Those who know me, know that I am a major supporter of lifelong learning. Whether it’s technology, cultures or how to ride my tandem bike better with my husband, I’m always looking for new ways to interact with the world around me. I like to think that my two Millennials are learning from me, but I know I am continuously learning from them when they surprise me and challenge my views, which is why I always jump at the opportunity to meet and engage with members of this generation.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with 40 members of our IBM Millennial Corps at our Watson IoT Center in Munich to kick off their three-day Next Gen Lab workshop. This magnificent group of IBMers is a global squad of Millennials driving how their generation engages with our company. They saw an opportunity to take the successful innovative experiences from their community and apply it to a client project in collaboration with Millennials from BMW. For the first time ever, Millennials from both companies sat together for the three days and explored innovative brand experiences for the next generation of automotive consumers. Next Gen Lab co-organizer and IBM Millennial, Irina Yakubenko, shares her experience and key learnings from the event in her recent post: “How 45 Millennial Employees from IBM & BMW Partnered to Create the Future of Mobility.”
I was quite inspired to see Millennials gathering together to tackle some of our top client topics and intrigued by what all generations can learn from Millennials to be successful in this digital age at work. Especially since the thought that Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations is actually a myth! Many Millennials put the same weight on many of the same career goals as older generations, as an IBM IBV study on “Millennials in the Workplace” uncovered. While many of us may not be from the Millennial generation given our birth years, we can all be a bit more Millennial-minded in our personality and world view to build the skills we need to be successful in the new digital age.
A few things I took note of based on my experience at the event:
It’s important to Millennials to specialize in many areas, which is why the generation has been nicknamed the “Slash Generation,” referring to the many titles they take on. They use ‘slashes’ to describe themselves and the many skills and roles that make up their identity – marketer/DJ or financial analyst/workout instructor, for example. There is a major desire for Millennials to build versatility beyond their day job, and those additional skills are often transferable, which helps them do their day job even better, such as bringing their music expertise into their marketing work, for example. Creativity and thinking skills are key to succeed in the digital age, both of which many Millennials are building as they diversify their skills.
Millennials have also been given the nickname “Generation Binge.” Now hear me out, I know “binge” tends to have a negative connotation – spending hours watching episodes, even seasons, of TV shows, for example – but aspects of this “binge” behavior are actually quite advantageous. Millennials binge on information. It happens via many channels – TV, websites like Reddit or Wikipedia, and podcasts, to name a few. It’s very natural for a Millennial to type a topic into Google and spend hours reading and learning about it from articles and pages all over the internet. This eagerness to consume more and more is actually very helpful for continuous learning, diving deeper into different topics, and exposing themselves to different or even contrasting viewpoints. All of which can be very valuable in bringing new skills and knowledge into a Millennial’s day job, especially since the ability to learn independently is key to being successful in the digital age.
Don’t be Fooled – Millennials are Resilient.
I’ve heard several people refer to Millennials as the “Snowflake Generation,” a derogatory description meaning they are less resilient than other generations and too easily offended when people try to challenge their views. But I’ve come to learn that is not the case at all! In fact, Millennials are one of the most diverse and inclusive generations who embrace a global view and authenticity. And they are constantly collaborating to solve tough problems, as illustrated by the IBM and BMW Next Gen Lab I mentioned earlier, and want to help the greater good. Their digital skills help flatten their world to expose them to many different views around the world and enable them to work together.
It’s important that we take note and learn from our Millennials; that we embrace versatility and go deeper. Working on a skill or role that you love outside of your day job and spending time to consume many levels of content are behaviors and qualities we should all adopt to continue to be innovative and relevant in this day and age. To quote a section of ‘On Children’ from Kahlil Gibran, “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, / which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. / You may strive to be like them, / but seek not to make them like you. / For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”