I recently had the privilege of speaking (as a last-minute emergency fill-in) with a group of highly educated Millennials who are eager to enter the workforce. I presented my ideas on career choices, gave some tips on interviewing, and shared entrepreneurial concepts. At the end, I simply asked them: “So, what do you want out of life?”
The first student (an intern) spoke up said something that all parents and employers should hear: She said that the Millennials’ American dream is very different than my generation’s American dream. “Our dream is to have choices, not riches. We want quality of life, not elite status. We want happiness, not wealth. We want mobility and freedom, not seniority in one company.”
As she spoke, every speech I’ve ever given to students was running through the back of my mind. This brilliant 21-year-old college senior had just devalued pretty much everything I thought would motivate Millennials. It made me think about ways NSCA members can recruit and onboard new employees far better by using their vision and aspirations as the basis for the career path.
Then I asked the group about risk-taking and starting a business. Almost everyone raised their hands when I asked who wanted to own their own business. When I asked who would sign a personal guarantee, half the hands came down. When asked if they would be willing to use all their personal assets as collateral for a business loan, only a few hands remained up. The students whose hands remained up weren’t greater risk-takers; they didn’t have more money than the others. They all had an idea for a killer app. Every single one of them – they had a new app idea.
We established that these Millennials want lifestyles, happiness, freedom, choices, mobility, no debt, and improved quality of life. I learned that they don’t want long hours, risk, stress, worries, confinement, or pressure. All along, I thought that risk, long hours, stress, loyalty, and (eventually) wealth would lead to happiness, freedom, choices, and other cool stuff. But I had that messed up, apparently. (Remember that this was a group of college-level interns trying to figure out their career paths, or “lifestyle” paths, as they called them.) Very smart and personable, I truly hope these kids won’t be disappointed with the real world.
Here are some of the individual responses I received when I asked each of them individually: What do YOU want?
- “I want a lifestyle more than I want a career.”
- “I want to own a great business, not just work for one.”
- “I don’t want to borrow any more money or be in debt my whole life.”
- “I don’t want to be tied down with the burden of homeownership.”
- “I want a simple and small place to live that doesn’t consume me with upkeep.”
- “I want a job where I can make a real difference and improve the quality of life for others even more than myself.”
- “I want to help close the technology gap between your generation and mine.”
- “I want the evenings and weekends to myself.”
- “I want to work in all regions of the country before I settle down.”
- “I want to be impactful and make the company I work for better.”
- “I want to feel alive and excited at work every day.”
- “I want to invent something meaningful and important.”
- “I just want an awesome family and a great job.”
- “I want to live in a city just like this one, but not this one – understand?”
No, I didn’t understand – but I must confess that I had a great time with these students and learned a lot from them.
On a very positive note, I think we have something here to consider. Our industry is made up of many “lifestyle businesses,” so maybe we can attract these bright students to join us.
As we draw attention to the things we offer that they want, we also need to think more about the disconnects (not wanting to work long hours or be stressed at work, for example). –Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director
P.S. The one business loan that my banker friends won’t underwrite: startup businesses that develop smartphone apps.
Photo by: Ambro