I’m probably not the first to tell you that Millennials are often the source of debate and subject of criticism in popular media today. We’re sometimes described as the laziest, most entitled generation; addicted to our phones and clueless about real human connection or professionalism. To others, we’re known as leaders in creativity and innovation, using the technology we’ve grown up with to change the world and educate ourselves and others about the most pressing issues of our time. Somewhere in the middle is the truth of what makes us great and what holds us back, which even Millennials are discovering as we navigate an increasingly turbulent world and try to find our place in it.
One of the latest Millennial-themed data pieces to pop up in places like Forbes and CNN Money focuses on our career aspirations and how we develop them. Millennials are becoming notorious for being “job hoppers,” staying at jobs for only a few years at a time and even changing career fields entirely several times before they hit their mid-30s. Needless to say, this goes against conventional career wisdom entirely. What happened to picking a career early and slowly gaining experience at a job, working your way up the ladder until you find yourself at the top? Millennials don’t seem to subscribe to this method, and often ignore it entirely. This may come as a shock to employers, who expect potential job candidates to stick with their companies for 10 or more years once hired. It may be nerve-wracking to evaluate candidates in their 20s, knowing that they might be one of the many who plan to spend only an average of two years at a new job. But this might also hold some information about the ways that Millennials bring themselves to new opportunities and approach the idea of a career in general.
As a Millennial, I know that I am connected to a vastly larger world of opportunities than the generations that came before me. While I’m coming into my stride as a professional in a time when jobs are often scarce, I am aware that my skills make me an asset to companies struggling to keep up with the times. I, like many Millennials, know that I have a lot to offer, and I know that there are all kinds of opportunities and professional relationships that have just as much to offer me. Millennials know intimately that growing and developing means both seizing opportunities that can support that growth, and moving on when another opportunity offers a different challenge.
There are ways to keep us on board, too. Millennials crave engagement and connection with our employers and need regular feedback that keep us motivated to rise to every new challenge. When, after a few years, what was once a dynamic professional environment becomes impersonal or takes our work for granted, we’re looking for the next source of inspiration that will keep our attention and loyalty, even if it’s in an entirely different career path. It’s the spark of connectivity and inspiration that draws us and keeps us, not the work perks or ladder-climbing potential.