Aaron McDaniel is a speaker, corporate manager, author and successful business builder who helps businesses empower Millennial employees and engage Millennial customers.
We recently checked in with Aaron to get his insight on what motivates Millennials at work and get his advice how these young professionals should navigate their careers. Here’s what he had to say:
Can you tell us your story? How did you get where you are today?
I have had the unique opportunity to run businesses both large and small across a number of industries.
After college I joined AT&T’s Leadership Development Program (which put me at the same level as colleagues who just got their MBAs). Day one I was put in charge of 17 people, half of them had been at the company longer than I had been alive. Over nearly a decade, I worked in strategy, business development, sales, operations, marketing and customer care. I was one of the youngest ever to serve as regional vice president (at the age of 27) running an organization of 60 people, and was part of AT&T’s Diamond Club (top 1 percent of sales managers worldwide).
While working, I also started a number of side ventures (some successes and some great learning experiences, aka failures) ranging from a custom wedding invitations website to a portable beer pong table company (which was acquired) to a taxi-app that came to market before Uber, to writing books and speaking.
Once leaving AT&T I founded the first real estate crowdfunding platform to be acquired and since have moved on to run other ventures. On a personal note, one of my biggest passions is travel. I made a goal for myself that the number of countries I visited will always be higher than my age; and I have been blessed to have been able to achieve this goal so far.
How did you become so passionate about engaging Millennials as customers and employees?
A few years into my career it was abundantly clear to me that there was no course in college that teaches you how to be successful in the working world. When I looked around the people focused on the topic were either of an older generation or were young entrepreneurs who didn’t have any corporate experience to really know how the business world worked, so I set out on a journey to help my fellow Millennials get the skills they needed to build the foundation for successful careers.
I wrote the Young Professionals Guide book series and began speaking and consulting with organizations large and small, helping their future leaders. This soon expanded into partnering with executives and managers to better understand Millennials and how they view their careers, ultimately providing practical advice to help these business leaders both empower their Millennial employees but also engage with their Millennial customer made.
To date I have helped organizations from the Ritz Carlton to Deloitte Consulting to United Health Group and beyond with multi-generational teamwork.
What are Millennials looking for when it comes to their jobs and careers today?
Millennials want flexibility and impact. While some generations may think that the answer to motivating Millennials is handing out more awards and certificates like was done when we were kids (I lost count of the number of participation trophies I received), the motivation created in only fleeting.
For long-term Millennial employee loyalty and engagement, the best thing to offer is impact. Give your Millennials a chance not to feel just like a cog in some big machine. An opportunity to affect the business and make positive changes will go a long way in motivating Millennials.
Millennials also want flexibility. Instead of older generations who strive for work-life “balance,” separating the two, Millennials want work-life integration. Inherent in this is the flexibility to have a life outside work when we want while still achieving objectives.
How do their interests and motivations differ from older generations?
Building off my answer to the previous question, Millennials have a very different view of the “American dream” that older generations held on to; namely to work hard, retire and then travel the world and all that it has to offer. Millennials don’t want to wait on this, they want it now.
I actually had the chance to see this difference firsthand right after I graduated from college. I was traveling in Tasmania and was part of a tour group of couple in their 70s and 80s. I watched what traveling was like for them and how many restrictions age put on their ability to experience things. From then on I vowed not to wait.
The engine that allows for this work-life integration is a very stark difference between Millennials and other generations when it comes to spouses working. Less than a quarter of Baby Boomer couples were dual income while 80 percent of Millennial couples are dual income. This allows Millennial couples to take mini retirements or allow one spouse to follow a passion for a period while the other works (and then switch).
What are some of the challenges companies have in appealing to Millennials?
Companies are mistakenly labeling some traits that are indicative of Millennials as “Millennial traits” when in reality they are just traits of youth that many other generations exhibited when they were young; the only difference was the context. For Baby Boomers it was Vietnam and for the Gen Xers it was MTV, while for Millennials it mobile technology and social media.
Similarly, older generations are inappropriately labeling Millennials as disloyal. This is simply not true. In reality, Millennials can be very loyal, it’s just harder to earn that loyalty. But once you do earn this loyalty the impact is amplified because while older generations would touch a dozen people, Millennials can connect with hundreds or thousands in seconds, helping to build your brand equity.
Studies have shown that brands like Macy’s and Nestle and others who have focused on Millennials have seen drastic improvements on how Millennials perceive their brand in a matter of one year. This is one of the things I help companies with.
How should Millennials strategize their job searches to find jobs that best align with their goals?
I have found (both in myself and other fellow Millennials) that the default is to search for a job that closely matches your passion (aka, my “dream job” that I was born to do). This leads many Millennials to miss out on golden opportunities. Older generations have had on average five distinct careers over the decades they work, and for Millennials this number will be even higher. That said, the best thing for Millennials to do is to find jobs that provide them with transferrable skills. For example, if you learn how to effectively manage people you can lead groups of people in any industry from retail to technology to manufacturing to professional services and beyond. Millennials should strategize their job searches to find jobs that would allow them to develop skills early on that will help them succeed throughout their career.
What do Millennials need to know about determining a fair salary for their field?
Use your resource and always negotiate using objective evidence. In a negotiation one of the key advantages comes from the information you have. If you can point to objective outside evidence that supports your claims of what a fair salary should be, you will have a leg up. I once had an employee who I hired (and who I gave a 30 percent raise to), who asked for a higher salary based on the fact that he just bought a house and he was having a third kid.
While those reasons may be valid in his world, those aren’t strong arguments that convince managers that you deserve more money than someone else doing the same job. Look on sites like Paysa which offers an awesome tool to provide you with the information you need and build a list of objective reasons why you deserve more than the average (degrees, experience, results, unique skills, etc).
How should job seekers be using tools like Paysa to determine what to ask for in terms of salary?
Just as I mentioned before, the more (and better) information you have, the more successful you will be at determining the right salary and going into that salary negotiation equipped to present your case. It’s often HR’s job to minimize compensation costs (if they can get an employee for $50K why would they voluntarily offer $60K or even $51K?)
What other job search tools or resources should job seekers be using today?
The best way to find a job continues to be through networking. If you just blindly apply to online job postings you will likely get frustrated with the lack of response you get. Instead, find out who in your network is working at companies or industries or job functions you are interested in. Interview them to learn whether the job will be right for you. Informational interviews are a great way to get your foot in the door. New opportunities than you think are created just for highly motivated people who are proactive.
What can Millennials and other job seekers do to improve their marketability?
Showcase yourself well on LinkedIn, learn how to tell your story well, network, and go out and get experience outside of your full-time job. Start a side business, do freelance work (UpWork or even TaskRabbit can help with that, among MANY other platforms)- this will allow you to build a new skill that can help in a new career you are interested in (plus you can get paid while doing it!)
What are the most common mistakes you see them making in this area?
I have seen Millennials (especially ones without a ton of professional experience) sell themselves short. Just because you didn’t have some entry-level job or internship at a prestigious company doesn’t mean that you didn’t develop skills you need to be successful. I have learned and developed more from my activities outside of my full-time job than from it. Remember that you have to be your biggest promoter.
What advice do you find yourself repeating to young professionals over and over again?
Ultimately, your success in business is based on how resilient you are.
Among the many great traits young professionals have, two negative traits I have noticed in us (myself included) is impatience and entitlement. Technology has made us expect instant gratification and because we were recognized for just participating in things, we expect that raise and promotion and bonus just because I am me (which is just not how the working world works). These two traits together create a lack of resiliency.
When young professionals come against an obstacle the impatience and entitlement kicks in and we say to ourselves, “no biggie, there are tons of other opportunities out there, I will go explore those” (aka giving up). Overcoming obstacles is how we learn and will prepare us for bigger challenges later. Build your resilience now while the stakes aren’t as high. Keep this in mind whenever you catch yourself thinking that the best thing to do is give up.