There seem to be two prevailing preconceptions when it comes to Millennials. The first is they are incapable of sitting still, be it career-wise, in relationships, or even in geography. The second is that they eat obscene amounts of avocado on toast.
Think I’m joking about the toast thing? Seriously, just Google “Millennials and toast” and marvel at how many resources have been devoted to researching and writing articles about an apparent obsession with bread and guacamole.
Before we go any further though, let’s briefly clarify who we are talking about when we say Millennials. If you immediately imagine a scrawny 19-year old who has never known the struggle of polishing DVDs with your T-shirt to get them to work better, then you’d be wrong. Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, which makes them anywhere between 23 and 38 years old (I’m just as surprised as you are).
By and large, Millennials are the spawn of Baby Boomers. That generation that enjoyed the post-war economic rise, and had a penchant for work ethic and company loyalty. The mindset of the Baby Boomer then – as they enter retirement and find the best use of their newfound free time is to scrutinize the questionable decisions being made by their kids – is one of stability. Find a good job, work hard, pay your dues, and you’ll reap the benefits down the line.
Millennials tend to think a little different though. We are notoriously focused on immediate results. Instant gratification is the order of the day in an age where everything can happen at the speed of light. Imagine waiting more than 2 days for a package to arrive?
In the context of work, things are also geared toward short term benefits. Companies are chosen based on the salaries and benefits they offer now. And loyalty often runs only as deep as the next great offer. On top of that, work should be fun, or at least interesting. If it’s going to take up a third of our day, it may as well be worth it. Right? Millennials are all about the experience, and usually, that experience won’t be found sitting in the same cubicle day in and day out for three decades.
There are many reasons to be critical of the Millennial mindset when it comes to work. After all, the fruits of your labor can only truly be enjoyed after a sustained period of nurture.
Yet it’s not all crazy talk.
The issue is the polarizing traits of Baby Boomer parents and their Millennial offspring muddies the waters of truly analyzing the changing nature of work. Either generation is using the same terminology when talking about work and jobs, yet their understanding of what that entails is often vastly different.
While habits and traits have evolved over generations, so to have the societal norms and expectations that shape them. Work today is different from what it was three decades ago. In this new century, the definition of work has less and less relevance to terms such as offices, work hours or even salaries. When we talk about work, less and less are we referring to the act of commuting to an office, clocking in, existing for 8 hours, clocking out, commuting back home and doing the whole thing over again tomorrow. No, when we talk about work we talk about deliverables. We talk about the expected outputs and we talk about timeliness. Everything else is irrelevant.
The key question here is: if two people are completing the same piece of work, and one person spreads the load out over an 8 hour day at the office taking a few breaks in between, while the other person finishes it before breakfast while on a hike in the Appalachians, who is doing the right thing?
The answer is subjective, but if the Millennial chooses a 4-hour workday while munching avocado toast and taking a Wednesday off, does it really matter?