Posts Tagged ‘millennials’

An Outstanding Millennial Community Leader

Jackson Cooper, Executive Director, Chamber Music Raleigh. Photo courtesy of Curtis Brown Photography

As a diversity and career development consultant, one of the most interesting areas is generational diversity in the workplace. So often, older generations stereotype millennials (generally now in their 20s) as entitled and spoiled, unwilling to work hard. But instead, millennials should be seen as creative, looking for purpose and personal growth in their work, and for hand-on managers who act as coaches. (see my recent blog “What Millennials REALLY want in the workplace.”) And we even saw in the recent season of one of my favorite TV reality shows, Survivor – GenX vs Millennials, that the Millenials held their own and were creative and determined in winning many of their challenges.

Locally I know an outstanding young millennial, Jackson Cooper, who at age 22 is believed to be the youngest executive director of a performing arts organization in the country. I recent sat down for a discussion with Jackson.


STAN: You are currently the Executive Director of Chamber Music Raleigh. Can you tell me a little more about this group and your responsibilities?

JACKSON: Chamber Music Raleigh is a 75 year old presenting organization, meaning that we invite groups from all over the state and world to come and perform on our concert series. We have two concert series: the ‘Guild” series that features artists from all over the country and world (groups like the Harlem Quartet, Juilliard, Chamber Society of Lincoln Center) and our “Sights and Sounds” series which highlights emerging and established North Carolina artists.

One of the first things I have done in my job is to establish the North Carolina Museum of Art as our permanent home for presenting these concerts. This further deepens our relationship with the Raleigh community by presenting our series at a central, public space like the museum. It also allows for exciting collaborations which we have plans for in coming seasons!

As ED, I am responsible for maintaining the day-to-day operations of the organization. I am a staff of one, with the help of volunteers and my dedicated board. I maintain donor relations, write grants, help facilitate decisions about the coming seasons, prepare contracts, and a slew of other responsibilities.

Jackson mingles with constituents at a Museum of Arts gala, sharing about Chamber Music Raleigh future plans and their move to the museum. Photo courtesy of : Joseph Rafferty


STAN: How did you get interested in this type of work?

JACKSON: I grew up in Raleigh arts, working in internships since I was 13 years old, specifically in arts administration. I used to go to school until 3pm, drive to an internship and work till 6, eat dinner, then sometimes go rehearse a show. I was lucky enough to have several mentors early on (still do) who pushed me to work hard and translate this passion and excitement I had for working in the arts into results.

However, the stereotypical gypsy / freelance lifestyle of an artist never appealed to me. I still keep up with my various crafts and have been lucky to always be working on projects, but I like stability too much to be a freelancer my entire life. I still do believe an arts manager should also be an artist (though, I’ve learned recently from example that the opposite isn’t always true). But you should practice an art if you are a manager. It grounds you and solidifies your work on a deeper level.

I love making connections, connecting artists and people, communities and works of art, etc. I’m still growing and acknowledge that, and every day feels like a new adventure.


STAN: What essential skills do you bring to your job that you believe will help you succeed?

JACKSON: Early on, I recognized that initiative and passion go a long way. I have encountered quite a bit of push back about how young I am. People didn’t think it was possible for someone so young and enthusiastic about the field he was working in to do a good job.

So, I began to hone my skills so that I could prepare myself for leading effectively. I wanted to show people that I had learned the importance of Big Picture Thinking and Day-To-Day Thinking, Planning for Long-Term Success and Last Minute Disasters, and the power of the grace note. By that I mean, the power of following up with your audience, community members, and others who are important to you or your organization. In this age of hyper-behavior, people like it when you remember their birthday, send a Christmas card, or just say thank you. Kindness goes a long way. And no matter how busy you are, you always have time to tell someone “I hope you’re having a good day.”


STAN: Where do you see yourself career wise 10 or 15 years down the road? What are your aspirations?

JACKSON: I hope to hold an upper level artistic position at an arts organization. I am currently looking into graduate programs and Executive Leadership programs at Harvard Business School and Duke University for furthering my education. Eventually, I would like to open my own arts consulting firm or work for one.

I plan to continue giving back to my community by serving on community boards, volunteering, and donating. In my (little) spare time I write so I am hoping to publish more. I have a book coming out early next year, and hopefully it’s the first of many!


STAN: In addition to being the youngest ED of a performing arts group in the country, you are also an out gay man. What encouragement would you provide to your LGBT peers in terms of their future or career?

JACKSON: Don’t ever stop being yourself and put yourself in everything you do. Every day you make a decision about coming out. To do that, you have to be confident in yourself and stand up for you. You are all you have in this life so why waste it pretending to be something you’re not?

There will always be people better than you, there will always be better jobs out there that you can’t have at this moment–but if you let things that aren’t in your control get you down, nothing will ever make you happy. And always listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It knows things better than you do.


STAN: Is there anything else you would like to share with my blog readers?

JACKSON: Chamber Music Raleigh is now at the Museum of Art so come by and pick up a brochure or subscribe to our mailing list at chambermusicraleigh.org. We are about to announce our exciting 2017-2018 season.


STAN: Thank you, Jackson! I look forward to building our friendship, following your career and reading your first book when it comes out.

What Millennials REALLY want in the workplace

millenial-picNOTE: This blog contains links to the two excellent studies referenced therein!

The “Four Generations in the Workplace” discussion (see my blog on this from a few years ago) continues to be one of the hottest topics in the ever changing diversity and inclusion field. Even as the discussion really does need to focus on the various advantages each generation brings to the workplace, and how the best companies know how to build strong teams across all generations, Millennials still get a bad rap from many. I often hear comments like “I hesitate to train these young employees since they will leave within a year.” OK – I hear you, but I ask, why do millennials frequently job hop, and what are they looking for in a job?

My main point: Millennials truly desire organizations that offer them personal growth and flexible career opportunities and advancement, and if more companies invested in their younger employees, they may actually stay for the long haul!

Let me provide data from two studies.

First, Gallup Inc. has done an extensive workplace study across the generations, and issued a superb report called “How Millenials Want to Work and Live.” The Gallup study shows that only 29% of currently employed millennials are engaged at work, significantly lower than the other generations. But perhaps the issue is not “these slacker millennials,” but instead companies not providing the right value proposition for millennials in the workplace. Some key points the Gallup study makes include:
• Millennials are not just working for a paycheck, but looking for purpose in their profession.
• Millennials are not just looking for job satisfaction, but personal development.
• Millennials don’t want bosses per se, but coaches who help them grow and improve on the job.
• Millenials do view their job as an integral part of their lives.

A second study which was presented at a conference I recently attended comes from “Ultimate Software” and “The Center for Generational Kinetics” titled “Is There Really a Generational Divide at Work?” (Link to download the study.)

Though the study highlights many different aspects of generational differences and similarities in the workplace, I will focus on the career and personal development aspects. They include:

Millennials are truly seeking coaching, feedback and mentoring from their managers at work.

Millennials are truly seeking coaching, feedback and mentoring from their managers at work.


• 45% of millennials would quit a job if they didn’t see a career path they wanted at the company.
• 42% of millennials want feedback from their superiors at work, which is double the other generations. And most frequently, they seek the feedback so they grow professionally.
• One statistic consistent across all generations – 33% of employees knew whether they would stay long term or not at their company after being on the job for one week or less.

Both these studies underscore the importance of skills and career development in the workplace, especially among the millennial generation. Some of my clients using my innovative career mapping process have verified this point – when they present an overview of career development and potential at new employee orientation, it is met with resounding enthusiasm. Providing a robust system to assist employees with career development is a key tactic to increase employee engagement and retention.

Please contact me today for more information on the Total Engagement Career Mapping Offering and to set up a call so we can explore how this offering could fit within your organization.

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