Business Insider agreed with the central premise of my book Googling God and they have a great article today on 13 Ways that the recession has changed how Millennials view work. I agree with most of their observations and you should read them all and see what you think.
This one is my favorite and reflects much of my own personal experience with my students:
They’re sheltered and would like to stay that way…
But being sheltered and managed closely by their parents, this generation has “no interest in exploding the system, preferring to simply prosper within a world order that has previously been pretty kind to them,” writes Entrepreneur Penelope Trunk
But wait, there’s more. Penelope Trunk on her blog goes in depth with the above and there’s a piece here that I think she hits the nail on the head with:
Gen Y does not admit it, but their top priority is stability. This is a fundamentally conservative generation. And in the middle of this very long article in Business Week is an important quote from Andrea Hershatter, director of the undergraduate business program at Emory University and veteran of college recruiting:
“There is a strong, strong millennial dislike of ambiguity and risk, leading them to seek a lot more direction and clarity from their employers, in terms of what the task is, what the expectations are, and job progression.”
Stability and security and a need FOR DIRECTION is their central longing. Thanks for proving my book correct folks. With the students that I work alongside and even some colleagues the fact that ambiguity is so hard for them to deal with certainly is something I’ve experienced. Students are worried about picking careers that ultimately won’t satisfy them and don’t want to jump around to different careers. They often think that they have to have it all figured out immediately upon graduation. The fact that I’ve moved from broadcasting to internet ministry to campus ministry impresses many of them. And once they hear my story it seems to bring them some comfort in realizing that I can be their mentor firstly and that it’s OK to not have life figured out at 22.
That said, much of the time I hear from folks around the country that older baby boomer colleagues and ministers have no tolerance for their need for direct answers or even for direction. Millennials are people who want strategic plans, business plans and opportunities to participate in criticizing those plans to make them rock solid. They want things spelled out up front and some say in adjusting those plans if they find them wanting or short-sighted.
Many are afraid to fail. Mostly this is so because they’ve grown up expecting not to fail. Every student gets some kind of an award in their elementary and high schools. Losing that kind of affirmation is probably jarring but pushing back against “the man” is not what they are about. In fact, institutions are relatively trusted entities, until they don’t do what Millennials expect them to do.
Hershatter gives a great interview because she explains in detail why young people today are fundamentally conservative in their goals and decision making. Not conservative politically. (In fact, we know they are not conservative politically.) But conservative in their lifestyle. They are not risk takers, not boat rockers, not revolutionaries. Young people today want a safe, nice life, and clear path to that goal.
Things start to look murky because young people are so difficult for older people to deal with at work. Young people seem to be demanding that everyone change to accommodate them. In fact though, young people are merely demanding that the workplace live out the values that the people who run the work place – parents of Gen Y – taught at home: Personal growth (“turn that TV off!”), good time management (ballet Monday, soccer Tuesday, swimming Wednesday…), and family first.
So the question for us ministers to ask is this: Do we give young people clear goals, training and expectations? Do we have a clear strategic plan for them to follow? Are goals measurable and tangible? What ultimately do we want to be the result? Are we getting parents and families involved in some way–those who have the greatest influence on these students? Even simple things like the need to make relationships with other campus entities might not be obvious, or to try to spend time with peers on campus more often and be visible members of the Catholic Campus Ministry in a variety of ways to help break down some walls and build relationships with them is particularly key. It’s why some of the more visible aspects of being Catholic work well (social justice ministry that has tangible results, outward signs of Catholicism–wearing a cross for an example or priests who wear their collars, living in a Catholic dorm). Young people want to see the results and also in a busy world young people need to see the easy signs of Catholicism to even notice that Catholicism exists around them–especially true on a public campus.
We also need to be self-critical in this regard. So how are we contributing to the strategic plan with our younger colleagues? Leading by example is often better suited to millennials than simply telling them what they need to do. Working together always trumps working independantly. Essentially, millennials hope that the results are obvious and that we share in the joy of achieving them together. It’s a big reason why I love doing retreat work with millennials and why I love being a spiritual director with them. I train the students to run the retreats and this semester they even had a hand in designing a new format.
That said, I’ve also had trouble in getting students to “pick up the ball and run with it.” We often need to provide a time and place to achieve something as simple as making a banner for the student union. The minutia of details need to be spelled out often and then the students can achieve what is asked of them, but very few think of these details themselves.
What about our other campus ministers out there? What has been your experience here?