Winning at Work

Open up Google and it won’t take long to find articles around the burdens Millennials have on their financial situation. We’ve seen the articles that depress us. Like how we’ve had to deal with not one, but two recessions in our formative adult years. How we’re bogged down with crazy student debt. How we have been contributing to social security but risk never actually benefiting from the system. Or maybe it’s not being able to afford our own homes after the housing crisis or lacking the savings needed to retire at a reasonable age – some reports say we’ll never retire. Ouch! 

A Positive Twist to the Millennial Professional Story

A lot of reports written about the Millennial generation can seem very doom and gloom. And for good reason. However, today, we’re here to focus on the positive. A report was released last week from Business Insider titled “Geriatric Millennials are Winning at Work.” First of all, I’m sorry but I cannot continue this conversation until we address the elephant in the room. Who the hell coined the term Geriatric Millennials? Didn’t your parents ever teach you it’s rude to call out someone’s age? And could we not think of anything better? I thought those of us that are 35-44 are considered more Elder Millennial, not Geriatric! 

Lowest Unemployment Rate

I have to say I had quite the visceral reaction to the headline, but if you can get past the click-bait headline, and put your ego to the side, it’s worth a read. The article states older millennials (above 35) are the best-off age group in terms of employment right now. This cohort has the lowest level of unemployment than before the recession. As of December 2021, our unemployment rate was only 3.3%. So we’re out here working folks. Now part of this makes me wonder if that’s because as Millennials we are terrified of not having a job? 

I recently left my job. I resigned in December and can now officially say that I have signed an offer letter for a new position and am starting in February! I’m really excited about that, but when I resigned – I didn’t have another job lined up. And that was the first time in my life I quit without a start date already booked. In fact, I’ve never even quit and taken time off between jobs. I would leave a position Friday and start the next Monday – no time off in between. Part of that was security. And when I decided to resign from my last position, you better believe my parents had something to say that I didn’t have a job lined up when I did so. Where do you think I got the fear to never quit without a job lined up – from my parents. And the Boomer generation in general – having a steady paycheck was the dream. 

People give GenZ the credit for looking for passion in their jobs sometimes, but I’m sorry – us elder Millennials started that trend. We didn’t want to settle for the paycheck. We wanted to actually enjoy our jobs and find some purpose in what we do. Our parents thought we were crazy, or maybe just naïve. They didn’t think we could do it. But in true Millennial fashion, we’re hell bent on proving them wrong – one of our key driving forces. 

But I quit with no job lined up to take time for myself. With that, I will credit my younger cohorts. As I watched the Great Resignation happen over the past year or so, I was envious of those that left to just take time off – and there was more than I would have thought. They showed me this was ok to do – and to do it with pride. So when I decided I wanted to resign, I thought of this as my chance. My chance to give myself a little self-love and also give myself time to job search to really find something that was a great fit. I mean, why can’t I take time for myself before I engross myself in my next job? I’ve been working consistently since I was 15 years old, with only a three month break when I first started college. That’s it. So over 20 consecutive years of working with zero time off between jobs. I think I’ve earned it. And while there’s been the little bird on my shoulder telling me to lock down a job from the second I resigned – I have also been fully enjoying my time off and maximizing every moment.  

I’ve been working out every day – and whenever I want. Normally when I’m working I have to workout first thing in the morning otherwise I won’t get to it. But since I don’t have to work – I sometimes get up, have my cup of coffee, eat breakfast, read and then workout. Like a midday Peloton break. It’s quite delightful. I go for walks. I booked myself a personal spa day this week. And you know what? I’m ready to get back to work. I start my new role February 1st and feel energized, excited and like my head is in the right place and ready to start fresh. Why have I never done this before?! 

The Middle Child of the Office

Getting back to the article, the news gets better. Not only do we have jobs, we have the upper hand at work! The article states, and I agree, we bring the most skills to the table!  Part of this is because we straddle the digital divide between older and younger generations in the workplace. Think of it as we’re the middle child at work. We’re the translators and the peace keepers. I understand both sides and can see everyone’s perspectives. Kind of like my role in my own family. While I’m not the middle child, I was in the middle of my mom and my brother. Let’s just say I’m very good at compromising. Think about how valuable it is to be able to see different perspectives in today’s job market? 

I mean, the job market is insane. If you just turn your LinkedIn profile to be open for jobs – it’s crazy how much traction you get so quickly. Even at higher leadership roles which usually are harder to come by. But not right now, we are in high-demand. And when companies are in the middle of The Great Resignation – of course we are if we are the translators between company owners and C-Suites and those that are the day-to-day experts. 

Elder Millennials have the ability to teach younger employees more traditional communication skills and digital skills to older cohorts. We are the age range that grew up doing book reports on typewriters and didn’t get cell phones until college. Even then, they were for emergency use only because the plans were expensive and limited to like 200 minutes a month – and text wasn’t a thing. We can not only type, we can speak too. I will never forget my first advertising job when I started as a Media Assistant. There was a Senior Media Buyer that was in his 40’s, maybe 50’s that I worked with, we’ll call him Bob. Bob was real old school in a lot of ways, but one that always was the most crazy to me was that he literally couldn’t type. He was a pointer-finger typist. If you know, you know. I cannot express how frustrating it was to see how long it took him to type an email. 

It was shocking how technologically inept he was. He would always call the sales reps and was on the phone constantly. Now, in some ways, this isn’t a bad thing because now I do think we tend to lean too heavily on email communication when sometimes a phone call is needed. I can’t tell you how many times at work when a team member of mine can’t get a hold of a business contact. I’ve asked them if they’ve tried calling and guess what the answer was. To me, it’s common sense – if you keep emailing and they’re not responding, why wouldn’t you try another tactic? The email tactic clearly isn’t effective. But it takes me saying – maybe you should try calling for them to even consider the idea. 

Sometimes I think about Bob here and there and wonder if he ever improved these skills. Did he take a keyboarding or typing class? Has he learned to excel? If he’s still in the industry I don’t know how we would get away without it, but sometimes I’m just curious. In my middle child position at work, I do see the lack of communication skills at times with my younger cohorts. They tend to need more coaching in this area, whereas my older cohorts are expert communicators but still can’t figure out when to unmute during a zoom call. 

I saw this TikTok the other day where they simply stated – we’ve been working from home for almost two years; learn how to use your mute button. Boy could nothing be more truthful than that sentiment! Ha! Every once in a while it happens to all of us, that’s not what I’m talking about. But you know those people that are the consistent offenders. Every call you are on, someone has to say “Mary, you’re on mute”. There were a couple that were so consistent at my last job, my husband who was also working from home, knew them by name just from hearing the call. And he’s never met them in real life. But just know them as the mute button offender. 

This middle position provides an opportunity to be very marketable in the workforce, which is helpful considering the 30-45 year olds represent the highest resignation rate during the Great Resignation – an average of 20% have resigned over the past year. What I find interesting is this same group is most likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome which we’ve discussed on this podcast before. So maybe we should give ourselves a little credit where credit is due. Don’t you think? 

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Elder Millennials – because I’m sorry, I refuse to refer to us as Geriatric, are in a good position right now. We have a unique skill set that enables us to be the bridge between generations in our workplace. This is truly valuable in our current marketplace. So let’s give ourselves credit for that, but also not get too comfortable. This new generation definitely surpasses us in setting and holding boundaries and in technology and the digital space. So unless we want to be looked at as Bob the old-school buyer or Mary, the mute offender by younger Millennials and GenZ, it’s important we continue to push ourselves to grow and learn with the times, just like we did when we got rid of our beeper and picked up a cellphone. The benefit of being able to appreciate different perspectives lies in our ability to learn and grow. This means learning what we can from our older and younger cohorts so we continue to be able to relate to those around us and not get left behind. I have faith we can do this, but make no mistake it won’t be easy. Are you up for the challenge so you can continue winning at work? 

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