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Forget the Career Ladder, Millennials Are Taking the Elevator

Millennials are the "customize-it" generation -- from shopping online to video streaming. They want their user experience personalized to their preferences. Creating their career path is no different.
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You can rest easy. Your over-eager Millennial coworker doesn't want your job. In fact he or she may not want any job, at least in the traditional sense.

Many companies are having a hard time motivating Millennials. The problem is not that millennials lack ambition. In fact, numerous studies show today's twenty-somethings are eager to make a difference, get involved and be taken seriously as adults. Companies seeking to acquire millennial customers or retain millennial employees must begin by understanding just how ambitious they really are.

Through its PreparedU Project, Bentley University found that two-thirds of millennials plan on starting their own companies. Thirty-seven percent would like to work on their own. Millennials are the "customize-it" generation -- from shopping online to video streaming. They want their user experience personalized to their preferences. Creating their career path is no different.

Millennials like myself are using entrepreneurship to blaze our own trail, but not all Millennials are cut out to be business owners. In their "Millennials and the Future of Work Survey," oDesk and Millennial Branding found that Millennials consider entrepreneurship more a state of mind than an occupation.

Through my work bridging the generation gap within companies, I've discovered that different generations define success at work differently. For Boomers, success may include a title or promotion. For Gen Xers, it may mean more autonomy and independence. For Millennials, success must include opportunity for influence, involvement and impact.

How else do Millennials differ? Here are four ways Millennials' ambition sets them apart from previous generations:

1. As the children of Boomers, who are self-described workaholics, Millennials know well the sacrifices their parents made to get ahead. Millennials don't want to climb the career ladder and find out that it was leaning against the wrong wall. So they are taking the elevator. Millennials don't want one job, or even one career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, members of this generation will have between six and seven jobs by the time they are 26. Nearly 60 percent of them stay at their jobs less than one year.

2. When you interview a millennial, they are interviewing you, too. This generation realizes that companies need their creativity, affinity for technology and futuristic mentality. Despite a tough job market, they are not afraid to leave a current employer and embark on their own.

3. Millennials are naturally entrepreneurial. They were told as children they could do and be anything they want. These little astronauts and ballerinas are now professional men and women eager to make their parents proud. Millennials operate at high speeds and expect to advance quickly. They want feedback in real-time and grow frustrated in slow-moving work cultures. I've often heard Millennials say, "Why should I have to work the same job for 5 years to be eligible for a promotion? If I can do the job now, let me." While this statement may sound bold and entitled to older generations, it actually speaks more to Millennials' ambition and drive. And those are good things.

4. Millennials are looking for experiences, not jobs. Entrepreneurship offers millennials the kind of culture they crave. Millennials want to disrupt the status quo, learn constantly and leave their fingerprints on the world. As Sam Caucci, CEO of The Sales Huddle Group and a millennial business owner says, being an entrepreneur is like running through a building that is on fire.

Future-facing companies would be wise to hire entrepreneurial-minded Millennials. Keep them engaged by embracing change and customizing their career path. If you don't, they may just leave your company and start their own.