Let me start off with a rant. It will be short, I promise. “Millennial” is a word I have a tough time saying, and swallowing. It’s often associated with words like “privileged,” “self-obsessed,” “lazy” and “entitled”. As a millennial, I want to challenge you to see us as “collaborators,” “creators,” “problem solvers” and “digital communicators” instead. Because, to be honest, if you don’t, my “privileged” self can promise you that your business will suffer.
Whether you like it or not, millennials are the largest generation in the Canadian workforce. Simply put, we are the future of your business. So why not skip the nasty nicknames and let’s figure out how we can all work together to help your company continue on — and maybe even grow — after you’ve retired. That’s what we do at Q Media Solutions; the content agency where I have rocketed from volunteer to producer and partner in just six short years.
In our small team of 12, a third of our staff is under the age of 25. Our senior partners are extremely supportive of our young team because the “boomer” founders have discovered the ultimate business secret: motivate a millennial and not only will they exceed your expectations, they might also teach you a thing or two. Because motivating younger staff means we can do more with less. We don’t have to hire big creative/strategy guns from outside, instead, we invest in the talent inside our business which means in the past five years, our third party suppliers/freelancers costs have been cut by over 50 per cent.
Tips for Companies:
So, how can you use this secret formula to your advantage and inspire young, bright-eyed, millennials?
1. Take off the kid gloves. Let the younger members of your team take real ownership of a project. If you do pro-bono work or are putting together an internal project, let a few of your younger colleagues take the reins. Keep your door open for feedback and questions, but trust that they will deliver a good product. When given an opportunity to shine, we will. Millennials are naturally fast workers and problem solvers, both traits inherited from growing up in the digital age, and we work extremely well in a collaborative environment.
2. Get off your high horse. Unpaid internships and co-ops are great ways to break into an industry, but unacceptable for the majority of millennials who are approaching 30 and too qualified to work for free. In our industry in particular, many exploit millennials because they treat us like it’s a “privilege” to work in media, and they take advantage of the fact that the majority of millennials “need” the experience. It’s time to stop thinking of millennials as under-qualified “kids”. Most, are very educated, thanks to the support boomer parents invested in opportunities to pursue music, sports, travel and higher education.
Being born and raised in this rapid-paced digital world means this younger generation has a strong grasp of the new tech coming down the pipeline and is in a better position to help companies innovate in this disruptive climate. This means you need to start thinking about teams not pyramids, so try breaking down those old-fashioned hierarchies too. Everyone should be able to work and learn from everyone else and young team members should be brought to meetings and client pitches to expose them to the variety of creative work you do.
3. Celebrate talent and respect your team. When younger team members do something great, celebrate! Not only will it give your office a chance to rally around a success story, it will motivate your millennial workforce to do it again and again. Just recently, my boss — and now my partner — nominated me for WXN’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and receiving the award was not only an extremely proud career moment for me (although my mom was by far the proudest woman in the room), it gave me a title I need to make sure my work lives up to, every day. And remember, your young staff’s success is yours too. Promotion of everyone’s success helps build a respectful workplace. Be considerate of your young staff’s personal time and it will ensure they’ll work their butts off when you need them in the trenches during deadline times.
And what about my fellow millennials — or, let’s just call each other “buds” — out there reading this? What can you do to shine in your company?
Tips for Millennials:
Find the right fit. I can’t stress how important it is to find a company or organization with a team that fits your passions and your personality. Not only does collaboration happen naturally when you work with a great team, but your enthusiasm and talents can only shine when you really feel you can be yourself in your work environment.
Never stop learning. It dawned on me pretty quickly when I left university that I didn’t have a ton of real-world experience (“you know nothing, Caitie Drewery“). So I took it upon myself to research, ask questions and take notes. My first week, I had to Google “call sheet,” a term commonly used in the business. It’s okay to say you don’t know. Don’t view your lack of experience as an inability to do the job, it’s just another opportunity to learn.
Believe in yourself. You’re creative and you’re innovative — that’s the nature of being a millennial. So next time there’s a communications challenge or a problem in the office, grab some fellow “buds,” puts your heads together, and dream up a solution, because that’s what you do best. As my boss and senior partner so often says, “don’t bring me a problem. Identify the problem and bring along some suggestions on how to fix it!”
As millennials, we do see the world differently — not necessarily better or more clearly — just differently. We bring fresh ideas and diverse perspectives to the table. Any healthy business or organization needs to look at the world, and themselves, from multiple perspectives. So really, without millennials, you’re missing out on an opportunity to take your business to the next level.
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