GenNext: Don’t call us disloyal

Singapore student, Marvin Chew, addresses misconceptions about millennials in the workplace.

The very simple idea of meeting new people is what attracted me to the business events industry. After two years of study I’ve recently completed a Higher National Institute of Technical Education Certificate (HNITEC) in event management. From my experience thus far, I really like the fact that working in events is not a desk-bound, nine-to-five job. I’m not the type of person who can sit at a desk all day and go through every piece of work. Instead, I like to talk and connect with people.

Like many of my peers, my interests tend to change very quickly, as I want to experience new things – and find out more about myself and what I really want to do in the future. This desire for new experiences is often misunderstood as disloyalty in the workplace. Millennials are spontaneous and love to try new things, but this does not mean we are disloyal employees. Project-based work (like events) and being presented with new challenges will keep us engaged.

Another area of contention is career growth and that millennials have a misplaced sense of entitlement. I mention this is because not everyone wants to follow the corporate ladder from the bottom to the top, but recognition is important and many young professionals simply want to feel valued; and have their voices heard. Attaining workplace and/or industry awards is one way we can recognise ‘good work’ and promote an encouraging work environment.

The corporate world is still very structured – and this doesn’t bode well with millennials. We don’t often recognise hierarchical barriers and instead prefer to work in a more open environment, where respect is earnt and not simply given; and this works in both ways. To improve communication between managers and young people, both parties must be open-minded and receptive to new ideas, opinions and perspectives. Promoting one-to-one meetings and encouraging mentor/mentee relationships in the workplace can also help break-down barriers and promote more holistic development.

A good leader is someone who can earn the respect of peers and employees. I wouldn’t want to work for someone who may come off as ‘snobbish’ and who doesn’t offer me a sense of respect as well, so it’s a give-and-take relationship.

Building a personal relationship and instilling a culture of fun is important. This can include recreational play in the office, such as gaming activities, a pantry where more informal meetings can take place, or even after-hour parties for team bonding. New modes of networking can also be introduced to help engage young people, where platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp can be used for group chats that are more social and not centered on work.

As more and more millennials join the workforce I envisage a breaking down of walls – both physical and social barriers – where an open-minded culture will allow everyone to interact, contribute and work together. Singapore is rather conservative, where people are mindful about what they say and do, so a change in mind-set will be a good thing.

Marvin Chew, 21, recently graduated from the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore. He is currently completing a Diploma in Business Management at Nanyang Polytechnic.