Millennials are criticized for a lot, but when you start to analyze what is being said about them, often, the criticism translates into, “These people are neither compliant nor docile (like we are). They won’t fit in.”
While millennials may overestimate their abilities, they do have one big thing right about their careers: They want to do meaningful work.
I don’t know anyone who, as a child, said to their parents, teachers, or friends, “I want to grow up and do really mind-numbing dreary, work” – and yet, many of us settle for this kind of job, sacrificing our brain cells and self-worth for dollars and cents.
Part of the reason we do this is that we have been conditioned to fall in line from the time we were little:
“Don’t rock the boat.”
“Do what you’re told.”
“You won’t get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job, or be able to hold on to a job.”
Millennials were conditioned differently, thought. They were encouraged, rather than threatened. As a result, they are often mocked by their older colleagues for receiving “participation medals” and treating them as badges of honor.
If you are willing to continue trading dollars for brain cells and self-worth, this article will not be for you. I have written many other books and articles, created plenty of videos and podcasts – you can use these to find your next job and choose the one that is best for you (Hint: It’s the one that pays the most money and doesn’t completely suck the life out of you.)
But if you want to try something different in an effort to recapture some of the spirit of your life, I want to help you. I’ll start by telling you to ask a few different questions when you’re applying to or interviewing for your next job – questions like:
- “What is the firm’s mission?”
- “How does this department or group serve that mission?”
- “How will what I do in this role complement that effort?”
Many managers will struggle to answer these simple questions. After all, they are the cogs in the command-and-control industrial culture that made the 20th century successful.
But in this new, networked age we live in, we all seem to be drawn to communities. We want to feel like we are part of something significant, rather than human widgets.
What Makes a Great and Compelling Mission Statement?
When assessing the mission statements of potential employers, you should be looking for mission statements that contain a vision of how the world will be different if we do our work magnificently, as well as the actions we can take to make this change possible.
Unfortunately, a lot of firms now treat their mission statements like nice little anachronisms.
Here are a few samples of corporate mission statements. Which could you rally behind? (I have edited the beginning of each to remove a corporate identifier):
- “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
- “a leading global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities, and investment management services to a substantial and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments, and high-net-worth individuals.”
- “a global and innovative network of people who use their knowledge in the field of electrical engineering and electronics to benefit customers throughout the world; who learn continually; who work together closely; who have the courage to make quick decisions; who are proud of their efforts to contribute to the company’s success.”
- “Day after day, we are committed to sourcing the very best ingredients we can find and preparing them by hand, to vegetables grown in healthy soil, and pork from pigs allowed to freely root and roam outdoors or in deeply bedded barns. We are committed because we understand the connection between how food is raised and prepared and how it tastes. We do it for farmers, animals, the environment, dentists, crane operators, ribbon dancers, magicians, cartographers, and you.”
These statements came from the firms’ websites.
The first was from Facebook. Its vision of the world is to make it more open and connected. How? By giving people the power to share.
Is Facebook acting on that mission?
Could you rally behind it?
I suspect you could.
Let’s look at the second one. I don’t see a vision of the world that will come about if this company performs its actions daily at peak. I just see a corporate description being passed off as a vision.
(By the way, No. 2 is the mission statement of Goldman Sachs.)
The third is interesting. It doesn’t qualify as a mission statement, but it is inspiring nonetheless. This firm, Siemens, starts with its people in its first statement. It basically says, “We are people with particular skills and traits.”
What is the action these people will take? They will “benefit [their] customers.”
Everything else in No. 3 is a fluffy distraction meant to make employees think they are important.
You may recognize the last mission statement as being that of a restaurant committed to sourcing food of a particular caliber because the company understands there is a connection between food raised and prepared in a particular way and how it tastes to you.
I don’t see this as a mission, but as a wonderfully detailed action statement without a vision of how the world will be bettered by the execution of this plan. Or you may see it as a mission because the vision is inferred (making you happy).
This is why Chipotle’s recent failure was so galling to so many. It failed to deliver on its pledge.
Of these four mission statements, I can see and get behind Facebook’s; I am inspired by Chipotle’s and would want to help it execute better; Siemen’s is dreary; and Goldman’s … well, it’s not even an also-ran.
At the end of the day, if I am going to do battle every day on behalf of a corporate entity and make a difference in the world, I know I want to feel like I am championing something meaningful (a genuine mission) and earning the fruits for all of my efforts (money, recognition, status, power, contributing to the greater good).
All of us, not just millennials, should be proud of what we do to contribute to the success of our firms and the world at large.
And yet we aren’t.
It’s time to change that from the bottom up and get out of the factory mindset we have been conditioned into.