In Defense of Millennials
Let me begin with an admission. I am a millennial. I was born in 1984 and I often display traits or characteristics associated with my generation, particularly the common complaint that millennials are too needy for feedback. I love feedback. I thrive on feedback. And since we’re on the topic, I like to dish it out, too.
Mayra Jiminez, a successful Gen-X business owner and Inc. columnist, recently posted a self-described “rant” about millennials, and I’d like to offer her a bit of feedback. Let’s begin with her opening paragraph:
I never imagined that the toughest problem I would have in running a multi-million dollar business would not be getting off the ground, staying afloat, or growing at a rapid pace. While all huge challenges, they’re a walk in the park compared to the biggest obstacle I’ve dealt with in five and a half years of business: recruiting a group of loyal, competent young employees under 30 years old.
These couple of sentences are a tough pill to swallow for a man my age. At 28, I’m likely to be disloyal and incompetent in the author’s eyes. But that’s not what bothers me. What really gets my goat is the idea that it’s harder to find a competent employee my age than it is to start a multi-million dollar business. This is, quite frankly, a ridiculous and unfortunate claim. If Jiminez really believes this to be true, I wonder where, exactly, she’s looking for new talent. The Kardashian family?
Her laundry list of complaints continues with some pretty general and damning accusations: Millennials are cocky. Millennials take things for granted. Millennials don’t follow through. But think about those statements for a second. I know a lot of cocky people of all shapes, sizes and ages. I don’t think cocky is a discriminatory characteristic. And when I think of successful entrepreneurs, names like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson are the first that come to mind. I’m not sure “humble” is a word I would use to describe either of these gentlemen. And neither is “millennial.”
As for the claim that we take things for granted, Jiminez says that we’re so anxious to get to the next level in our life that we don’t appreciate the jobs we have now, particularly in this recessionary economy. Is she advising complacency? Did she not take a giant leap when starting her own business? Again, I don’t think this complaint only applies to my generation, and the idea that always being hungry for something better is a bad thing is pretty ironic coming from an entrepreneur.
Maybe Jiminez just needs some training on how to work with people across the generational divide. I recommend Maril’s conversation with the folks from Bridgeworks, who specialize in workplace millennials. Or she could watch Rachel Botsman talk about our growing collaboration culture. Or she could just climb out from whatever rock she’s living under and meet some new folks under 30. We’re not a bad lot. But maybe I’m just cocky.
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