Seven lines of code is all it took to create the $9.2 billion digital payments startup called Stripe. An app that delivers messages and photos that disappear in 24 hours or less has become a new channel for media with a $20 billion valuation. Another startup is changing grocery delivery to the tune of a $3.4 billion valuation. What do these disparate businesses have in common? Their founders—Patrick and John Collison, Evan Spiegel, and Apoorva Mehta—are under 35, making them members of the global millennials.
There are plenty of others in this generation changing the world through technology. Former Googler Falon Fatemi (31) founded a startup called Node that aims to disrupt the way we search and network. Tristan Walker (31), who came up through the ranks at Twitter and Foursquare, founded Walker & Company, an organization focusing on health and beauty for people of color.
They and other global millennials make up about 27 percent of the world’s population—that’s about 2 billion people born between 1981 and 1997. This diverse group of young adults wield a massive amount of influence on consumer spending, workforce, and the overall economy.
Despite these achievements and potential to bring about big change, it’s sometimes tough for a relatively young person to get respect, particularly in the workplace. That’s why it’s important to look closely at how the global millennials who’ve already achieved success used innovation and productivity to advance their careers.
Passion’s path to performance
Caroline Ghosn (30), founder and CEO of Levo, a millennial-focused career platform, goes straight to the basics and advises rethinking your to-do list. Why? A recent survey conducted by Levo found that an overwhelming majority of millennials—93 percent—think productivity is important to happiness.
But Ghosn, who believes career success is rooted in how work makes you feel, suggests, “Go beyond the short burst of satisfaction of crossing off an item by identifying something about each task you feel passionate about. Then, tally up those reasons to extend that satisfaction over time and help you focus on things that energize and inspire you most.” That not only makes someone more productive, it makes them stand out among other workers. “People who pair that with a dedication to excellence will ensure that their feedback translates into an upward spiral of improvement and performance,” she told Teen Vogue.
Empowerment and empathy earn responsibility
Millennials also know how to empower others well. Take Laura Weidman Powers (33), who cofounded CODE2040, a nonprofit that aims to get more underrepresented minorities in tech, and has also spent time as a senior advisor to US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith at the White House. CODE2040 has already impacted the career trajectories of over 3,000 black and Latinx youths through its programming, with plans to grow that number to about 22,000 over the next three years. But she also uses this to lead her organization. “I prefer to empower people around me,” Powers told the Techies Project. “I believe very strongly in distributed responsibility.”
As Chip Espinoza, author of Millennials Who Manage, points out, this generation has good listeners who strive to get ideas from employees. “Millennials are problem solvers. They want to improve things, not just defend processes and keep things the same as we’ve been doing over the last 10 years,” says Espinoza.
Work ethic leverages adversity
Millennial workers of all backgrounds are familiar with navigating tough times. As Elizabeth Dukes, cofounder of iOffice, writes, “With many joining the workforce during poor economic times and depleted job market, their journey into adulthood has been clouded with instability. They’ve had to work harder to prove themselves—and turned this work ethic into a regular habit.”
That work ethic, paired with ambition, should not only earn global millennials respect in the workplace, it may also usher in a new age of prosperity. At least, that’s the way Stripe cofounder Patrick Collison sees it. He and his brother are gunning to “increase the GDP of the internet” by changing the way companies incorporate, pay their workers, and detect fraud—which essentially makes anyone with big idea a force to be reckoned with. As Collison told Bloomberg, “We think giving two people in a garage the same infrastructure as a 100,000-person corporation—the aggregate effects of that will be really good.”