By Mike Schmidt, AEM Industry Advisor Editor

MillennialIn 11 years on the job, I’ve held six jobs, been employed by four companies and worked in three cities of varying size.

You guessed it, I’m a millennial.

I entered the workforce as a community newspaper reporter two days after Christmas in 2006 – or more accurately – about a year before the effects of the Great Recession had me regretting my decision to invest four-and-a-half years and several thousand dollars in a degree in print journalism. And in the years since, I've experienced the sort of encouraging ups and devastating downs many young people do when they try to make a decent living via the written word.

Like most millennials, I work hard, I'm passionate about my work, and I think of it as more than just a means to make a decent living. I consider whatever position I hold at a particular moment to be part of my identity, and what I do on a daily basis to be a reflection of who I am.

The topic of millennials in the workforce is widely covered today, and I can understand why it can be considered challenging to have people my age on staff. You’re probably aware of many of the defining characteristics of millennials. We can be stubborn and needy, and we regularly require feedback about our performance. More than anything else, though, we’re always thinking about where our careers are headed and what it’ll take to get there.

Twentysomethings and thirtysomethings are also known for looking forward to the next challenge, and I’m no exception. But lately I’ve found myself spending a fair amount of time looking back – remembering where I started, taking stock of what I’ve accomplished so far, and retracing the steps I've taken to get to where I am today. On occasion I learn something from looking back, while sometimes all I take away is an reminder of how quickly time passes. 

But if there's an enduring lesson I've taken from my recent reflections, it's this: I'm incredibly grateful to feel connected to my current employer and be able to do what I feel is important work as a valued member of a tight-knit team. While I've only worked as AEM's member communications manager and AEM Industry Advisor newsletter editor for a year, I've been lucky to make countless connections with association colleagues and member company representatives. My time at AEM has also afforded me a number of opportunities to interact with both present and future industry leaders via AEM Thinking Forward member events, networking opportunities and staff get-togethers

Now take a moment to think about your organization. Millennials like me probably make up a significant percentage of its workforce by now, and I'm sure some are even starting to ascend the organizational ladder into positions of greater prominence. Do young people at your company – who are incredibly adept at making connections via social media platforms like Twitter  and Instagram – put forth consistent efforts to make in-person professional connections as well? Are they focused on contributing to the overall good of your organization, or are they simply focused on developing and honing their skills before moving on to the next challenge?

Employees are a company's greatest asset, and creating a connected workplace culture should be one of your organization's greatest priorities. But doing so requires concerted efforts on the part of both young, up-and-comers and established organizational veterans to establish strong and lasting connections with one another. Because people my age are tomorrow's corporate leaders, and making the right connections today can set millennial workers on a path toward contributing to a winning team.

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