The Millennial generation is becoming an increasingly sought-after demographic in the modern American workforce. Their natural fluidity with technology, and their blend of optimism and practicality makes these young workers some of the most natural choices for internships. The Millennials primarily differ from their older Generation X counterparts in their needs for constant contact and peer driven learning. After understanding how these characteristics drive learning in the workplace, there is a clear path for employers to foster community to engage with their interns.
Millennials, those people born between 1980 and 2000, have been, for the majority of their lives, surrounded by technology. Some have never known life without a computer or cell phone. Such immersion in technology from a young age leads to incredible dexterity and flexibility with social media, computer sciences, mobile platforms, text messaging; the list of familiar topics extends in all directions. Plagued by a constant stream of updates from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and any other number of hot new social media websites that continue to spawn every day, the Millennial generation grew accustomed to feedback 24/7. There is literally never a dull moment in the lives of these young professionals, and when a break in time becomes available, it necessitates immediate fulfillment.
Utilizing social media among interns can help encourage communities of people with similar interests. By creating paths of communication, employers can inform and engage interns while the interns can interact and engage with one another. The need of Millennial-aged interns to be constantly wired into social media lends itself to a social media community where interaction drives intern engagement.
Comfort with peer driven learning is another way to benefit from millennial interns. Mentors help foster connections at a one-on-one level, but many Millennials feel more comfortable expressing ideas when they are surrounded by peers, stating that working with peers in a team or group environment makes their work more enjoyable.
By using a unified social media platform, interns are able to maintain a level of distance with which they are comfortable, while still engaging and interacting with one another. This type of interaction puts the millennial intern in their element: a collaborative group setting with other like-minded or diverse interns, with the distance and speed of social media to which they are accustomed. By utilizing an online social media platform, as opposed to in-person team building exercises, employers allow their interns to access each other 24/7, at any time they find convenient, for any length of time they prefer. Such accommodations are highly prized by most Millennials. Furthermore, employers who have interns in multiple locations allow them to collaborate and brainstorm over long distances through instant messaging or collectively posting on common threads, processes Millennials have already mastered.
By allowing interns to interact through social media platforms, employers facilitate open communication and idea sharing among a group of people who typically respond well to technology. The Millennial aged intern adapts to diversity of ideas and exhibits a dexterity with technology in a way that makes them the perfect candidate for a collaborative, online social community.
**Lily Vlach is a summer intern in the BraveNewTalent US office and is a university senior at Saint Mary’s College in California. An avid and talented blogger, Lily will be writing a series of blogs on the benefits of engaging interns and new college grads through social learning communities.