By Thandazani Ngwenya, client executive at 21st Century
There is a lot of research about the varied needs and world views of different generations. In this article, a working millennial discusses how work looks through his eyes and what has changed in comparison to how his parents did it.
The age of instant gratification
I am in month three of the world of work, in my first job and an excited employee. As a millennial, flexibility, accessibility, ease and instant gratification are part of our ‘genetic make-up’.
The very first work experience
Technology and its advancements are very familiar to me. Growing up in the digital age meant that a large portion of my relationships, both personal and professional, were established online. My career, in terms of how I positioned myself, was conducted on a virtual basis; for instance, via LinkedIn, and unlike my parents’ era, I was not confined to physically having to deliver my CV. My job search was made easier by access to technology.
This is an element that I have come to associate with my current world of work, where seeking and starting work during the global pandemic meant that relationships were established on a virtual basis. I met the majority of my colleagues via platforms like Zoom and Microsoft teams. The relationships were not difficult to establish or maintain. In fact, I believe these circumstances made people more accessible at all levels of the organisation, including management.
Being raised in the digital age made me accustomed to a life that is characterised by access, increased usability, and to a degree, instant gratification. These are characteristics and expectations I have brought to my workspace.
Was it different to what you expected? In what way?
It was VERY different! I grew up observing not only my parents but extended family and their friends, donning three-piece suits for interviews, having to physically submit CVs to HR representatives and attending activities such as interviews and onboarding/orientation in person to outline a few elements.
Transitioning from university into the real world with that as the basis for how I have come to see the working world was quickly displaced by technological advancements and the COVID pandemic. For starters, my interview was conducted virtually, and I had attended a funeral on the same day, which prompted me to conduct my interview from a car in a different province than that of my prospective place of employment.
This scenario embodies my attributes as a millennial. It was convenient, easy (not bound to the traditional brick and mortar confines) and allowed for flexibility. When I got the job, my orientation into the organisation followed a similarly flexible path. It was conducted both virtually and in person. And because of the remote element, I had the opportunity to form relationships with some of my colleagues that I would not have ordinarily had access to.
The hierarchical divide I expected was not the same as how previous generations described it. The channels of access were opened immensely, with immediate access to executives and management.
My outputs were within my control, as if I had become the CEO of my own enterprise, motivated to produce work and achieve optimal results, not because of constant supervision but because I was driven. For me, I believe this is an important responsibility when flexibility and an excess in freedom is introduced.
I have come to understand the culture of my new company, and see that it is likely I would have experienced a non-hierarchical entity in any event. But I have been impressed at the adaptability and strength of relationships and culture, particularly at this early stage of my employment.
As days roll into nights, into weeks, months, years… we are prone to changes at the core of our existence as humans, having to adapt as life evolves. Society at large is not immune to this evolution and the world of work is vastly different from the way it was introduced to me from a spectator’s point of view.
What does it all mean?
Flexibility in today’s world of work for me is indicative of an ability to structure my life in the way that I see fit. For instance, I have been able to dabble in online courses in between my breaks, learning new skills on YouTube or just spend time reading a book.
A flexible work structure takes away the notion of surveillance, and with that, an ability to accurately measure productivity in its traditional sense. As a millennial, I feel like a CEO of my own job, where flexibility has given me the ability to take responsibility and become the ‘boss’ of myself. My pay is influenced by everything I do every day; my job satisfaction is up to me; my learning and development is in my own hands.
Accessibility as an element of my ‘genetic make-up’ is experienced in the way that the communication lines between myself, my superiors and my colleagues have opened up, replacing the hierarchy I expected with a harmonious openness and access to other team members.