In my book Escape from Dark Places: Guideposts to Hope in an Age of Anxiety & Depression I write:
“Millennials are different. If you are not convinced by now, go out there and see for yourself—watch them, talk to them, interact. They are different, right?”
In the book, I anchor the problem of anxiety in its historical and cultural context. In doing so, I illustrate the widening abyss that has formed between the boomer and millennial generations, which is largely due to the unprecedented change we have experienced over a short 35-year timespan. But until I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Patrick and John Collison, the millennial brothers who founded Fintech, it did not fully register with me how difficult it is for young people to assimilate into the culture of the traditional workplace.
“Banks have not realized how different this generation is,” says Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Fintech. Millennials “don’t really have a problem putting their social security number in a web form, but they have a terrible problem going up to a teller in a bank and trying to figure out what exactly you’re supposed to do. It is so inefficient.”1
Precisely! Unless a millennial is part of the small minority who land a job at Google or some other leading-edge technology company, they enter the workforce immediately astounded by the inefficiencies. To make the problem worse, they are unprepared to navigate the politics, and they are unwilling to play the game.
So the relentlessly optimistic and overly confident millennials go to work bound and determined to change the world now. There they encounter the Xers, a generation intent on achieving an acceptable work/life balance, biding their time until the boomers retire. And inevitably they confront the boomers who dismiss their enthusiasm, telling them in no uncertain terms that they must first pay their dues.
So what are millennials doing to overcome this impasse?
- They Job Hop: According to a recent LinkedIn study, millennials change jobs four times in their first decade out of college; that’s nearly double the bouncing around GenXers did during the same time period. Not only do millennials change jobs, but they often switch industries entirely.2
- They Become Millennipreneurs: Millennial entrepreneurs, or millennipreneurs as they are called, have launched about twice as many businesses as boomers. According to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, more than ever before, 20 to 35 year olds are starting their own companies, “and they’re already outperforming their parents.”3
Perhaps you are thinking that while job hopping is stressful to millennials and costly to business owners and stockholders, it’s not the end of the world. And that when young adults are forced into devising creative ways to overcome the economic challenges, it builds character.
While that may be true, we must also recognize that as technology expands and the world grows smaller, our problems are getting bigger and more complex. At the same time, people are growing increasingly divisive, and as a result those big problems are not getting resolved.
We can’t ignore the problem; the stakes are too high! Instead of pointing fingers across generations, we need to build a bridge of communication that will enable us to reach new levels of understanding. Then we can build upon the foundation of boomer and Xer wisdom and experience by incorporating innovative approaches to problem solving that only those who grew up in the digital world can offer.
- 60 Minutes Full Episodes, “60 minutes: Strike-through – Fintech – The Children’s Village,” YouTube (May 2, 2016) accessed June 24, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__5lEEE72I.
- Heather Long, “The new normal: 4 job changes by the time you’re 32,” CNN Money (April 12, 2016), accessed June 24, 2016, http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/12/newTs/economy/millennials-change-jobs-frequently/.
- Molly Petrilla, “‘Millennipreneurs’ Are Starting More Businesses, Targeting Higher Profits,” Fortune (February 20, 2016, accessed June 24, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/02/20/millennial-entrepreneurs-study/.