“Next!” Her shrill voice echoed through the large foyer – giving me my cue that I had been selected as the next victim from the crowd. I gathered my resume and tried desperately not to reveal that my knees were shaking as I made my way across the masses. Each one of us had the same look – the same vacant stare that begged to know the right answers. We looked alike, we thought alike and we dressed alike. I realized in that moment I needed to break the mold.
We’ve all been there. We’ve delved into countless hours of research, scavenged around in our closet to find the perfect power suit and constructed our resumes into creative masterpieces that reveal our personality style and professional background. However, has this repetition aided us in landing our dream job? 9 times out of 10 the answer is a big-fat-gigantic NO! Why? Shouldn’t our education and experience be enough? What are we missing?
According to an article in Huffington Post, “By 2020, millennials will form 50 percent of the global workforce. With this new generation that was raised on mobile devices and social networks, entrepreneurs and business owners are recognizing traditional management and communication methods of the past are no longer working on this new breed of employee.”1 This is exciting news! Or is it?
Millennials are in NEED of employment! Some companies are catering to our demographic and changing the way their organization does business. However, not all are buying into the need to revolutionize.
CEOs are being bombarding and coerced into recreating their organizations from the foundation up. Core values are scrutinized, office layouts are reconstructed and the ladder of success has been shoved into the basement with the other relics of the past. Our generation is rushing in with change and Boomers are still trying to regain their footing.
Hayden Shaw, author of Sticking Points, suggests, “Younger generations are not willing to wait for styles and approaches to change…”2 We thrive off of change! Technology has given us a world of endless possibilities and choices. If we want something we can have it NOW. This is the reality of technology; however, not the reality of business. Even the most cutting edge companies that implement sleeping pods, community-centered retreats, non-hierarchical leadership and skinny jean Fridays will never provide ALL that we’re looking for in a “Millennial- Centered” workplace.
Furthermore, in our effort to gain inclusion, we’ve create a schism. Boomers don’t see the practicality of some of our ‘demands’ and many see our generation as intrusive and a threat to their comfort. We could easily stand up for our rights and order companies to transform their cultures to make way for our needs, or we could realize that influence comes from a different position – we could realize that our ability to impact comes from a place of reliance.
Our need for employment does not give us the power of generational persuasion, but of generational dependence. Since the majority of Millennials are in NEED of work, then the majority of companies can use our desperation for their benefit. Millennials are not holding the power – it still belongs to the Boomers. However, if we can gain the respect from older generations, then our platform becomes the passion and purpose of a greater audience.
I’ve come to realize that Boomers are not exactly antagonistic towards Millennials, but exhausted by the constant vacillating needs of Millennials. They feel inept at presenting a structure that’s ‘enough’ for us. If we truly want to bridge the gap and gain credibility with Boomers, we must first start out with knowing what to ask.
“What is your greatest NEED?”
Yep. I said it – the magical question that will make Boomers take a second look, check their pulse and wonder if heaven has come to earth. This is the one question that sets apart Millennials, because it deconstructs a Boomer’s preconceived notions within seconds.
Society has continuously used Millennials as an excuse – they have deemed us lazy, selfish, needy, flippant and demanding. Therefore, when our generation stands before an organizational board of advisors, we are first seen through the eyes of bias, before we’re ever seen through the eyes of individual accomplishment. Is this unfair? Yes. Can we change the faulty assumptions regarding our generation? Absolutely. However, it doesn’t start with knowing the right answers, but listening intently enough to ask the right question.
The English poet, John Donne said it best when he proclaimed, “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” Our generations are distinct and inharmonious in many ways; however, each of us wants to be part of a bigger purpose – each of us wants to make a difference. We might not always agree on the “how” or the “what”, but we can all form a cohesive community on the WHY. When we seek to benefit the organizational culture, we truly gain influence – we gain credibility – we gain the respect of Boomers.
If we truly want influence, are we willing to ask the right question?
1 Haydn Shaw, Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2013), 11.