A Georgian Reflects on Millennials

 

Millennials, at least the ones I know, are a complex and evolving generation. They have grown up in a diverse and global environment. They don’t watch TV as much as previous generations, and most have never owned a vinyl record or a CD. Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump are the presidents they know. Gay activism is their civil rights experience. Racial equality is more of a given; they focus less on skin surface, and are less concerned with defining identity with labels and norms.

They use words like gender-fluid and love urban catch phrases. Coming of age in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, they are the first generation in awhile to have more tools but less money.

Millennials don’t tend to look back. They know nothing of post World War II America or its Silent Generation. JFK and MLK are their Washington and Lincoln.

Millennials innovate in an age where they stay tethered together for life through the internet and social media. They have developed mechanisms for building emotional relationships with people they have never met face to face. Hand shakes and all that they signify are so 20th century to them.

Non-Millennials can no more understand Millennials than they can put the Star Wars franchise into the correct movie order. Spoiler alert: Luke Skywalker meeting Obi-Wan Kanobi is chapter four not one. If you do not know this, you are so 2000 and late.

Nobody told them that a college education might lead to flipping burgers or making coffee. It upsets them that life isn’t fair. Millennials get a bad rap but most of them are trying.

Millennials don’t seek the perfect job to buy the house in the perfect neighborhood and marry the perfect person and have perfect kids who go to the perfect school. They seek the perfect job to have the perfect life-work relationship to allow them to dive deep into their passions.

Here is a helpful hint. They have large egos and smart phones. Millennials have the ability to criticize most everything, but aren’t always the best critical thinkers. They are the curators of their own universe and often don’t have much use for dissenting opinions.

Granted, in some cases, they return to their parents’ homes. They may live locally, but they think and explore globally. They are less judgmental about other societies. At the same time, they have a keen sense of what they don’t like about their own. And they are finding their voice.

Loyalty is not a given in their world. It’s earned. But once it is earned, it is binding.

They welcome diversity in leadership positions and they are okay with a woman as their boss. In fact, they probably don’t even take time to notice it as significant.

Millennials excel when employers build environments of trust and encourage them to learn and take risks as part of a team. Employers must teach them about failure. It isn’t always bad, sometimes it’s just an opportunity to take responsibility and do better.

When they find their true calling, they shine. Work places must have lots of mentorship in place to properly nurture them. The right kind of leadership and communication opens up new ways of thinking for both generations, and enables organizations to thrive.

Millennials want to please, and when they do, they expect emotional acknowledgement. A slap on the back or a bump in pay won’t cut it. Kindness, thank yous and thoughtful gifts only need apply.

Millennials may have all the information in the universe at their fingertips, but in a way this paralyzes their ability to problem solve and be decisive. Tremendous school debt and societal pressure to contribute haunts them. They are pragmatic rule followers. Sometimes their only sense of relief and escape is documenting their life through selfies and counting likes on Instagram.

If, knowledge is power and power is currency, the currency Millennials trade in their relationships is different. It’s no longer transactional. “I do this for you, you do this for me. Therefore, we have a relationship.” Their idea of relationships both at work and at home is built on sustainable emotional connections. Love is the one thing that is difficult to always trust or get in the digital age.

In the end, it’s important to think about Millennials but it is also important not to over think it. Like all of us, love is what Millennials really want. If you have it to give you will succeed with them. If you don’t you just may want to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Join them for a selfie, listen to their perspective and teach them something they don’t know. It could be a match made in heaven.

Film-maker Fred Taylor of Atlanta is the founder of Tomorrow Pictures.

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