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The Millennials: Your Guides to the Future

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Will you ever forget your first job out of college?

Chances are Andrew Phillips won't. Less than two months after graduating in May with a degree in Motion Graphic Design and Sound from Ex'pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, CA, Phillips landed a corporate job working at Cisco's world headquarters in San Jose.

His assignment: help the company's partner management team better communicate with allies over the Internet. That meant long hours setting up and testing corporate Web sites. But that's not all Phillips did. He found plenty of time to sing and dance at the office -- and film himself doing so.

Encouraged by his managers to put his video editing and song writing skills to the use, Phillips began making music videos that he shared on YouTube, Facebook and other sites. Then he teamed up with another Cisco newcomer, intern Greg Justice, to produce a video extolling the virtues of Cisco's Flip cameras. In the video, the two Generation Y-ers rap on a balcony outside the company's executive offices.

"Cisco interns crazy flow, cruising in Mercedes slow. Eighties babies round the globe, interna-tional," they sing to a driving, hip-hop beat.

Promoting Cisco consumer technology? Not a bad gig, Phillips concedes, especially when compared to what other members of the Millennial generation are doing. Perhaps you have read about them. They are the 20-somethings that are coming of age and looking for work in droves.

Born between 1982 and 2000, Millennials represent 41 percent of the U.S. population--nearly 80 million individuals. By 2014, they will account for half of all U.S. workers. But today, they are struggling to find their way. Of the 100 men and women who graduated with Phillips, only a dozen have found professional jobs. Many are busing tables or channel surfing. All are hoping for a spike in hiring, but they know what they are up against: the worst jobs environment since the Great Depression.

Phillips says he considers "every day a blessing." He dreams of buying a house and starting a family -- two milestones that would have been harder to attain had he stayed in his previous job, working as a barista at Starbucks. While he enjoyed working there, corporate life provides him an opportunity to put the skills he honed at school to use.

That's not by accident, either. While some organization struggle to make room for Generation Y -- they have a reputation for questioning everything and for expecting instant gratification -- Cisco and other organizations are eager to leverage their unique skills and experiences. Statistically, Generation Y is the most educated and technologically experienced of any generation to date. Millennials have never known adulthood without the Internet, and are perfectly at ease with social media, digital content creation and mobile connectivity.

Take Phillips. He can write HTML code, produce videos, post Web content and compose music. Is that a skill set your company can leverage? Cisco certainly thinks so. That's why it is encouraging employees -- even interns -- to spread their wings. Since taking on his current role, Phillips has been urged to find ways to put his full complement of talents to work.

In return, Cisco has netted a great deal of exposure that it wouldn't otherwise have enjoyed. Consider the videos that Phillips and Justice produced. Since they went live, the videos have been viewed nearly 200,000 times. Justice's first video alone generated more than 90,000 viewings and was featured in an online story on All Things Digital, one of The Wall Street Journal's technology sites.

That kind of attention is hard to come by at any price. More than mere exposure, the impressions created by Phillips and Justice have helped shape Cisco's image with the new generation.

Could a 23-year old have a similar impact at your company? Maybe, if you have a culture that encourages workers to push the bounds of convention, and the means by which to accommodate them.

If your business deals with environmentalism, social responsibility, globalization or any number of emerging interests, then take another look at what Generation Y has to offer. From video production to tweeting and more, they could help cast you in a new and more favorable light.

Who among us over 30 couldn't benefit from a little bit of that?

For more information, view the WebEx recording at Together@WebEx.

Inder Sidhu is the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Planning for Worldwide Operations at Cisco, and the author of Doing Both: How Cisco Captures Today's Profits and Drives Tomorrow's Growth. Follow Inder on Twitter at @indersidhu.

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