It was 2013 and I was finishing up my 4th and (hopefully) final internship.
You read that right. I was an intern in some capacity 4 separate times with 4 separate organizations. By all intents and purposes, I had become a professional intern.
The upside was that I had a TON of experience filing papers, planning small-scale events, folding chairs, and organizing closets. The downside was that most of that work was not fully prepping me for a career of any value down the road. Each opportunity had elements I could carry with me, but mostly I felt undeveloped, inexperienced, and like I had just completed a mostly unnecessary task on the to-do list of life.
Through my career as a professional intern, I learned a few things about what it takes to produce an experience every career starter, intern, or Millennial would LOVE to get out of their time with the leaders of the organizations they get to work for. And while I knooowwww there are a million +1 articles and opinions and stereotypes about Millennials, I have a little bit of klout to cover the subject since I am one, right? Here are a few things Millennials want:
1) Opportunity to impact the bottom line
Yes, Millennials need to learn the value of servant-leadership and the process of working our way up, but gaining real experience begins with working on meaningful projects that have the potential to make a positive impact on an organization. The lessons learned and knowledge gained from starting a campaign, leading a meeting, promoting an initiative, or selling a product can provide a lasting impact on their career path. Creating opportunity and trusting the Millennial to follow through (whether they fail or not) instills the opportunity for older generations to be legacy-minded. Which leads me to the next point...
2) Opportunity to fail
That campaign or meeting or initiative you all thought would change the world? Thank you for letting we Millennials lead that, but when failure comes (and it will eventually), take it as an opportunity to teach something valuable. Instill the valuable principles and truths that can only come after face-planting in the sand. Millennials (who are also people just like you) need a leader who teaches, coaches, and listens so that valuable life and business and leadership lessons can be learned moving forward.
3) Benefit of the doubt
The assumptions and stereotypes are E V E R Y W H E R E. And frankly, Millennials are tired of it. In fact, the term 'Millennial' itself has almost become a cuss word. Just because other folks in our generation appear lazy or entitled (or maybe they aren't but you just see it that way because things are different than they used to be) doesn't mean ALL Millennials are out to suck you dry of your company's paid leave, extra benefits, draft beer, and open office space. We don't judge you for being stuck in jobs you hate, weighed down by marriages you don't want, and overwhelmed with debt you didn't need, so please don't judge us for wanting to make our lives look a little different than yours.
4) Clear expectations
I had a job once where the vacation/PTO time was flexible. Basically, "we trust you" was the way the conversation went. And while trust is a BIG part of the equation, we also like to plan things that are important to us. For many Millennials, our work schedules, family time, social life, and personal hobbies are all things we like to have on a calendar. So just let us know exactly how many days off we get, and we'll work hard to do the best we can. But it doesn't stop there - give us clear expectations of how much (if any) time we'll get with you as a superior. Don't lead us to believe you are going to coach us or spend time with us, only to allow your calendar to win over our time together.. It's ok if you aren't going to spend time with us personally, but be clear about it on the front end. Millennials have had too many negative experiences with a lack of commitment from generations before us.
This is deeper than a job description. I'm talking about a clear, legacy-minded purpose behind the work we do as a company and how our work affects that bottom line. Millennials want an obvious motivator to make calls and hit goals and go the extra mile. And yes, extra cash is great, but is what we do making an impact on people and helping move our society forward? If it is, be able to prove it consistently and Millennials will continue to show up.
In the end, we want you to remember what it was like to be categorized or stereotyped when you were a career-starter. You were a person, looking for an avenue to live a meaningful life and provide for your family. And though the methods and motivators have changed, Millennials want the same things.
And before we were ever referred to as 'Millennials,' we were simply called people.
If you're a millennial, what would you add to this list? If you're not a millennial what feedback or criticism do you have?