The Next Generation

Innovative and resilient, Millennials are a new breed of American workers

In 2008, Eldridge Betts realized he didn’t have enough money to continue studying for his associate degree in culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America. As a result, he applied for Marriott International Inc.’s Scholar program, launched in 2007 to increase and diversify the talent pipeline at Marriott, one of be’s 40 Companies for Diversity. Under the program, scholarship recipients can receive as much as $9,000 annually toward tuition assistance for up to four years as well as internship and mentorship opportunities.

Betts is now working on his bachelor’s degree in culinary arts at the institute in Hyde Park, New York. The Scholar program gives him “years of experience in a short period of time,” he says. During summer and winter breaks, Betts, 21, works as a line cook at JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Orlando, Florida. When Betts graduates from the program in 2011, he will advance into Marriott’s Management Development Program.

Betts is one of 75 million people born after 1980 known as Millennials. Described as a generation that is resilient and optimistic about their futures, Millennials, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, are on track to become one of the most educated generations of America’s history.

“Millennials are our customer base so who best to understand how to serve our industry than to have their perspective in our company,” says Stacey Veden, director of university relations and recruiting operations for Marriott International Inc. According to Veden, the Management Development Program is nearly 95% Millennials. This year, 120 entry-level managers will graduate from the program.

Millennials’ professional attitudes and work style have been the subject of a variety of studies, including one recently conducted by Mr. Youth L.L.C., a marketing agency based in New York City, and Intrepid, a research and consulting company. The results: They are more inclined to leverage diversity and teamwork, and they value ideas over experience, so they reward performance over seniority.

This group, however, has its share of challenges. Wells, 30, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, who started her company at age 16, says the sense of entitlement that Millennials exhibit can be performance prohibitive. “Their idea of paying their dues is different from their parents,” she explains. “They have grown up in a very instant world, so how do you tell them that a job they want in six or seven months is a job they have to wait usually six or seven years to get?”

At work they seem only committed to what drives and interests them. According to the Pew Research Center, which surveyed 2,020 older adults and Millennials in January on their political and social values, lifestyle, digital technology and social media habits, they are far more likely than older workers to say they will switch careers or change employers. In the survey, 66% said it is “likely” they will switch careers sometime in their work life, compared with 55% of Generation Xers (ages 30–45 in this survey) and 31% of baby boomers (ages 46–64). Additionally, nearly 60% of employed Millennials say they have already switched careers at least once.

“Younger adults see their job path as one that is likely to involve change,” says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center. “This seems more natural to them and they are just reflecting the world around them.”

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