“I didn’t go to school to do that kind of work!”
These are words spoken to me by a Millennial jobseeker. The work that was so disgusting to this person included operations support for a suite of executives. The jobseeker compared the activities as, “That would be like sticking needles into my eyes.”
As I look online, I find that there are many instances where Millennials express disdain at doing entry-level work, scorn at the thought of working at a business that doesn’t seem focused on solving world unity and hunger; and they are stunned to find out that a career and a job rarely makes people happy.
Many Millennials, who are college graduates, feel shame that they are working at the local burger shop. They worked hard for their degree and expected a career and a job. Now they are humiliated.
Another conversation went something like this.
Millennial: “I want a job that I enjoy in a place where my ideas are welcomed, people are engaging, where I make enough money to live on and where I don’t dread going to work.”
Marcia: “You want a job where you can be happy?”
Marcia: “Would you trust your happiness to people whose primary responsibility is to make money and generate profit.”
Marcia: “Then why would you give away control of your happiness to people where you work? The purpose of a business is profitability. That’s their job and there’s nothing wrong with a business focusing on profit. On the contrary, that’s the point of building a business.”
Marcia: “Their job isn’t focused on making employees happy. We both agree that crushing employees to achieve profitability is unethical and bad business practice. Still, I wouldn’t suggest handing them the keys to your happiness.”
Where did these early career jobseekers get this idea that their career and their job would be the core of their happiness?
The Mother of Millennials: Meet the “Uber-mom.”
Several years ago, a client of mine was talking about her priorities and said something to the effect of, “I’m an uber-mom. Nothing gets in the way of my taking care of my children.”
I have comic book visions of women with rotors extending from their helmets that allow them to tag after their children’s every move. These “helicopter moms” hover low over their children in anticipation of every need. Each mom has bags of stuff filled with inventories: bug spray, suntan lotion, band aids, their blankie, a change of clothes, extra ball cap, duplicates of favorite toys… In my imagination, whenever a child wants something, s/he need only lift a hand and “uber-mom” immediately places what’s needed directly into their grasp. Perhaps the drone industry is already making plans to help.
Did we set Millennials up?
I’m concerned that we did.
And if this is the case, why are we blaming these young people for having the bad attitude that we fostered and nurtured?
Is it a fair assumption that parents want the best for their children? I think so. The approach to “parenting for optimal results” varies widely. We all know that children come with unique challenges and they don’t come with a handbook.
In 2014 Christine Gross-Loh asks some insightful questions and found interesting answers from cultures all over the world. They are reported in this article. Some highlights include:
- In Germany, kindergartners whittle wood with a penknife and without adult supervision: No one has ever lost a finger.
- In Sweden, 3 and 4 year olds bicycle down the street. They also climb on roofs and up into tall trees—all without adult supervision. No broken bones.
- Sweden gives children “ample room to explore outdoors and indoors” and has the lowest rates of child injury in the world.
- In South Korea, children are taught to wait for meals and eat in community. Eating alone is deemed unhealthy. They eat what the adults eat. South Korea has the lowest rates of child obesity in the world.
- In France, they believe that giving children the opportunity to feel frustration also gives them the opportunity to practice delayed gratification and learn self-control. Studies show that these children enjoy “greater future success.”
- In China, the older that children get, the more they are reminded of their obligation to family. These children are more motivated to succeed.
- In the United States, children who feel obligated to their families tend to do better in school.
Is “obligation” another word for responsibility? I suspect so.
A new paradigm for Millennials
Here in the United States, children have grown up in an alternative reality. For many, (certainly not all), we have taught them that someone will fill their needs. This obligation belongs to someone else and they need only wait for their need to be fulfilled.
As I look over the generations I see that each generation wanted more for their children and the situation was such that it was possible for that to happen…until now. Three generations ago, children were better off after about 10 years of career development. Two generations ago, children were better off after 5 years of career development. Today, this pattern has collapsed. This is the first generation where children are not likely to be better off than their parents.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know this would be the case. The Great Recession changed everything. Technological advancements in the jobs market have changed everything else. It isn’t the same path of progress and we have to adapt. Unfortunately, it seems that we have set our children up for the old paradigm of doing better than their parents. Now both parents and children are feeling bad.
Parents believe they have failed their children. If children are still living at home, then it’s because the parents didn’t do something they should have. Adult children still living at home are feeling badly because they haven’t found a job and a career. They believe they have let their parents down. They feel badly that their parents feel bad.
It’s a different world. People are doing the best they can. The blame-game (an activity in which our U.S. culture excels) is not going to help. The problem belongs to all of us. Right now, the average wage for a Millennial in the workplace, (ages 18 to 32) is $17 per hour. That isn’t the fault of parents or Millennials.
What you can do to help Millennials
We need to develop cross generational teams, identify solutions, and help these early career jobseekers identify career paths that match their abilities and where they can earn a living wage that will support independence for themselves and their families.
The problem belongs to all of us.
I will continue this blog sequence in the next blog.
Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.