A field guide to millenials
I'll admit it, I was listening to another talk radio station last week and I heard the host rant about millenials for about ten minutes. He called them lazy, entitled, directionless, rude and aimless. And he sounded like a cranky old man. Griping about young people is so old Plato did it. Half the time I think it springs from the jealousy of no longer being able to live the life we had in our twenties; remember randomly spending time together with people like the cast of Friends? (admittedly....less good looking people). But listening to a guy who gets paid six figures to sit in a chair and talk, winge about "teaching young people a thing or two about the real world" also irked me.
Today's youth are facing a completely transformed job market. Where their parents and grandparents graduated with relatively little debt and almost always landed well paying and long lasting jobs young people today are graduating with mountains of debt and the best many can hope for are unpaid internships with vague promises of jobs down the line. These aren't the internships we had. Those actually had goals, deadlines, supervision and mentoring. Today major corporations have young people doing jobs that used to belong to people with salaries and benefits. One guy wrote me and said his internship consisted of repetitive tasks, lasted six months and involved reporting to another intern.
So it was interesting to chat this morning with business and communications expert Merge Gupta-Sunderji about a column she wrote about understanding Millenials for the Globe and Mail. You can read it here. The most startling point she makes is that if we're going to complain about today's young people we have to accept blame for having raised them. We let them watch TV instead of having conversations. We raised them to ignore the people in the room for people they could connect with on the internet. We told them they were the most special snowflakes in the world and that anyone who said otherwise was someone mommy would pick a fight with.
But the problems young people are experiencing today reach beyond how they were raised. We expect them to show loyalty in a corporate culture that increasingly has no loyalties. No-one deserves a job for life but if the attitude of employers is "you should count yourself lucky just to have a job" why does it surprise us that young employees aren't all that interested in working Saturday for free? Especially for managers who enjoy all the benefits we now call millenials "spoiled" for expecting for themselves. Managers had defined benefits plans, new hires get defined contribution. Who's spoiled?
Gupta-Sunderji also makes some interesting points about communicating with young people. It's not out of disrespect that they don't excel at face to face communications. It's just not how they've learned to communicate.
I know, no matter what I say there will be plenty of people shouting "no-one owes them a living. Get your life together". Just ask yourself, who was there for you when you were starting out?