I'm #teammillennial. Unabashedly. Yes, I'm a GenXer, but unlike many in my generation, I relate to, coach and mentor "the millennials" on the regular. And I like it...and them.
Not so long ago GenXers were in the same set of crosshairs as Millennials are now. We were called "the lost generation" and written off with similar excoriations. Which I find ironic, since we birthed The Millennials, raised them with our set of values devolved from our parents', allowed TV and peer pressure to parent them, stuck gadgets in their hands at an early...the same ones we now despise, and taught them nothing about interpersonal communication, strategic (business) socialization, and "the game." Yet, we have the nerve to call them lazy, unfocused, and entitled when they're just doing their best to survive and thrive in a business environment that's filled with old people with old ideas and a language and protocol that makes no sense to the very people we raised and saddled with the aforementioned entitlements.
Millennials aren't stupid. They see everything we've built. They see the racism, gender disparity, corporate greed, political corruption, and the underbelly of our perceived greatness. And they're silently laughing at our hypocrisy. Lazy? Unfocused? Entitled? Really, bruh? They followed all the advice and the path that us GenXers laid out to a tee. Go to college and rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, because we did and became a really successful mid-Managers. Study Engineering because it pays the most and will low-key assure you a 6-figure salary right out of college...though AI will likely automate you right out of your seat in a few years. Hang with the right people, in the right circles of influence, and you'll get ahead quicker. Find a great job and stick with it...even if it sucks. Nice work, GenX.
Sadly, much of this has backfired.
Millennials job hop like rabbits procreate and seek companies who are concerned for the welfare of their communities and their employees, not just the ones that pay the most. Millennials have the highest rates of depression and mental health issues than in the past two generations of corporate workers. Millennials carry over $30,000 of college tuition debt and have the most difficulty saving money and moving out of their parents' homes earlier because the hot, successful economy we GenXers created is unaffordable for the majority of Millennials. (Keep in mind, that $30K in debt will take over years to pay off at $150/mo at the ~5% Federal Stafford interest rate applied to most college loans.) And now that AI is quickly becoming "a thing" many of the jobs currently held by Millennials will be automated away over the next few years leaving many with a redundant/worthless college degree and all the debt associated with procuring it. Let that sink in for a sec.
I'm kinda done with the GenX message. Look at the state we're in right now. Watch just 10 minutes of CNN or Fox News and you'll get a heaping helping of how divided, nonsensical, and ridiculous this country has become and the "values" we now espouse. Money. Power. Politics. Bias. Lies. Spin. Again, great job GenX.
On behalf of all GenXers I apologize to The Millennials. We kinda f*cked y'all up. Our intentions were actually good. We worked our asses off to provide you with everything we didn't have growing up thinking it would give you an advantage in your life and career. Unfortunately, we became blinded by that dollar and blithely forgot that showing up to your soccer games, attending those PTA meetings, helping you with your homework, and actively exposing you to other races, cultures and countries was much more important to your development than the Xbox/laptop/BMW we bought you and leaving you to FITFO (figure it the f*ck out) for yourselves most of your life. Our bad.
But you're not victims. And you're not lazy or entitled or unfocused. Those are our words to describe you based on what we perceive to be "the right way." What you actually are is curious, questioning, discerning, empathetic, and sadly, oppressed. You're doomed to work within the system and environment on offer which isn't a very good one in my opinion. But it doesn't mean you must give up who you are in order to fit a norm and ethos we GenXers have established. If anything, you need to grow your resolve and start pushing back on the things that don't align with YOUR collective ethos and create your own groundswell to make the big changes that stick. Keep in mind, Millennials officially became the largest generation in the workforce a couple of years ago. #facts
As I travel the world teaching, coaching, and mentoring EAs from present and future generations I do my best to create an environment where we share each other's experiences with the intent to listen to understand vs. listening to reply or react. I recently had a situation in one of my workshops where that went completely to shit when a GenXer attendee created drama outside of the room for a Millennial attendee because of hurt feelings about a comment expressed in a "cone of silence" environment misperceived as a personal attack. Luckily, it resolved itself, but it's actually representative of today's business environment and really made me double down on helping Millennials navigate the disrespect, bullying, and sabotage we GenXers participate in and continue to perpetuate creating zero ROI except drama. Here are a few things to tuck into your back pocket and refer to from time-to-time as you navigate the choppy waters of today's corporate environment to create a new one that you will soon run.
Have an opinion and back it up with facts. Don't allow anyone to silence you, especially if you sense it's an emotional reaction vs. something based in fact. Always (figuratively) carry a big stick. That big stick being #facts. If you have an opinion or a good idea back it up with data and state it boldly and as often as needed until people listen. Doesn't mean that you'll always be right or have the right timing, but it will plant that subconscious "footprint" in the right person's subconscience who will circle back when that idea or opinion is most relevant for the time. Staying silent or throwing your hands up only kicks the can of oppression down the road. BE HEARD. And be okay with GenXers being a little annoyed or uncomfortable. That's our shit, not yours.
The secret to my success has always been to know, in frightening detail, the game that I must navigate in order to win...for ME. I take the time to learn the players, the plays, and the strategies that I can discern from those playing the game. In English: I know who to f*ckwith and who not to. I get clarity on what's expected of me in every situation and I exceed those expectations, consistently. I negotiate every salary, every raise, and anything that doesn't align with my ethos and routinely get what I ask for because my results speak for me. The moment I feel unappreciated, unchallenged, unsupported, or that someone in power is intimidated enough to sabotage my professional development, I bounce. Zero tears. Zero fux.
Like I wrote in my previous article, sometimes it's better to just go around. You kids are smart AF. You're savvy. You learn quicker than any previous generation. And you now dominate the workforce. You have everything at your disposal to completely disrupt business in its current form. All you're lacking is the confidence, mentorship, and a game plan. My advice is to look up from your laptops a bit more often and really observe what's going on. Start learning the plays and committing the best-of stuff to memory. Know the players in detail and start randomly (read: strategically) introducing yourself to the VC on the Board of Directors when they visit the office every quarter to attend the big meeting. More importantly, start tribe-ing up with other Millennials internally and at the numerous mixers and social events in your towns to share ideas and experiences. You'll quickly find that you have tons in common and your collective talents and grind could quickly score you a valid business of your own where you could then leverage that "What's up?" you had with the visiting VC who's actually looking to fund an idea just like yours.
We GenXers did you a grave disservice by teaching you not to see color or gender when pursuing and creating relationships with people. Let me say, unequivocally, throw that whole shit away. We all have unique experiences and identities that led us to where we are today. And that includes race and gender. When you see me I want you to see the entire tapestry that makes me, me. That way you'll understand and appreciate my experience, my struggles, and the reason I am who I am. Not just that I'm equally qualified or "a good person" and that's enough. By doing so you completely rob me of my unique experience based on what makes you comfortable vs. what's wholly valid. Do an audit of your GOOD friends. If they all look like you, talk like you, travel in the same packs, and their friends the same, it may be time to actively make some new friends who provide you a broader perspective and richer experience than the one low-key prescribed by your GenX parents' warped ideals.
Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, here. Not all GenXers suck. Most, but not all. Some of us realize that what we've created isn't sustainable and want to impart the wisdom we've gotten along the way to provide Millennials a helping hand to make big changes that will benefit us GenXers as we head into retirement in the not-too-distant future. I love your ethos. I love that you care more for the human condition than we ever did. I love that you're holding companies, quite powerfully, to a new standard with your attendance and your purchasing power. And I love mentoring and empowering Millennials to turn up the heat and really step into their personal and collective power. But I also find that Millennials and GenXers perceive one another as being too different or not speaking the same language. You couldn't be more wrong. GenXers were young once so we get it. Many of us sacrificed most of our dreams so that our Millennial children could thrive. And we were all the excoriated generation before you came along. We know modern business because we built it, sadly, with the time we should have been spending rearing you. So, Millennials, poke around and find that handful of really cool GenXers who are brilliant, connected, but would totally roll/pass a blunt with you, tag along on that self-finding, zip line and booze laden trip to Costa Rica, or simply meet you for drinks and offer up some sage advice or help you and your buds start that business by providing you with the perfect set of connections. Again, we don't all suck. Find that cool one or two GenXers and add them to your squad. You'll leverage all their knowledge. And they'll get an injection of youthful energy and spirit to help them to challenge and grow their perspectives.
Please don't give up and conform to what you see in the wild right now. It's wrong. Believe me. You kids know what's really going on and you know and believe in what can be. As much as we GenXers love to excoriate your disconnected ways and pie-in-the-sky ideas, we also know that the current state of the world is pretty f*cked up. Largely because of us. Toss (almost) everything we taught you and follow your hearts. Be reverent. Believe in a power much larger than yourself, however that manifests. Believe in the good in people first and remember that people are loving, trusting, and respectful at their core. Otherwise we'd never be able to cross the street safely. Embrace your curiosity, continue asking questions, and keep challenging old, tired ideals. Continue to embrace technology, despite GenX complaints, and text/tweet/snap/IG away. What we all fail to remember is that trends come and go in cycles. Today's "trend" of lack of personal communication will eventually get old and technology will become so ubiquitous and complicated that it just won't be that much fun anymore. A revolution will ensue and we'll all jump on the party wagon that the next trend provides us. Humans NEED interpersonal communication to survive. It's in our DNA. That said, keep doing what you do, but realize that it will eventually lead back to one-on-one conversation, eye contact, and physical contact...as scary a concept as that may seem right now.
I'm #teammillennial. Unabashedly. It's actually your world now. The rest of us are just living in it. Snatch the reins and get to work. I'm excited for your future and your vision for the world and will do everything in my power to help you bring it to fruition. Because it looks much better than the present us GenXers have created. Ignore our complaints. They're largely reactions to our own ineptitudes. Don't accept "The Millennials" as some sort of scarlet letter meant to keep you down or in your place. You have this one finger on both hands that sends quite the powerful message to your haters and doubters. Use it often. And continue to follow your hearts and your insanely prescient intuition to help dig us out of the hole us GenXers created. You have the power now, even if it doesn't seem so on paper.
Be bold. Master the game. Tribe up and create some competition. Be actively inclusive. Get a mentor. And be better. In fact, BE BEST. We need you to step up more than ever. But on your terms, not ours.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.