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Four Lies Millennials Tell Themselves About Older Generations

Today, we hear from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a writer, curriculum designer, and speaker who has served with a number of non-profit organizations (and has spoken to thousands of Millennials) over the last 5 years. He now serves on our team at Growing Leaders. Enjoy.

Millennials are the largest generation in history. And being primarily in their 20s, they still have a lot to learn about the world. I should know—I am one of them. Because of the gap in perception between generations, one of the greatest mistakes that Millennials can make is to assume things about the generations that have come before us. These are lies that form deep in our brains, and all too often they have very negative consequences. Let’s explore four crucial lies that I see in my friends and myself—not to mention my generation, in general. As you are reading, challenge yourself (if you’re a Millennial) to combat these lies wherever you find them in your subconscious. If you are classified with an older generation, ask yourself if you are helping to create these misconceptions. Then consider what you can do today to dispel these lies.

photo credit: KIC Dublin via photopin (license)

photo credit: KIC Dublin via photopin (license)

Lie #1: “They don’t understand what I’m going through.”

Because of how different the world is today, Millennials have started to believe that past generations somehow don’t understand what life for a young person is like today. But the reality is that while iPhones and the internet have drastically changed career paths, social hierarchies, and self-identification, the essentials of life are still around (and will always be). We’ve all felt lonely and abandoned. Older generations just never felt that from the spheres of Facebook or Instagram. We’ve all experienced the joy of success; it just wasn’t always after winning a new level in a video game. I would say, in fact, that Boomers specifically may understand what Millennials are going through better than anyone. They are the generation that was larger than previous ones. They experienced technological shifts, and world-wide culture shifts. If anyone understands what Millennials are going through, it would be the Baby Boomers.

Lie #2: “I’m better than they were.”

Our parents told us we could be anything we wanted to be. I know why they did that too. They looked out at a world of opportunity and saw that any path was open. What we heard in our 10-year-old ears, however, was that we had the ability to be anything we wanted to be. Some of us got big heads about it, too. At least, I know I did. Today, Millennials often see older generations as out of touch or slow. And even though there can be a learning curve when it comes to technology, that doesn’t mean that we are more prepared for the mantle of leadership. In a recent study, 69% of Millennials surveyed expect to be in a managerial role within 10 years. Millennials think they are already prepared—or will very soon be prepared—to replace their boss. But are we really going to be ready for that kind of leadership, so soon?

Lie #3: “They don’t want me here.”

No doubt Millennials have read a lot of articles just like this one. People tell them why they are awful, selfish, or destined for failure. I want to make it clear that I don’t see it that way. And in fact, we should all be careful because Millennials are starting to get the impression that older generations don’t want them around. That may help to explain the huge problem that older managers are having with turnover. According to a study, 58% of millennials expect to change jobs within 3 years. Millennials have started to think that the only way to be appreciated is to leave—or at least threaten to leave. Most Millennials believe that the only way they will be appreciated is to work for themselves. However, the reality is far from this perception. Millennials are hotly desired commodities these days. In fact, 53% of hiring managers say it is difficult to find and retain Millennials. They want us around, and in fact many companies are acting desperately to get Millennials to stay at their current places of employment.

Lie #4: “They don’t need me.”

It seems like older generations in leadership positions are doing just fine—without Millennials—but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is something going on in our world today that we at Growing Leaders call a “leadership gap.” Boomers, who were once the largest segment of the workforce, are retiring. Generation X, which was a smaller segment of the population, literally doesn’t have enough people to replace all of the vacant leadership positions that Boomers are leaving behind. This leadership gap means that Millennials are already the largest section of the workforce, while they are still under the age of 35. It is more essential than ever that we, as Millennials, take a step up into leadership positions with both confidence and humility. Here’s the truth about Millenials. We are desperately needed.

So What Can We Learn?

If you are a member of the Millennial generation, I invite you to see the best in the older generations—your family members, your bosses and co-workers, your teachers and coaches. These men and women have so much to offer us, if we are willing to listen. We don’t have to agree with every piece of advice, but life is not always full of people with whom we agree. Reach out to those you respect and want to know. Ask them to meet you for a cup of coffee and “pick their brains.” Ask them to mentor you. You’ll find that your relationship with members of older generations will improve as you get to know them and learn from them. As life goes on, and as you open yourself up to their advice and their perspective, it’s likely you will develop a mutual admiration for one another. Let’s not lie to ourselves anymore.

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Four Lies Millennials Tell Themselves About Older Generations