Millennials, work, and the art of confidence and patience

When workplace changes are upon us, the adage of being comfortably uncomfortable is not so easy to do, and it’s especially important for leadership to communicate regularly and honestly during these times. Kate Goodwin writes for the Calgary Herald, “For millennials, a generation beginning to occupy more responsibility in the workplace, being in a space of not knowing can be especially difficult so it’s important (though they are famously pitted against each other) that they work with older generations to communicate and collaborate during these transitional times.”

“In a recent conversation, a colleague expressed surprise at how millennials are so driven to succeed.”

“’It’s almost to the point of being driven by fear,’ she said.”

“I nodded in agreement – because it is. As an older millennial, I remember the days before the Internet and what the old world order was like. My coming-of-age-days were literally when the world trade centre buildings collapsed, the Internet exposed us and every traditional business model was turned upside down. Uncertainty is part of my worldview, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with – in fact it makes it harder.”

“Hiwot Regasa is a 28-year-old woman, newly married, who has recently moved and is preparing for the end of a contract and the beginning of an MBA program. Nothing about her situation is comfortable, yet, she has managed to keep herself healthy and moving forward despite high levels of uncertainty.”

“What I find most frustrating is that I know where I would like to be in my career in the next 5-10 years, but the path to the get there is not clear,” she said. “There are so many possibilities and it can be overwhelming as there is no definite path that is correct.”

“Regasa attests to receiving mixed messages about the value of education and finds it difficult to navigate what actions will lead to success.”

“(I am pursuing an MBA) to give me an edge and further my career and personal development. Also to increase my earning potential. This is not guaranteed but because of the competition in the job market and with masters degrees becoming more common, I feel like I need to do this to stay competitive.”

“She says that despite this belief, she has also learned that experience is very valuable, maybe more so than education so she tries to get involved in projects to help build on her strengths. It can be difficult to gain both education and experience and can seem like a catch-22 when applying for work – an expensive and uncomfortable reality for many.”

“Why are we fearful? Millennials are an oft-misunderstood group because we have been frozen for years due to economic collapse and can’t get a mortgage on a contract. We must succeed for fear we will never grow up (though we have been casually accused of being Perpetual Peter-Pans). “Entitled” is not a word I would use to describe myself of any of my peers, however, “the desire to contribute in a meaningful way” is a more accurate description. Millennials are more collaborative and more emotionally available than any generation before. They are also more prone to mental health issues – or perhaps they are just more honest about experiencing them.”

“In order to keep you and your team healthy when going through a major change at work it is important to take some time to step back and get a clear perspective. Be mindful of what you say and whom you say it to and keep a sense of personal integrity by cultivating interests outside of the workplace. For millennials, the most important skill to develop is probably patience. The uncertainty and anxiety that has permeated our career path has had some positive ramifications – namely that we are ambitious, but when being asked to sit still and hold on with no indication of path, our anxiety can get the best of us, which could lead to impulsive decisions or unnecessary worry and strain. Take time to take care and reflect on your abilities and lifestyle situation. Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all at once and be confident initiating conversation.”

“For those baby-boomers and Generation X-ers in leadership positions, it’s important for you to have a robust language surrounding discussions of success, recognition, change management, merit, equality and to be open to new ways of doing things. A previous employer once joked that the organization had one hundred positions and one hundred different titles, to this day I remember sitting there thinking that the very thing she was poking fun at was an ingenious strategy.”

“As Regasa prepares for the end of her contract, she understands the importance of a healthy perspective.”

“I am very goal oriented so I stay motivated by setting goals and working towards them,” she said. “There are many challenges in the workplace regarding growth and development. I think the best way to overcome these challenges is by staying positive and looking for opportunities that will help me grow in my career.”

She says that success for her means being able to learn and to grow personally and professionally and being able to balance the two. “I measure success not so much by how much I earn or my title but how happy I am doing what I do.”

“Hopefully as more Millennials are granted more opportunities some fears and stereotypes will be dispelled and workplaces will benefit from positive change. Yes, it is difficult to balance expectations, but since we’ve navigated Facebook and online dating at least we’ve learned the value of transparency and personal worth.”

“Regasa will land on her feet, and she is an inspiration on how to do so.”

I”n times of change, especially times of transformational change, it is so important to forget the jargon and the vague terminology and to be mindful of closed doors and whispers. We must learn to speak honestly, confidently, precisely and collaboratively if we are to create the psychologically healthy spaces where we will be able to do tomorrow’s work. For the organization, that means being truthful to your strategy. For leaders, this means demonstrating empathy, and for the individual this means practicing integrity, patience and developing a clear value system.”

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