Hello out there to all my fans in Blogland (in other words, Mom and Ben). The summer is now upon us, and I have a little more time than I did the last few months.
I heard a segment on NPR this morning about millenials (18- to 25-year-olds) in the workplace. The link:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10758121
It talked about their need for feedback and how, as a generation, they have been closely monitored and "guided" by their parents, so supervisors in the workplace need to provide these things for them. It also had advice for millenials: see your life as a "project" (like at work): show your independence by getting an apartment (instead of living with your parents) and find a mentor at work (not your supervisor) who can guide you.
I knew this about millenials; I finally learned through hard experience. I've been working with and supervising college students for several years now, and have been baffled and frustrated by this need for what I saw as "hand-holding" and "having everything done for them", not realizing that the happy flip side is hard work and loyalty if the millenials are given what they need.
I am from Generation X, which, as a group, was independent-minded and spent a lot of time thinking for itself and rebelling against the Baby Boomer values of the 1980s (in broad terms, we thought our parents sold out: they talked big in their youth about Changing The World and then when the 1980s hit it was All About The Benjamins, with little time for their kids). Of course, Baby Boomers (BBs) perceived Xers as "whiny", which, to a certain extent, we were. But that doesn't mean that we were wrong.
In any case, what this BB/Xer cultural clash wrought was a generation of people with an independent, do-it-my-own-way, make-do-with-what-I-can-get (because the BBs weren't letting anything--jobs, government, money out of their vise-like grip), why-bother-too-hard mentality. This can be perceived as "lazy" or "whiny" by BBs, but really, we have more in common with the 1960s now than they do. And what do they expect?
God love the millenials, though. Like any generation, they have a good and bad side. The good side: the aforementioned loyalty and hard work, as well as a belief that they can, indeed, change the world. If anyone can, they probably can. The bad side? They aren't that good at thinking for themselves (they need constant approval), they are joined at the hip to their parents (students I work with often talk to their parents several times a day; I talked to mine probably once a week in college), and they need everything spelled out for them. I used to perceive it as individual weakness until I figured out it's a generational trait; it's not their fault. Here's my theory:
BBs kind of screwed up with Gen X (thus we rebelled against their 80s materialism and career obsessions and got all 90s grunge), so then they tried again with our younger siblings and made them into perfect little children who are a Credit Toward Their Parents. These poor youngsters can't do anything without being monitored and encouraged by their BB mommy and daddy (the ever-hovering "helicopter parents").
It's totally unfair to them. BBs make fun of "Father Knows Best," but please: these kids are more
compliant than the ones on 1950s TV. And their BB parents made them that way.
What to do? Well, I certainly can't do anything about changing an entire cultural setup that's been in the works for 20 years. But what I can do is be more charitable toward millenials, and try to foster a little independence and free-thinking in them. They're good kids, and if they can cut loose from their parents, who knows what they might accomplish?