This entry is a bit off topic compared to my typical ‘how to’ entries but as a parent of two millennials, I hope you’ll understand the departure. I’m not going to discuss politics so you can continue to read regardless of your particular political bent.
Over the years, I have hired literally hundreds of people. My primary requirements were enthusiasm, demonstrated intelligence, and an eagerness to succeed. In fact, my single greatest accomplishment was building a team of such people when I grew my law firm exponentially. With some exceptions, most of the people I hired were young. Every day they inspired me, impressed me, and more often than not, exceeded my every expectation.
I recently attended a meeting of the Scottsdale Rising Young Professionals as a mentor. I met amazing young people who were truly extraordinary. They were motivated, intelligent, hard working, and, from my perspective, eager to learn. They represented the best of their generation but also the best of us.
I listened as they told their stories of striving and setbacks and success. They are the stories of every generation. They asked questions that were painful to answer…about how to balance family with success (I almost failed) … about how to deal with difficult work conflicts. I tried to answer but I’m just another person who is still trying to find his way. So I just told them a bit of my story.
My son is a great kid and my daughter is a beautiful human being. They are both ‘millenials’ and I wish I could be half the person they are. They are both young, eager, intelligent, and most importantly, happy. Being happy doesn’t make them lazy or incapable. My daughter is an incredible artist. My son works at slinging tires in 115 degree heat while taking several AP classes. I am so proud of both of them and if anyone calls them lazy or unambitious, they can answer to me.
My point is that every generation has its own challenges. There is a quote, often misattributed to Socrates, that I love…
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
This should sound familiar and it is wrong. The vast majority of children respect their parents. They may argue with us but tell me a time when they didn’t. They aspire to be better and are more socially aware and active than at any time I can remember. Sure, they have issues but every generation has its challenges. Millennials get something that we may have missed. Their definition of success seems to be a bit different than ours. Material possessions are still important (try to pry that smartphone from their hands) but I think they believe there’s more to life than things.
Millennials also have legitimate gripes. They paid a fortune for their education (something we never had to deal with) and expected a decent job when they entered the work force. Some have unreasonable expectations but they were also sold a bill of goods. Just a few years ago, when I would post a job opening for an administrative assistant at $12/hr, roughly half the resumes I’d receive would be from admitted attorneys desperate to get a foot in the door at a law firm. Yet law schools keep graduating over 40,000 every year. Average law school tuition is $50,000 so the picture is bleak for a new attorney.
They are also angry at us (the old folks). They see a planet in environmental jeopardy, a nation sinking deeper into debt that they will have to shoulder, and an income divide that is perhaps wider than it has ever been. Even worse, they see a government that appears utterly dysfunctional. The youngest among them are afraid of being shot dead in their classrooms. Is it any wonder that a few of them have become radicalized?
We need to give millennial bashing a rest. Instead, talk to them. Argue with them. Teach them but also listen to them. They are our future and deserve to be taken seriously.
Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).