Coast to coast—that’s how she rolls. In the last two years, Emily Goodman has worked from New York to Seattle. And her clients have connected with her from the east and west coasts and several states in between. We caught up with her in Seattle, just before she set out on a trip to Morocco. Sometimes, even a digital millennial has to totally disconnect.
What Millennials Want
Having read multiple articles and books on the Millennial generation, I came ready with “facts” gleaned from headlines about generational differences—Millennials are entitled, spoiled, and need constant praise. So, I challenged Emily to tell me what makes Millennials worth hiring! “Millennials are open to discovering new solutions to get the job done. I don’t think we need to always do things the same way,” Emily told me. Now that’s language I can understand. Even a Boomer knows that business as usual won’t get us to the future of work.
Getting the Best from a Millennial
“To get the best work from me, I need clear communication,” Emily told me, as we began to talk about what makes her successful in her work as a graphic designer. Her clients have included fashion companies, beauty brands, paper designers, and others who need Emily’s creative sense for one project, one task, or ongoing graphic design. She described delightful conversations with new clients who knew what outcome they desired and took the time to have those early conversations to set direction. “Trust is key to good collaboration,” Emily says. “If I know what a client wants, I can provide that. If clarity doesn’t happen, and the client comes back for constant revisions due to poor direction, it’s hard to keep bringing my whole self to the project.”
For someone who works remotely and is content to be at home to think and create, Emily didn’t discount the importance of compatibility and collaboration. “I go on the websites of potential clients to determine our compatibility. I can tell a lot about what is important to them by looking at what they are showing the public.” Emily finds that initial conversations set the direction for good collaboration. After that, check-ins and idea sharing through various social media applications allow easy communication. “Millennials like to work with others. A lot of my friends work remotely. I hear about their projects and how they call on each other to help. One friend, a videographer, snagged a big wedding contract. He soon brought in friends to round out all that the contract required and other services that the bride and groom needed for their big day.”
Design for Life, Not Just for Work
Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant, authors of When Millennials Take Over, mention four characteristics needed in the future of work: digital, clear, fast, and fluid. They propose that the Millennial generation finds these ideas to be intuitive. Hearing Emily describe her life, I’d agree. “I like to choose projects that fit with my talents and push me to grow and learn. I want a balance between freedom to create and direction to meet the project goals.” Emily enjoys the flexibility that allows her to piece together her work, mixing projects that feel more routine, such as designing a social media marketing plan or more creative, designing packaging for a new product launch.
Designing a Future
Although Emily is settled in Seattle for now, Emily and her husband haven’t always worked from their place in cozy South Park. They spent two years crisscrossing the U.S. in a van that they outfitted for remote work. They shared a small desk in the van, powered by an internet hot spot. Emily described how they would often work near rivers and forests and how working in nature shifted focus and provided a different mindset for creative work. I knew it couldn’t all be Instagram-worthy, so I asked for more tales of their adventures. “Well, there was that time we worked for two weeks parked in a salvage yard, waiting for parts for vehicle repair….”
There are definitely stories to tell as the Millennial generation makes their way to provide leadership for the workplace of the future. Emily says, “I’m always watching and learning on every project I do. I want to manage and lead teams one day. Every project and every person I work with provides another piece of the puzzle on my way to contributing to that intersection of my success and the success of others.”
When Millennials Take Over, by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant, 2015.