What Millennials really want: for people to stop telling them what they want

A quick note from Bill: This post marks the CPA Success debut for Adrienne Gonzalez -- yes, that Adrienne Gonzalez. She’s been roaming the accounting interwebs for years, and now we’ve got her. She’ll be filing for us from her cat-infested home in Richmond from time to time, so be sure to drop Adrienne a comment or two and give her a warm CPA Success welcome.   ========   We’ve all seen the articles -- most of them written by well-meaning industry veterans -- telling us what Millennials really want. Flex time. Mobile offices. A PlayStation3 and free energy drinks in the break room.   I’m not sure where these ideas are coming from, but I can almost guarantee you it isn’t from Millennials themselves. (The MACPA is the exception to this – proof here and here if you don’t believe me.)   I am begging with all of you writing these “What Millennials Want” pieces to stop. Stop right now. Stop and don’t ever write another article like that again. Please.   Reading some of these articles, I picture crabby old coots parked on their porch with a shotgun between their knees chasing the whippersnappers off their lawn, not thought leaders and mentors who truly wish to relate to the new breed of professionals.   Let’s start with that: They may be young but they are still professionals. That means referring to them as “kids” (yes, I have seen this, and recently at that) is offensive. You wouldn’t refer to women as “chicks” in an article about diversity, and you shouldn’t refer to young professionals as “kids” in a serious article about the generation gap for that same reason. These are adults who have completed the required education, battled for internships, elbowed their way into public accounting, and put in the same long hours as everyone else – granted, for not quite as long as the seasoned pros.   What is it with these pieces? Do the authors want so desperately to paint an entire generation into a neat little box that they’re willing to make such broad assumptions and forget that each of us are individuals and have different aspirations for our lives?   I’m going to let all of you writing these articles in on one big, dirty secret: Millennials want what all professionals want. Respect. An opportunity to enjoy their personal lives. Some want to snowboard in winter. Others want to paint on the side. And still others – wait for this bombshell, guys – just want to collect a paycheck.   Do Millennials want a little flexibility and to feel fulfilled in their work? Sure. Don’t we all? Duh.   I asked young CPAs on Twitter what they wanted out of their careers and the answers were surprising -- not to me, I mean, but to the people writing these silly articles about what Millennials want as if they’ve never met a human being under 30 in their lives.   “As a CPA, I want my career to mean something. (I want to) make a difference by helping people,” said one, adding, “that and a lot of money.”   Hey, bonus points for honesty, right?   Most responded similarly, meaning they get a kick out of helping clients. Go figure! To hear some of these “What Millennials Want” articles tell it, all the Gen Y “kids” are begging for a wirelessly-connected treehouse filled with blue ribbons for every career milestone (“Jimmy sent his first confirmation today!! YAY JIMMY!!”) and a work schedule that includes no fewer than five hours a day of recess.   Get over it. Instead of trying to puzzle out what Millennials want and how to retain them at your firm, try doing more mentoring and less reading about what Millennials want. If you ask them, their answers are as varied as their motives. You might just discover that many -- not all -- want the same things industry veterans did when they were early in their careers.


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