The Millennial Question: Will this job fit with my life plans?


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The days when jobs were a prized possession in India, even for the best educated are long over. Through most of the last decade at least, jobs have been chasing people rather than the other way around. If I look at the campus opportunities at my alma maters, IIMB and IISc in recent years, it’s been a non linear growth in the quality of companies and compensations that are available. However, the phenomenon is not just at premier institutes but even less well known college grads have great opportunities, unlike in the old days. Certainly somewhere there are smart qualified grads eager for jobs but one is hard put to find too many in a metropolis like Bangalore. Or maybe they just hunt in different circles from mine.

What changed the job market so dramatically?

The first can be attributed to liberalization and opening up of Indian economy in early 1990’s and more overseas companies and investments seeking safer havens in a large democracy. The whole outsourcing / off-shoring phenomenon famously started by TI in the mid 1980’s took off in the post-liberalization period. In parallel, Indian software had been making its mark as millions of programmers starting even in 1970’s had been making their presence felt in the USA primarily. Even highly qualified premier institute grads were glad to go ‘phoren’ and work as software programmers cheek by jowl by far less qualified local folks there. I can’t imagine an IIT or IIM grad in the last 10 years doing that!

Indian IT services were the haven for most tech grads that were hired in large numbers and put on overseas client sites till some of that work started getting done here in the much touted offshore-onshore mix. Post Trump, that might need to change but that’s the subject for another blog. Then the Internet brought in many startups in the late 1990’s who were looking to create customers in the domestic market. Of course there wasn’t money to be made on these, so the inevitable downturn happened and then a period of lull. Then the recent wave of more successful product startups on mobile platforms with a growing Indian customer base, many of whom got funded by VC’s seeing a high potential in a more consumerist billion people market. Despite some red ink in the recent years, this phenomenon is here to stay.

What is a millennial looking for in an organizational career?

This is the milieu in which a millennial comes into the work force and unlike his or her predecessors has never seen the ‘needs’ of the past – need for the security blanket of a corporate job and steady salary at the end of the month. He knows there is another company around the corner willing to give him a bigger and better job if this one doesn’t suit his aspirations. And what are those aspirations?

The ability to pursue ones hobbies and interests inside and outside the work place, finding time for leisure and travel, for recognition by ones peers etc. Keeping them engaged is a whole new experience, even if they are in companies run by people of similar vintage. I dare say the ‘cradle to grave’ careers of the past are buried for good.

Their constant search for excitement and meaning also changes the nature of the jobs that will attract and retain them. Doing administrative and routine tasks won’t find many takers. They will be fine with working hard as long as playing hard outside of work is feasible. Social causes and other such meaningful activities will find them more than willing to slog it out. The job is just a part of the whole package of life, not the subsuming profession that it was.

Is this at all a bad thing? Maybe not but it depends on what the organization is willing to change to bring them in and keep them engaged for as long as they choose to before the next big thing comes along their path. If you are a socially conscious, highly innovative company with high energy levels across the board, millennial can be your greatest asset. Not a long term one maybe but still valuable while there. Otherwise you might be better off hiring an older workforce which has grown up in a different environment. Traditional old economy businesses with hierarchies and structured systems and policies might fit into this category.

As with most generalizations, there will be many a millennial that will not fit this description but that’s the risk of any such effort. They say the exceptions prove the rule so I hope that’s the case here.

Whether your experience is synchronous or different from this as a practicing manager dealing with them, I would like to hear your views here.

You can reach him easily at Linkedin else on twitter at @rexraj

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