Forget the studies you’ve read about the mindset of millennials. If you really want to know what we’re thinking about and what we look for in an association, just ask—and, please, don’t clump us all together.
You’ve read a lot this week about the work that young professionals are doing throughout the association industry, the different perspectives we bring to the workplace, and what issues are important to us. So, you’re good to go now, right? You have a much better understanding of the entire millennial generation (those of us born between 1981 and 2000) and what we bring to the table.
Part of the reason why the millennial generation is so hard to wrap our brains around is because it is the most diverse generation in U.S. history.
I’m imagining a lot of puzzled looks and “yeah rights” in response to that question. And believe me, I feel the same way. Part of the reason why this generation, my generation, is so hard to wrap our brains around is because it is the most diverse generation in U.S. history, as was pointed out by Pew Research Center’s Millennials in Adulthood survey earlier this year. We come from so many backgrounds, had much different upbringings than previous generations, and have been more immediately exposed to the disasters, dangers, and triumphs throughout the world than any generation before us. (Thanks, social media.)
It’s been a lot to take in, and to try to capture the mindset of some 80 million individuals and lump us together just doesn’t seem fair.
All of this is a long way of saying that millennials are different. The best way to get to know us—or, at the very least, get to know the young professionals in your industry—is by putting down the latest survey and connecting with us on an individual level. You’ll find that the doom-and-gloom picture that often gets painted couldn’t be farther from the truth. That kind of understanding can have an impact on not only the culture of your workplace, but also on your association’s ability to attract and retain millennial members. Here are three more myths about millennial members that need to be addressed:
Myth #1: We don’t need associations. The internet and social media—and millennials’ ability and willingness to network through digital formats for free—spells the end of associations as we know them. Or so everyone seems to think. While it’s true that anyone can learn a new skill these days by simply typing a few words into Google, there’s still tremendous value in bringing together members of an industry to discuss the latest happenings and exchange business cards (or add new LinkedIn connections). At the very least, being a member of an association gives us an excuse to break routine and get together with a bunch of likeminded individuals.
The professional development aspect can’t be overlooked, as well. From personal experience, attending meetings and having access to member benefits from the Online News Association has been incredibly helpful early on in my career as a journalist. I’ve been introduced to a number of resources and ideas that I might otherwise have missed out on. Those experiences pay dividends in my work now and will continue to do so well into the future.
Myth #2: We’re all lazy and entitled. The 14 million millennials that did 1.4 billion hours of service in 2012 are probably a little tired of seeing that label get slapped on our generation. In all of the coverage that I’ve done on volunteering and the millennial generation for Associations Now, and from my own experience, a few things have become clear: The causes that we support are ones that we are passionate about, or—if you look at something like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—something that those close to us are passionate about. Making an impact matters to millennials. Keep that in mind when your association is trying to find ways to get younger members (or staff) engaged.
Myth #3: Shiny tech is a millennial magnet. Are millennials tech-savvy individuals? Indeed, there are a great many of us who can tear down a website and put it all back together seamlessly, or who are connected through every social media platform that exists (guilty as charged, there). But that doesn’t define our generation, and just because an organization has all of those bells and whistles doesn’t mean I’m more likely to join. Sure, having a social media presence is important and event apps can bring added value, but only if they’re executed successfully. Otherwise, it may end up being a huge turnoff. Avoid this by asking the right questions and building a sound strategy that is tailored to your organization and its members—all of them.
The bottom line here, that’s been echoed throughout the week, is this: Young professionals might do things differently, but we ask that you take the time to get to know us. We have a unique set of skills and experiences to offer, both as members and as association professionals. We just want the opportunity to help propel the industry forward.