We are here.

And we are many.

How Millennials will change the world of work

I’ve been giving talks on Millennials (Generation Y) in the past 2 years both in Hungary and abroad. I talk about how we like to work and how companies should actually recruit and talk to us. Because it turns out that companies need us. They need our different way of thinking, our ideas and familiarity with technology. But somehow most of them can’t reach us. Usually, because they are using outdated channels and messages to get through us.

And you know what? There is always a 40+ person coming up to me after my presentation saying that

“I’m a Millennial at heart too.”

And you know what?

I believe them.

I believe that this whole generational differences blah blah, pointing fingers at each other and analysing each other is a nice big bubble that is going to burst soon. Of course there are some basic differences between generations we have to consider. We grew up in different times. We were born and raised under different circumstances, in different environments. We were socialised differently, and because of this, we use different tools to handle or to solve a certain situation.

When I don’t know something, I Google it or watch a YouTube tutorial. When my Mom doesn’t know something, she starts calling people. Or asks me to Google it for her.

What comes naturally for a given generation, might be completely different for another. And it is totally OK. This is not something we cannot bridge.

I am convinced that this story is about something else:

The world has changed completely in the past 15 years.

And we, the now 20-somethings are the generation that grew up with these changes. These are life for us, so we have developed different attitudes accordingly. There are three factors we have to consider that have affected our lives — and hence the way we think of the world of work.

1. Environment

We are used to things changing around us all the time, so are always ready for the hammer to drop. We saw 9/11 and shatter status quos in 2001 as teenagers. We saw the iPhone revolutionise the way we share, communicate, as well as our customs in 2007. We saw the world go down after the 2008 financial crisis and our parents loose their jobs even after being loyal to a company for 20 years. We are prepared that we have to stand our ground whatever comes. Out of the blue. We are used to the fact that nothing is granted anymore. There is no such thing as a secure, full-time job. The speed of business is always changing, economy is too unpredictable and technology is evolving rapidly. There are simply too many factors we can’t control. And we have accepted it. Our basic mode is adaptation. We are chameleons always changing, blending and learning new skills to stay alive — we just follow the constant changes of our environment. It is pure evolution. We know that nothing is granted anymore.

2. Technology

30, 20 or even 10 years ago you had to be physically in your office to do your work. All the information and your tools you needed to do your tasks from a computer to books, fax and information your colleagues had were there. And let’s not even mention huge storage and filing rooms.

But the rising influence of social media, smartphones and cloud technology has altered the way we seek, evaluate and engage with each other — and in work. These tools have enabled us to talk to each other, search and do research in a matter of seconds, 24/7. It made possible us to work from non-traditional places as well, such as our home, a café or even the airport. You can now work the way you live. Technology has helped us to broaden our borders. It is a misconception that we live our lives online. The digital world is the extension of the analogue world for us. I’ve recently written an ebook with dr. Steffi Burkhart (also a GenY expert from Germany) with whom in the analogue world 2.500 km sets us apart. But in the digital world 0. We met only once in person when the idea was born, but over a 100 times online. We wrote the whole ebook in Google Drive, talked via Facebook and Skype. And loved every minute of it. The Internet has enabled us an international cooperation.

3. Company culture

In the past 15 years we have seen small start-ups, founded by open-minded young entrepreneurs grow into huge enterprises (Google, Facebook, Evernote etc.) in front of our eyes — and introduce a new work culture. Different and more human-scaled than we ever saw before. Where our age is not a disadvantage, but an advantage. These successful start-ups are attracting top talents like magnets with the possibility to do meaningful work, with cozy, fun and social offices as well as with a friendly, team-spirited environment. They offer to be part of a mission to change the course of the world. They have proved that work doesn’t necessarily have to mean something you have to get over with. What’s more, you can enjoy it.

The problem and source of tensions is not between generations.

It’s between an old, static, hierarchical, and a new, flat and more flexible systems at work. We are in a time when entire economies, organisations and industries are transforming. And yet, we use ancient, outdated organisational practices in our 21st century world.

Workplaces are changing and people feel it.

We are on the verge of a new era. Our era. We have the technology, we have the means and we have the proof that it works. We have the possibility to enter the 21st century at work too. This is our chance to make a difference. And you know what? The numbers are with us. According to PwC, by 2020, half of the global workforce will be consisting of Millennials and by 2025, we will take up 75% of the jobs.

This means that in 5 years’ time (tops) we’ll be the ones sitting in manager positions. We will be the ones making the calls. We will have the chance to change this all. To create a work culture where creativity, innovation and team spirit can thrive.

But with this opportunity comes great responsibility as well.

We have to speak our minds.

We cannot settle for mediocrity saying that “this is how things always used to be.” It is our common responsibility to lead the way and show people how people should work in the 21st century. We are grew up in this environment. We know change and flexibility. We’re home.

We have now the opportunity to prove the world that we are not lazy but mature, not narcissists but having the future of work in mind and not entitled but visionaries. It’s our responsibility to create the work culture of the 21st century. A culture, where not only us, but today’s generations and our future kids can thrive. We have to create a system that’s flexible enough to follow the rapid changes of the environment should they be technological, economical or political.

Be proud of who you are. Of thinking out of the box. Of relying on your network. Of being digital. Of speaking your mind. Of wanting more.

You are not alone. We are many.

Let’s create the future of work.

Watch my talk on this topic at TEDxBudapest @SZIGET festival 2015