I originally wrote this for another website this past summer. As I’m thinking about the year ahead, I felt like it was a great time to post on my own blog. My hope is that we will see more respect and appreciation for the different generations in 2016, as all of us have something important to contribute! Would love to hear your comments once you’ve read the post.
We live in a world that digitally empowers each of us to create, define and promote a personal brand that is uniquely ours. We don’t need to wait years to be discovered, we can create our own rock stardom now. To me that is so incredibly cool. Old rules and paradigms are not just being broken, they are being blasted apart.
On the flip side…
What happens when individuals become so consumed with their desire to prove they are rock star worthy that they stop at nothing to prove that their way is the only way?
That’s how I feel about the millennial mindset proclamations.
Before you go into hater mode, let me be very clear. I have no ax to grind.
I have no issue with millennials (or people of any generation). I have plenty of friends who are millennials. I respect them and admire their creative thinking and their work immensely. There is nothing wrong with wanting to educate business about what each generation cares about. What I don’t like is the millennial mindset “label” and the attitude behind it.
What’s that attitude you might be asking?
An attitude that millennials are the generation that is smarter, faster and more adaptable to changing times. They are the forward thinking leaders while everyone else is a decaying piece of old news. That bugs me. It bugs me as much as I imagine it bugs millennials to hear their generation characterized as lazy, arrogant, entitled and narcissistic. This is why labels are a problem. They create barriers that stifle open dialog and collaboration.
I’ve listened to countless Google hangout conversations, read blog posts, observed tweet chats and listened to the unending chatter about why the millennial mindset is so special that we should all aspire to earn the label. Heck, there is even a test you can take to determine your millennial mindset score. Mine is 98 out of 100 for whatever that’s worth.
Where is the respect?
For a generation that supposedly represents tolerance, I have been surprised at the millennials quick to point out that boomers – their specific target – are outdated, unable to adapt because they are stuck in their ways and only slow down the progress of the millennial generation here to save the world. Heaven forbid you challenge any of their assumptions, because I warn you their venom can be vicious. These same people say that boomers are jealous of the quick and easy success of millennials. I say, suck it. Back up your claims with facts or stop talking.
I am generation connected. It isn’t about age.
There is no doubt that millennials grew up in a digitally infused, socially-networked world. As a result, the assumption is that millennials more easily embrace and adapt to new technologies. Maybe true, maybe not. I know people of all ages who resist change. I also know people of all ages– including myself – who love the thrill of change, who can envision the possibilities that advancing technologies present.
Are you getting in your own way?
Millennials complain about being passed over or not considered for opportunities. Maybe it’s the promotion, the speaking gig or your name isn’t showing up on enough vanity lists. But I have to ask… what have you done to earn the right to be considered for those opportunities? No. You don’t have to wait 20 years to get there. But you do have to put in the time. Be willing to do grunt work without pay and no recognition to build your expertise and build a following. There is no easy button. Not. For. Anyone.
It pisses me off to hear some disgruntled millennials argue that boomers are getting in their way of the quick, upward mobility and limelight they deserve. Odd, given that Gen X stands directly in front of them competing for many of the opportunities that millennials want for themselves. Why they want to make the boomer generation their target is beyond me.
You want to be seen as the leader in your field regardless of your age. Well, guess what, everyone else wants that too. Here’s how you do it.
Stop complaining. Stop focusing your attention on everyone else and what you think they have, but you deserve. It makes you sound entitled.
Stop spending so much time bragging about your awesomeness and do good work. That speaks volumes.
Stop disrespecting executives who don’t trust you yet. You haven’t proven yourself to them. There is something to be said for time, expertise and experience. You might be on the cutting edge of the hottest new tech beta, but revenue drives the bottom line. That 45+ leader you think doesn’t get you because they are stuck in outdated ways of doing things? They have stakeholders and stock markets to answer to.
Stop putting people of other age groups down. If you opened your mind, you might actually learn something. Do the names Bill Gates and Steve Jobs mean anything to you? Yeah, boomers who paved the way for all the digital delights you enjoy today.
There is a lot to be said for adaptive, collaborative, agile thinking and action. Businesses need more of those traits infused into their models. Badly.
And businesses will also only thrive with more diversity and inclusion – not less of it. That is exactly why I have a problem with labels. Labels close the doors to fresh insight and innovation. We can learn from someone who is 75 or 15. The only people who don’t think so, are the people who already think they know it all.