in turn generated a new type of motivation and eagerness to put forth my best efforts. Author Jemma Garraghan states, “To get the best from the millennial generation it’s important to be able to understand them fully. Business leaders will need to adapt their ways of working to harness the millennial contribution.” This is not to imply that I expect any employer to take me as I am or not at all, quite the opposite actually. What this does imply, is allow me to show you my ways of working, perhaps it will facilitate new methods of productivity.
Finally, clear expectations and how success will be measured within the organization are crucial to a successful mesh into a new organization. Millennials, like preceding and following generations, define themselves with social causes and having a sense of purpose. Clarity on how they fit into the organizational puzzle serves more than just understanding that finishing task A will contribute to task B, and so on. The yearn for responsibility is evident, in a generation raised with support of individual empowerment; I believe psychological fulfillment and sustainability can be achieved with clarity on how they can contribute to the organization on a meaningful level. While this perception is applicable to all generations, it seems to be more prominent with Millennials given the progressive environment in which we were raised. Over the summer of my sophomore year in high school, I worked for a rather large retail company. One thing that I took away from that experience was the first, and hopefully last, time of feeling like a small cog in a giant machine. I noticed that it was not just me who felt this way either, my coworkers seemed to follow the instructions, guidelines, and tasks given to them without any real understanding as to why they were doing what they were doing. Motivation, what little we had, stemmed from compensation, not the meaning behind work.
The environment of the company shaped this general atmosphere, and stemmed from “checklist” type work instead of tying daily to work toward broader goals of the organization. I often thought to myself, “why am I doing this?” or”‘where is this going to change anything?””My motivation quickly diminished with this job, and I learned that it was largely because my work was not met with any measure of success and meaning. Millennials are pegged with carrying a sense of entitlement, and I believe this is something that can be met by the progress principle. This principle is explained in Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer’s article “The Power of Small Wins,” and it captures the importance and effectiveness of everyday progress, or ‘small wins’: “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work” (Amabile & Kramer, 2011, p. 76). Aligning clear expectations with meaning could serve as a tool to accommodate the Millennial sense of entitlement and facilitate an understanding of earned responsibility. This was especially clear in my experience interning with Newmeasures. Every time I was introduced to a new project, idea, or responsibility, it was always made clear how my work would eventually contribute to a broader goal or product. No matter the size of the responsibility, it was consistently met with enthusiasm, importance, and direction.
Getting a Head Start at Newmeasures
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2017 the youth unemployment rate was 9.6%. Workforce competition among Millennials is evident and ever growing, being competitive requires more, or perhaps different accomplishments, than a degree and a few extra-curricular commitments. Although this generation has been considered the “best educated” with 22.3% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher (Rattner, 2015), it requires new competencies such as the ability to embrace change, seek connections, and build a unique personal brand to achieve a competitive edge. One aspect of industrial-organizational psychology that draws me to the field is the opportunity for innovation in methods and approaches. I feel fortunate to have been able to experience this aspect during my time at Newmeasures. An environment of encouraged innovation and curiosity met with limitless potential in applying and comparing my own meaning to work, is an environment I truly value. When I was welcomed aboard the Newmeasures team this summer, I was also welcomed with an atmosphere where people are curious about what other people are curious about, and a willingness to embrace change helped drive enthusiasm into everyday work in an almost adventurous way. I leave this experience hoping to carry these qualities with me and in search for a place in the professional world that values these aspects as much as I do after my experience with Newmeasures.
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