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Millennials' Conflicting Interests

Certain “advocates” for Millennials, we’ll call them “concerned mothers” (CMs), are making public appeals to the business world to accommodate the perceived whims and desires of the youngest block of the workforce.

But the positions of the CMs and the practices of business aren’t always in sync. The stated hopes for Millennials (in bold), who will make up 75 percent of the workforce in another 10 years, are followed by a few observations about the realities Millennials face or are likely to encounter.

Alternative work schedules: While Millennials may want flexibility – to the point of surrendering some pay and promotions to get it, according to the CMs – most businesses are structured to optimize profits. Most businesses adhere to supremacy of the bottom line and operating in a structured and consistent environment is how they maximize it.

Allowing Millennials to work from home may help to accommodate some of their desires, but it doesn’t assure greater productivity and it flies in the face of teamwork, the foundation of most company operations; it also robs Millennials of the interaction and group reliance they’re so closely identified. (Texting and IMs only go so far.)

A clear career path: Although more than half of those Millennials polled cited career development as an important factor in taking a job, one CM writes, the fact is that nothing is guaranteed, including performance. I’ve seen plenty of new hires – with all the promise in the world – settle. Their promise was never realized. To map out a “clear” career progression for these people would have been impossible.

Meritocracy still has its place. It keeps people creative and committed. It’s this latter point that one CM’s own statistics should concern every employer: 60 percent of this 75 percent future workforce will leave their positions after less than three years. Less than three years? Where's the commitment to career?

Meaningful work: Varied work assignments or the chance to lead projects may be attractive to Millennials, it just may not be feasible for the company for several reasons – at least early in a Millennial’s tenure.

There are too many variables linked to work assignments: company size, scope of work, level of complexity, and so on, that plugging one individual into a variety of slots my not be practical. Taking the lead on a million dollar project for the sake of taking the lead may not make sense based on experience alone. Anyway, what are you going to tell the current project lead regardless of the project size?

Finally, ask any CEO if there is a position in his or her company that doesn’t need to be there, you’ll probably get a sharp look and a firm “no.” Every job has “meaning.”

So, Millennials, if you really want to develop a career that meets your interests and serves your future employer best: take the best job you can get, come up to speed quickly, learn as much as you can about the organization, and, if you like the company, plan to stay indefinitely.

The work will become meaningful, the career path will become apparent, flexibility will be the norm. And everything that CMs say you should be given you will have earned. There’s a difference.

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