Bridging the Divide Between Gen X and Millennialsby
Over the course of this series, we will discover the way millennials want to work for you as employees, grow with you as partners and hire you as your clients.
It has been widely accepted that the birth years for millennials are defined as 1981-1996, which would make us between 23-38ish this year. There are over 75 million millennials in the USA, with over two-thirds of us being in our thirties (according to 2018 US Census data), which is just under a quarter of our nation’s population. In our lifetimes thus far, we have seen peak divorce rates, three wars (one seemingly never-ending), four recessions, suicides increasing annually and a new realm of both inclusion and divisiveness stemming from the development of social media. Access to information (whether correct or inaccurate) has drastically changed the way the world interacts, all in the duration of our lifetimes thus far.
Our generation is quite interesting, primarily because of the way technology has grown up with us. I am 33 this November, and some things I recall that my kids ("technology natives") will never experience are getting the first computer lab at school, cordless phones and caller ID becoming household items, our parents getting their first cell phones that looked like large, strange calculators, internet coming from a CD and phone line and having to use a payphone.
I once entered a potential client business whose accountant had passed away, and no one could make sense of the ledgers. I walked into an office full of ledger books. LEDGER BOOKS. These are things I had, up until that point, only seen in my accounting textbooks when learning the difference between debits and credits and in old movies where they reference the accountant "cooking the books." I didn’t work with that client, just like I would never consider working for any company whose technology is that far behind the industry norm.
All of us (not just millennials) can likely remember how rich we felt when we could finally afford a computer at home. What about the excitement in the moment we were able to get our first cellphone, when it too became a household item? Obviously, these experiences vary widely throughout the demographic, as technology evolved by leaps and bounds between the top and bottom ends of our millennial age group. As a "centrist millennial" (yes, I just made that up, defining myself being in the middle of the age bracket), I can recall my dad’s record player and the VCR being our fanciest possessions. Today, I don’t even have a DVD player in my home, as everything runs on the cloud.
Bridging the gap between millennials and those who come next isn’t just about technology evolution, as that has taken in place in lifetimes of those older than us too. The difference is how our generation has been impacted by the rapid evolution of technology in our short(er) lifetimes. I remember being in school when our written papers began to have a "must be typed" requirement, and our papers were initially typed up on my grandfather’s old ribbon typewriter because we were too poor to afford a computer. I am not a sociologist or psychologist, but in my mind these beginnings with technology is where the seed took root that you must utilize technology to succeed.
While technology has played a pivotal role in how my generation has been trained to perceive and implement effective work methods and habits, there are a number of other factors that have shaped our worldview and the vision of what work matters. I hear plenty feedback talking about how millennials are lazy and lack the drive to work hard. As a millennial who works in technology, one of my favorite sayings is "efficiency is a byproduct of laziness." (I will also confess that I pretty much quit doing homework starting in 7th grade when I realized I could just pass the finals with a good enough score to pass the class… yay for math?)
That is a joke, of course… kind of. Efficiency for me is a byproduct of watching my single father work himself to death every day of his life to support three daughters on his own and knowing that is not how I want to live. Efficiency is knowing that I have structured my life to provide the time and resources available to raise my own three children, as a single parent myself. (Oh, and did you know that over 28 percent of families with a single female house holder live below the poverty level, per 2017 Census Data?).
When I talk to my age bracket fellows, a common theme is that we want to work hard and play harder. Folks my age want to contribute to a cause that matters and also live their lives. We have seen our parents divorce and now we aren’t marrying; our childhood homes have been foreclosed and we aren’t buying property, and we’ve learned that we may be even happier travelling the world from a backpack as we would be living the US with stagnant median income trends.
What is even more interesting to me, especially as a parent and auntie, is seeing the way we millennials are raising our children. Oh man, are you in for a treat! The children of senior millennials are already turning 18 and entering the world on their own, and understanding how their influence is shaping our country is a gap to bridge in itself. Over the course of this series, we will discover the way we millennials want to work for you as employees, grow with you as partners and hire you as your clients.