There’s been a lot of talk about Millennials lately — what they like and don’t like, what motivates them, their buying habits, and not least of all their influence on the job market and workplace. It’s true that as new generations enter the workforce, the way our office spaces look and function continues to change. As a Millennial myself working in the tech industry, I did a little reflecting on my own career path and what helped make past jobs great places to work.
1) Make work about me and I will make my life about work
Wikipedia calls Millennials a generation of “Me” workers, and it isn’t hard to see the technology industry as a perfect fit for us. Make your own schedule (I show up to work at the time that works for me). A workplace that caters its facilities to the individual (How good is your office’s onsite cafe?). Boundless opportunity to make a difference (In software, anything is possible!).
So I’ll say it: as a generation, we Millennials expect a lot. But we also give a lot! Keeping in touch with work email from one’s phone, connecting with colleagues through Facebook and taking your latest project home with you are regular practices, and natural habits, of many tech employees. Then you look around at the office and the kegs, coffee baristas and find yourself searching for bars in San Francisco as part of your job — and the lines between home life and work life suddenly look very blurry for many of us.
2) I want to feel like I am growing at the pace of my product
With its accessible tools and broad distribution channel, software lends itself very naturally to creating large, scalable output, quickly. The cycle of making mistakes, learning from them, and evolving one’s approaches and efforts can also happen very quickly. That’s the kind of iterative growth that used to take years of experience.
In San Francisco tech, staying at a job longer than a couple years (and sometimes months) is considered very long, and almost everyone gets started right after college. At Yelp, many of the more senior people I work with are in their twenties. It’s awesome to see that even without the age or tenure of those roles at more traditional industries, these individuals have been able to experience many of the same challenges and been able to grow accordingly.
3) Keep me challenged and give me opportunities
While earning a degree at a liberal arts college I was regularly coached that higher education was more about the process of learning than about the material we were learning itself. In my career in tech, this message has been reinforced time and again: my places of work have all valued agility, versatility, and initiative over traditional experience or expertise.
One of the things I have been proudest of at Yelp is working on projects of large scale and impact. The company’s trust in its employees is tremendous and I have been so impressed at how fully it empowers individuals to take on completely new challenges.
4) Show me the relevance of your product in my life
What better way for a “Me” generation Millennial to spend her professional life than working on a product for “Me”?
Many of Yelp’s users are Millennials, and a service like Yelp has changed the world around us. It is empowering and inspiring to create experiences that have changed my own life. The way we select a dentist or find a parking garage is completely different. Every Millennial, not just the savvy or best connected, knows the best dishes to order at the newest restaurants in town. If a Millennial doesn’t want to cook or wait for a table to open up, he can order five star Thai food through a few smartphone taps. Improving the way we interact with the world around us is an inspiring reason to come to work each day.
In the end, we all want to make a difference, and feel like our work matters. Great places of work foster an environment that enables this for Millennials and other generations alike.