By: Craig Lovelace, Resonate Network
We will spend, on average, 96,000 hours or 13 years of our lives at work. Our vocation has a massive impact on our sense of self, our identity, and how we interact with the world. When we look to the future of work, it is clear that the tendencies of Millennials and Gen Z workers will shape the work environment and experience. Young workers are faced with massive opportunity as they bring a unique set of strengths to the workforce. At the same time, they face immense challenges that could limit their potential. As Christians we have a foundational theology helping us know who we are as image bearers and therefore should be entering the workforce more equipped than most to answer questions about workplace impact, maximizing our strengths and operating out of a sense of confidence. How did God uniquely make you? What are your greatest strengths? What is your personal mission that gets you up in the morning? Christian Millennials should be fully equipped to answer these questions.
This installment of our “Adulting 101” series will tackle this issue and help us to stand out as uncommon Millennials and Gen Z workers.
Are We all just Entitled and Lazy?
Unfortunately, over the last decade, Millennial and Gen Z workers have developed a reputation among older generations and an older generation of supervisors and leaders for being lazy and entitled. Obviously, this can’t be true of all Millennials, but nevertheless it seems to be a shared sentiment. Why is that? The following challenges might have something to do with it.
1. Millennials Highly Value Work Flexibility and Benefits
Job flexibility, freedom to work from home or a coffee shop, quality benefits, and a sense of purpose in their work are very important to Millennial and Gen Z workers. Unlike previous generations, younger generations aren’t afraid to share their desires or change jobs to achieve their ideal work context.
Research shows that while other generations had similar desires, they’ve never been encouraged to voice these desires and their careers began in an era where 9-5 desk jobs were the norm. Therefore, they have a hard time seeing desires for flexible hours or location and willingness to make changes to find ideal work as something other than entitlement. To be honest, as a millennial supervisor, I can sometimes be tempted to assume my peers’ desires for work flexibility is rooted in a desire to work less or work easier.
These desires from young workers aren’t wrong. In fact, they may be the key to unlocking our God-given potential and helping more people live into their calling or vocation rather than simply slogging through a life of uninspiring work. However, if we’re not careful, we can communicate values and desires that aren’t about maximizing our impact or adding value to our workplace culture, but rather are only about adding value and comfortability to our work experience. We should be careful to check our motives to ensure that we’re leveraging our freedom for greater impact rather than for our own comfort. Make yourself a value-adding member of your team by erring on the side of hustle and high effort while working to communicate the value of job flexibility and freedom.
2. We Now Live in a “Make-your-own-way” Marketplace
We now live in a “Make-your-own-way marketplace.” We all believe we can be the next Youtube star if we just follow our passions and dreams. Millennials have been told we can be whatever we want. The likelihood of this isn’t great, and yet we tend to believe that we can carve our own path if we don’t like the jobs currently available in our desired industry. Past generations took what they could get and often stayed in one place for a long time. Today’s “make your own way” marketplace makes it more possible than ever to create the job you desire. This is a huge advantage for entrepreneurs and innovative Millennials, but it won’t work for everyone and isn’t a guarantee. A more predictable path toward a job you love is learning to be a person who knows how to lead up the chain and improve the culture of the job you already have.
Ultimately, your dream job, that role where your strengths and personality are well aligned with your responsibilities exists, or you can work to create it. That’s the beauty of the world in which we now live.
On our way to discovering our unique place in the world, we’d do well to listen to Angela Duckworth, a well known psychologist and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. According to Duckworth, “Follow your passion” is pretty bad career advice. Duckworth says:
“There's no other way to describe the voluntary obsession, the full commitment that people have in their careers other than passion, loving what you do. But I don't love the "follow" part. It sounds like it's out there and you just have to discover it, and if you don't feel like you have passion for your work, you missed it somehow or you have to keep looking for it, as if it were a whole thing and not something that gradually develops over time and I think that's actually the better verb, that you should develop your passion, not follow it.”
There are so many things about our jobs and our path through life that we can’t control. Yes, we should develop and pursue our God-given strengths and passions, but we would be fools to believe every job, and certainly our first (or second, or tenth) job should perfectly unlock our passions, gifts and strengths.
3. Obsess over the things you can control
When we’re building influence, growing in our craft and learning our strengths, the best thing we can do is to put energy and effort into the things we can control. Ultimately, the most controllable elements of your experience in work are two things: your effort and your attitude. Do you choose to work hard and give your best? Do you choose positivity and trust, bringing those values to your workplace?
You can’t control your boss. You can’t control your co-workers. You can’t control your company’s culture entirely. But, you can control your effort and your attitude. We follow a God who modeled a life of giving his best with joy. In Colossians 3:23 Paul says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters...” Work to honor the Lord with all your efforts. In Christ, we can choose to be that kind of servant leader as we enter the workforce.