By Madeleine Post, Staff Writer
Big dreams accompany youth. When I was in grade school, I wanted to travel America on horse back without a phone, sleeping under the stars and writing letters home. In high school, my ever-evolving career plans ranged from the life of a pediatrician who taught private flute lessons to that of a state senator. As an undergrad, my plans have become far more focused, yet my vision remains bigger than ever — something I have in common with many millennials.
Millennial vision is big and idealistic, infused with purpose — purpose that often plays into the careers we chose to stick to. And as Boomers in the business world are learning, keeping millennials in business-related careers is becoming a harder task than ever. Millennials are far less enamored of wealth creation than previous generations. If Boomer employers want to keep millennials in their business careers, something radical must occur within the business world: a reinvention of its values, its ideals, and its vision.
For values, ideals, and vision strongly factor into millennials’ work lives, comprising the difference between a career and a vocation.
The Oxford dictionary defines vocation as “A strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.” Yet I believe there’s more to the notion of vocation than mere feelings of suitability. Purpose imbues vocation with meaning and the consequent “feeling(s) of suitability” individuals experience while working in a vocation.
It’s this sense of meaning the concept of career lacks when devoid of purpose. In a recent article on Forbes, T. Scott Gross outlines primary virtues characterizing the millennial generation. Unsurprisingly, ‘meaningful work’ is at the top of his list. If millennials value meaning most in their work lives, mere careers, per se, will ultimately leave us unsatisfied.
Vocation, on the other hand, gives millennials precisely the values-centered work lives we’re looking for.
New Business Values
What exactly will the values characterizing vocations in the business world look like? Other values T. Scott Gross outlines in his Forbes article include collaboration, fun and freedom of choice. This last value is crucial. Millennials are not by any stretch of the imagination traditionalists. As the generation that realized the rise of hipsters, we’re simply not satisfied with the status quo. Top down business models have never appealed to the millennial generation. Millennials, themselves, must redefine the values of the business world, even if that means quitting a job, starting a new company, or just creating change in a current career.
Realizing the concept of vocation in the workplace will ultimately be left up to the millennial, rather than our Generation X and Boomer employers. Millennials know best what our values look like, as well as how to best implement them. Yet collaboration — one of Scott’s key millennial values — between the generations will be crucial. Intergenerational collaboration will only be effective when all generations are willing to compromise and see the business field’s common good.