The other day I met a friend for a cup of coffee who had had a life-altering epiphany. The epiphany was that he suddenly realized that getting into a business school and landing a fancy job with a 6 digit salary at a google or an amazon will not make him happy in the long run. He realized that in the end it doesn’t matter where you work or how much money you make; its all about the people you end up with.
The reason why I am sharing this is because it got me thinking, not only about my own aspirations but about the generic aspirations of my generation — Gen Y — or so called the millennials.
Does our generation define happiness by money, a fancy job and other materialistic things instead of relationships, love, mental and physical health?
Don’t get me wrong, everyone including me wants to live a comfortable life and be able to afford anything but is money really all we’re working so hard for or is it just a by-product? There has to be a bigger reason right?
So I did what any Gen Y would do — I put up an Instagram story asking my friends about what is it that they want from life? And to my relief, most answers resonated with mine.
Through this series, I want to share the common aspirations of the millennials which will hopefully help the world to understand us and work with us better. Please note that I am talking specifically about the 1% privileged population across the world (A friend of mine who is an economics graduate threw in this statistic the other day over breakfast which was quite astounding for me). By privileged, I mean those who don’t need to necessarily think about providing for their family early on.
But Why is it even important for you to understand the millennials?
- Gen Y accounts for almost one third of the population across the world (Source- Bloomberg). Our priorities and outlook towards life is very different than baby bloomers or Gen X; mostly only because baby bloomers & Gen X were able to capitalize on the growing capitalism and have provided us with the privilege to do things differently.
- Also, with the advent of the technology, globalization and further capitalism, we are left with large disposable income and are in-fact driving the consumer market across the globe.
- Studies indicate that by 2020, Gen Y is projected to be 50% of the workforce and by 2025 this number is to reach 75%.
- In India, millennials are the Chief Wage Earners with a share of 47% in the working age population (Source- SHRM white paper and LiveMint).
In conclusion, whether you like it or not, we are different, we are everywhere and we are the inevitable future.
Working at a large scale corporate, I witness job dissatisfaction at a large scale which leads to less productivity and very often attrition due to very simple and easily manageable issues such as role mis-match, career progression, lack of recognition and simply the lack of empathy and understanding of one another.
So here’s my attempt at helping you understand our priorities, needs and aspirations better so that we can all contribute better to our work and to the world
Priority 1 — Creating an Impact!
Start-ups founded by students or college graduates are evolving at a rate more than ever. More and More students from privileged families are taking up fellowships at non-profits such as Tech For India instead of jobs with a great pay.
In-fact my own brother started to work at a small start-up right after business school. I remember during the initial days, they struggled quite a bit. He used to not withdraw his salary for months; he was probably even earning less than his peers. My parents and I never quite understood his decision back then. He now is the cofounder and head of product of that company. By the way, the company is among the top prop-tech companies across the globe and is revolutionizing the industry. My family and I get it now.. back then, my brother chose impact.
For people starting out at a mid or large scale organisation, it’s almost always quite difficult to make sense of your work or to understand how it adds value to the bigger picture.
I started out as a SQL developer. My job was to make small changes in a robust system every month. I never really understood the impact of my work — why was I doing what I was doing. It left me feeling insignificant and replaceable. And that is no way to feel right? Eventually my dissatisfaction grew so much that I quit. I found a new role and luckily I was able to clearly understand the impact that my work made (Thanks Antonio). It made me feel valued and powerful. It made me want to work more and put in more. The success followed after.
Maybe had I understood the impact of my work in my previous role, I would have been a little less dissatisfied.
Quick Lesson — As leaders, it’s important to make people understand the impact of their work. Every employee wants to add and create value. Sometimes the big picture may be very clear to you as a leader but not so much to those working on the ground. More than often, this is all people need. While money is important, giving a raise or a promotion in a non-impactful job is not going to help you retain an employee in the long-term.
For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, seek impactful work over short term monetary gains — It is going to help you immensely in the long run! Don’t stick to a job because it pays well. If your job doesn’t challenge you, excite you and makes you want to leave your bed every morning, you either don’t understand its impact or you’re in the wrong job.
Last week, I met with a very successful leader at work who shared his learnings from his eventful professional journey. The one which resonated most with me was about importance of understanding the impact of your work. He gave me a different point of view by holding the individuals responsible for understanding the impact of their work. It got me thinking.. maybe I should have tried harder to understand the impact of my work in my first role. Quick Lesson — Try harder and ask more questions to understand why you do what you do. After all, you are responsible for your own career.
Priority 2 — Having an Individual Identity!
Our generation is filled with extremely ambitious go-getters and hustlers. When you hire go-getters, understand that they need some space and opportunity to make their own identity.
To say the least, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by leaders who have given me the opportunity and confidence to create my own identity.
In 2018, when I switched to the role of a BI developer, I was given a project to deliver on my second day. Even though I had absolutely no idea where and how to begin, I was quickly able to deliver a great product and in-fact became really good at my job. How?
Well, all it took was a little help from my colleagues and on-call tutor (Hi Shikhar Goel) and a few hours of studying over the weekends..
..Apart from the fact that manager gave me enough space to learn and figure out things at my own pace (while ensuring that we meet the deadlines). He never told me what and how to do things instead gave me constructive feedback regularly. He trusted me enough to take responsibility for my own work and that I would reach out to him if I was stuck and needed help. More importantly, he gave me the space to create my own identity and relationship with my stakeholders which was very rewarding.
Quick Lesson — Hire people with the right attitude, people who are eager to learn and put in the effort. Once you do that, follow the mantra — Trust, Empower, Delegate and Feedback!
Managers who micro-manage often lead dissatisfied teams. Micro-management is a direct effect of lack of trust. As a leader, be transparent with your team and leave your insecurities behind. Out of all the wonderful things that I admire about and want to learn from my current manager, I admire his transparency the most.
Give the needful and earned recognition to the employees who deserve it. Giving recognition could be as simple as giving the rightful credit for the work someone has done or enabling your employees to interact with your stakeholders or the big bosses directly. It will not only make your employees feel valued and strengthen your relationship with them but will also reflect greatly on you as a leader.
Priority 3 — Making a difference and Giving back
This morning I woke up to the extremely saddening news of the untimely demise of Kobe Bryant, the famous basketball player, and his very young daughter.. Through his love and passion for the game and his family, Kobe was able to inspire millions of people across the world. That is his legacy. This got me thinking..If what I’m doing isn’t making a difference in anyone’s life, then what am I even doing.
This takes me back to one of the best things I heard my CEO talk about, not too long ago — When a fairly young employee explained his dissatisfaction about thinking enough about the community through his work to him, he responded by reminding the employee that by keeping the customers at the centre of everything we do, we are directly impacting the lives of 24 million customers in the UK for the better.
One of the reasons why I love what I do is because I feel like we are constantly affecting lives for the better through our work. We are not only making their lives immensely easier and saving them time, money and effort but are also actively driving their behavior to make better and more sustainable choices. And if we do this well, it should be giving back enough.
But in this world of uncertainties, unstable economies, political unrest, extreme poverty and world leaders arguing about whether climate change is real.. are we doing enough?
In my humble opinion, more of us need to take the initiative to educate people about sustainable practices; create green alternatives; teach people empathy and collaboration; build ecosystems that support small businesses (especially the green ones). That is how you can give back to the community.
Personally, I am involved in creating such ecosystems at work (about which I will talk about in another article). Through Barclays Speaks, we are trying to educate people around us about various issues including sustainable practices. Quick Lesson — It is VERY easy to make a difference. You don’t need to start big; you only need to start somewhere. Just start the conversation.. first with yourself, then your family, friends and colleagues and then just see it percolate.
On another note, my buddy Kirit Thadaka is doing some very very great work on his project “Rainfall”, which is going to make a HUGE difference in the lives of people in third-world countries.. those struggling to get the basics. Do connect with him to know more!
Priority 4 — Building Strong Relationships
Yuval Norrah Harrari attributes the tendency to form social circles and gossip to the reason behind the survival of homo-sapiens in his famous book, Sapiens. This is a no-brainer. We all need relationship(s) with other humans to feel alive.
In this fast-pace world, where we always feel like we are on borrowed time.. make time for your loved ones! For the younger ones in their 20s, actively invest time in building relationships. Another thing that stuck by me last week was a very crucial lesson by a leader – Don’t measure others by your own yardstick. What this means is, if someone else is investing less time at work and has a great personal life as compared to you but is doing as well at work as you, don’t measure him on the same scale as yourself. This will only lead to a negative cycle and inevitable burnout. Instead, have a life apart from one at work. Pick a hobby, play a sport, read a book, meet some new people and make time for your friends and family!
In our 20s, we are often told, “This is the time to make something of yourself” and “This is the time you work as hard as you can”. While all these things are true, don’t always make work your first priority, else life will just pass you by. The important thing from what I have learned is to not loose focus from your goals and to maintain a work-life balance. Work doesn’t define you but it’s everything else that does.
Thank you for reading! I will come back with some more interesting topics. Please do feedback via comments.