I am a millennial. I relate to a lot of the descriptions of millennials and the criteria; I was born in 1988. In Simon Sinek’s interview with Tom Bilyeu on Inside Quest, he states that anyone born after 1984 is a millennial, I have heard various cut off years for this, but nevertheless, I fall into all of them.
I love instant gratification. I am impatient. I want to make an impact. I have never thrived in the corporate environment.
I’m 28 years old, I have moved back in with my parents. I am not married, and I do not have aspirations of marriage. I have no children, and I do not want any (Ikr I am so young to decide that, etc etc etc. Let’s save that for another post.)
Simon Sinek’s analogy is full of judgement and fails to acknowledge one thing – the birth of the internet.
I have high expectations for my life, likely because I was born around the same time as the internet. As I have grown so has the internet. Technology has advanced so exponentially that there are kids now who don’t know what VHS is… I mean, wow.
The internet has made the world smaller. It has increased our opportunities and changed the marketplace. It has changed the way in which we do business and opened up avenues of possibility that just were not there before. As with anything that brings about such monumental change, our societal structures, corporations and institutions are slow to react. Only now that millennials are ‘entering the workplace’ has this started to become evident.
We have different expectations. We know that the majority of our days and the best years of our lives happen while we are working. Therefore, if you want us to exchange such a huge portion of our lives sitting behind a desk, making ourselves unwell from all the inactivity and staring at corporate computer screens, then we best be doing something that adds value, resonates as our purpose in life, and enriches our human experience.
I don’t think that that is entitled. I think that that is sensible.
Generations before us have towed the line, and they have reaped the rewards of that. They could buy a house in London with a mortgage at 25yo, and they enjoyed the lifestyle that surrounds that. We have been priced out of London and the suburbs, and this, along with the world getting smaller, has caused us to reassess our priorities. We aren’t going to exchange the best years of our lives for a beautiful house in the middle of town, going to the theatre every weekend and living it up in the city (or the suburbs) because we can’t. The exchange is one-sided.
There is no pay off for sitting in your office and slowly dying while participating in a meeting about efficiencies in which our senior colleague thinks it is prudent to discuss the stationery cupboard. After that meeting ends we go back to our parents’ house; we have to listen to an onslaught of well meaning relations looking quizzically at us and being concerned that we will never amount to anything because we are still living at our parents’ and don’t appear to enjoy our soul-sucking corporate job.
There is nothing wrong with wanting more.
Simon Sinek also makes a good point. Smartphones. Social media. Self-esteem. While his delivery is patronising and full of judgement, I am sick of spending time with my friends where they take out their phones to text someone else. Luckily for me this isn’t such a huge problem, I have chosen good friends. But I see it everywhere I go. No one speaks on public transport, not even to their travel companion; they don’t look up from their devices.
Dating is now some strange game played on your smartphone where you score points based on how good you are at selfies and whether or not you’ve got enough pictures of you by the beach. How am I supposed to like someone, or not, based on a picture of their face? I’m baffled.
Not all millennials are the same.
I am exceptionally good at connecting with people in person, in real life (IRL!) and I know other people who are too. I make a conscious decision to leave my phone in my bag or pocket. I understand the impact of silence. The importance of letting your mind wander – innovation is most definitely born out of allowing yourself to just BE.
This is something we need to learn. But it isn’t something unique to millennials. This is something we are ALL guilty of. Sinek uses the example of smartphones in the boardroom – ain’t that many millennials present in the boardroom, proportionately speaking.
Balance is important for all of us. Not just those born after 1984.
Indeed, there seems to be the impression that we all came out of the womb with a smartphone in our hands. Not true. I didn’t get Facebook until 2007. I had already gone through adolescence and A levels, and I was contemplating whether University was for me, while some of my friends were busy with their first year of study. We were 18yo.
A lot of us had dial up and MSN messenger during our adolescence. That was our social media. MySpace was a thing, of course, and everyone had a friend who learnt to code your page and make it pretty. But it wasn’t anything like it is now. We didn’t have one single hand-held device that allowed us to access social media, order anything we wanted, or text on 50 different apps. I used to go to clubs with a digital camera on one wrist and my flip phone attached to the other. I used to have a camcorder to record video onto a tape and I still have the VHS to prove it! Now we have one device that does it all, including our banking.
And yet, Sinek maintains that our refusal to accept a mediocre existence is because we went through adolescence glued to our Instagram accounts – I only got Instagram last year!
I am a millennial, but my high expectations and difficulty squaring with corporate humdrum is not the result of low self-belief, low self-confidence, or low self-esteem (though I have definitely suffered with all of the above). It is a result of a housing market that refuses to let us play, a job market that largely hasn’t caught up with the boom of the internet, and a world that is now so accessible that we have more choice. Hell, we created more choice!
We are internet pioneers.
There are two ways of looking at everything. You can place judgement on us and laugh at our expense – absolutely. But you can also see all the bad ass millennial entrepreneurs who are using the internet and social media to stick two fingers up at corporate and make their own path.
Mark Zuckerberg is a millennial. Wanna tell him he should have taken that corporate job?
If you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it here: