what I (really) think about millennials: confessions of a gen Xer

After watching my parents putting up with jobs or bosses they resented, to be able to pay for our car, our house, my education, my clothes, and so on and so on, I swore to myself that I would not manage my career like this. I admired my parents’ resilience while wishing and wanting for more. I wanted to be happy to go to work every morning, and not having to resort to buying a stack of lottery tickets in hopes of escaping work life misery. I was driven by achieving my full potential.

But my confidence and determination took a hit. Just like my peers, I’ve known two economic crashes – one rightfully named Black Monday in 1987 and the second was the DotCom bubble late in the year 2000. We were well-educated and ambitious, but we couldn’t get suitable jobs and we knew we could, out-of-nowhere, lose everything. This may explain why my contemporaries are often depicted as pessimistic, negative, individualist, rigid and rebel, materialistic, and insecure. 

gen x what i think of millennials

idealism or nonchalance?

So while I like my generation’s penchant for independence, self-actualization and achievement, I cannot help but envy Millennials' idealistic views, and their nonchalant, fearless attitude.

When I look around and discuss with my Gen X’er friends, I see that they all did well. They now have nice jobs, shiny titles, they are respected in their field. But oh boy, was the road filled with obstacles, and with the necessity to prove themselves over and over again, as opportunities were limited and employers had the upper-hand. I have experienced the same hurdles. So whenever a Millennial rolls into the office with a “know it all” or “I should be a VP already” attitude, or they’d utter the phrase "What, you don’t know that’s there’s an app for this?" it would make my teeth grind. 

hidden millennial tendencies revealed

I learned to work with them, though. Learned to appreciate their creativity, their go-getter attitude, their resourcefulness, their optimism, their willingness to put in the hours, and it inspired me. And to my surprise, we have much more in common than I thought. Their optimism resonated a side of myself that buried deep within me who wanted to dream big, to reach for the stars, to be stimulated with grand ideas, to have fun.

While Gen X is also called the McJobs or the 'No Future' generation, with Kurt Cobain as the poster child, I always felt there was something colourful and bright under that gloomy, grungy, cynical varnish. Both generations have worshipped Seinfeld and Friends for that sane dose of self-mockery, we all danced to silly pop hits from long gone bands like the Backstreet Boys, Ace of Base, Spice Girls and the likes, and relished the possibility of being connected with the world through the Internet.

calling all dreamers

So after having that epiphany, I looked for ways to work better with Millennials. I have valuable experience, spending most of my work life mastering the art of office politics through a number of reorganizations, cutbacks, and management musical chairs, working around tight budgets, and being the queen of doing more with less. So why not turn this into a win-win relationship, where I can act as a mentor, or a facilitator, who can recognize and foster Millennials' sense of innovation while adding a dash of realism and structure in their planning. Millennials crave the immediate and constant feedback, and they do thrive on a motivational leadership style.

And the fun only begins. I will soon to have to find new strategies for the generation following Millennials, Gen Z. Born between 1994-2010, they will soon make their debut in the working world, and while they share similarities with Millennials, they are quite different. I say that because, being back at university to complete a degree in digital content, I’m getting to know some of them. They are as digitally-savvy, well-informed and open-minded as Millennials while being more prudent and pragmatic, as they were raised around a great recession and 9/11. Maybe they are the best of both worlds? I'm looking forward to having one of them on my team! The more the merrier, right?

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