I’ve explored my generation and concluded Baby Boomers have experienced much, but we still have much to give. Now, I’ll look at the newest generation to enter the workforce: the Millennials.
Born roughly between the years 1980-2000, Millennials are the children of Late Boomers (like me) and Early Gen Xers. Technology and their parents have influenced them greatly. They’ve been called entitled, coddled by their parents, lazy, innovative, optimistic and comfortable with technology. Are these characteristics true or just stereotypical? What do these young people have to offer society?
To help explore some of these questions, I’ve enlisted the help of Danielle Welling, a summer intern at Em-Media, for a Millennial perspective. For each topic, we’ll each give our opinion and discuss our impressions of Millennials. Along the way we’ll learn about each other and hopefully how we can all work toward better intergenerational communication.
I have a love-hate relationship with technology. Over the years, I’ve watched it grow and change. Pictures, video, the Internet and social media have allowed for major innovation and creativity. We can engage people on a completely new level, which is especially exciting in the advertising industry. But sometimes I think technology — the Internet, computers, smartphones, tablets — comes with a price. Today’s technology presents a constant stream of distractions. I hate that we’re so connected that we are distracted from the people and events right in front of us. Checking email at dinner, scanning Facebook throughout the day, texting instead of calling, it’s all so easy. And I’m guilty of it too. I call it what it is — an addiction. This addiction is found in every generation to varying degrees, but I see it the most in Millennials.
Millennials have never experienced life without technology; this is their strength and their weakness. They embrace new technology willingly while some older folks must be dragged kicking and screaming into using it. I’m sure Millennials’ confidence with technology will lead to many innovations; however, technology can never replace the basic soft skills in life. I think our dependence on technology to connect with each other has begun to seriously hinder our ability to effectively communicate in person. I don’t think many Millennials consider this, so it usually comes by surprise. I’ve seen it happen during job interviews. A young person has all of the hard skills necessary to do a job, but then during the interview he or she can’t communicate these skills effectively, so I don’t hire the candidate. I hate to imagine a world where we’re all scared to talk to one another.
I’d say I like technology about the same as the average Millennial, but I completely agree that it is an addiction and depending on technology for all communication is unwise. I’ve mostly experienced the Millennials replacing face-to-face communication with technology when it comes to solving conflict. Technology enables us to hide behind a screen. Then we have a false sense of security because we don’t have to face the consequences of our words right away. Sometimes this allows us to put off dealing with problems or even help us to say things we regret. I would say my generation especially needs to think about when it is and is not appropriate to use technology as a means of communication.
Even as a Millennial and frequent technology user, I don’t think social media, texting or email can ever truly replace spending quality time with people. It’s hard to decipher the context of a hastily written message without seeing facial expressions or hearing voice inflection. That’s why a hug and a “hello” will always trump a text message. That’s why I’ll always remember nights spent with friends talking and laughing around a campfire more than a funny cat picture posted on my Facebook.
The way we communicate and connect with each other is part of what makes us human. It’s essential to our relationships with people at home and at work. If we approach technology with moderation and discernment I think it can help make our lives better. When it comes to communicating with each other, maybe this means taking more time to unplug and give the people around us our complete attention.
Parents and Entitlement
I’ve raised four Millennials, and I love them dearly, but freely admit that I don’t always understand them. Sometimes I wonder if in response to the strictness of my parents’ generation (who lived through the end of the Great Depression and the madness of WWII) we were afraid of being too tough on our children. I, like many others, should have said “no” more often. We told them “You can be anything you want to be!” and “Go to college, get a degree and you’ll get a good job.” Maybe we should have also added it’s not going to happen quickly or easily, and you aren’t entitled to succeed in this world.
Jim, you’re definitely not alone in your line of thinking here. While researching, I found plenty of articles that said Millennials are entitled and coddled too much by our parents. As a Millennial, it’s challenging to hear. Really, no one really wants to hear that about him or herself. But, you know what? I’m glad I did. These opinions inspired me to take an honest look at my strengths and weaknesses.
I found that I don’t feel particularly entitled to anything, except to be treated like a human being. Although my family did tell me I could do anything I set my mind to, they didn’t let me think I was entitled. My parents and grandparents taught me they had to work hard for all they have today. I also saw for myself both the sacrifices and rewards that came from their hard work. Their steady encouragement and confidence in me helps motivate me to succeed because I don’t want to waste the advantages they’ve given me.
I agree that children’s upbringing impacts the kind of adults they become. But I would argue that, even within a generation, not everyone has the same upbringing. I want to be considered as an individual first, then a Millennial. My generation doesn’t have to completely define me.
You’re right, Danielle. There are exceptions in every generation, and I would add we need less judgment and more love towards one another. I know the Millennials I employ work hard and are some of the best in their field, so I’m proud to have them on my team.
Overall, I think Millennials have the capacity to be great, but sometimes lack the skills needed to tap into their potential. For example, I find their work discipline lacking. The majority of Millennials I’ve met have an 8:30 a.m. -5 p.m. mentality, period. Any earlier or later is not part of their vocabulary. To get ahead, sometimes you need to go that extra mile to get it done. That being said, I do admire that Millennials value taking quality time to do quality things and desire a healthy work-life balance. When I was just starting out, I learned the hard way too many long hours at work put a strain on a marriage.
Today as an employer, if my employees utilize their time in the office well, producing quality work and meeting deadlines, I don’t mind them keeping flexible hours or taking time off. But this is an earned privilege. Most Millennials just starting out shouldn’t feel entitled to these benefits. I don’t fault them for their inexperience — everyone has to start somewhere. Millennials should enter the office with humility and be ready to learn and put in their dues.
My generation does have a lot to learn from your generation’s work ethic and experience, Jim. I’m quickly learning I need to put in extra effort to stand out in my field. During this internship, you’ve forced me to come out of my comfort zone to be more assertive in my face-to-face communication. This lesson I’ll take with me the rest of my life.
But I’ve met many hardworking, ambitious, and driven Millennials. I’ve also met Millennials who have no idea how to function as an adult. Most of us fall somewhere in between. I notice some negative “Millennial” traits in myself: I am indecisive and rely on my parents too much. But I recognize these habits won’t help me move forward in life, so I’m actively working to improve the areas in which I fall short. Many of my friends have similar attitudes.
Like the generations before us, Millennials have to figure out how to grow up and get to where we want to be. Life isn’t like our old little league teams; it’s not easy, and everyone doesn’t get a participation trophy. Yes, Millennials are far from perfect. We are just starting out and have a lot to learn, and maybe we’ll have to make some mistakes and learn the lessons the hard way. But, as Jim said, with the right attitude and skills, Millennials stand a chance to make something of ourselves in this world. Boomers and Gen Xers have gained a lot of experience over the years, and I for one am ready to hear about it. I also believe we might have a few things we can teach other generations if given the chance. But first we have to start the conversation — Jim, do you have any advice for us?
My advice to Millennials (or anyone, really) is simple. Be humble, not selfish; your life is not the only one that matters. Be honest, not manipulative. Don’t exaggerate about your skills. Ask a lot of questions, but do so because you sincerely want to know the answer. Be well-read and well-written because these are skills that are always useful. Put your phone down once in a while and get out in the world! Volunteer in your community. Meet people and talk to them. That’s how you make a network of friends and connections. Who knows? Maybe someone you meet will offer you a job one day! Most importantly, be kind. There’s a lot of negativity out there, so encourage one another. Find what you love to do, and do it. Then you will always be successful.
Thanks for reading,
Jim & Danielle
Owner/President/Media Specialist, Em-Media Inc.
Phone: (740) 264-2186
About Jim Emmerling: Helping businesses succeed through creative meaningful campaigns was and continues to be the driving goal of Em-Media, which was founded on April 1, 1996 by Jim Emmerling. Since the inception of Em-Media, Jim has guided his team of media specialists into one of the region’s premier full-service advertising agencies. Jim’s advertising career spans 30+ years. Prior to starting his own advertising and marketing agency, Emmerling worked at The Gannett Newspaper Corp. in Tarentum, Pa., and held management positions at The Daily Collegian in State College, Pa., as well as at WTOV9 in Steubenville. A native of New Kensington, Pa., Emmerling graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communications. Jim and his wife, Lee Ann, have raised four wonderful children: Michael, Jacob, Jonathan and Isabella. Jim is very active civically, serves on several boards of directors seats, and was past president of The Steubenville Rotary Club.
About Danielle Welling: In 2014, Danielle graduated from Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville, Ohio, with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently a senior at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, where she studies Communication Arts with a concentration in Public Relations. At Em-Media, she has collaborated with Jim, Renee, Tim and Gabe on various video and writing projects. Previously, she interned at the Massillon Public Library, writing the blog “A ‘Pioneer’ Rediscovers the Library.” Danielle will intern this fall in Malone University’s Admissions Department. After she graduates, Danielle hopes to work in public relations. Danielle currently lives with her family in Mingo Junction, Ohio.
About Em-Media: Since 1996, Em-Media has given clients the best value in today’s markets. No matter where your business is located, Em-Media can create a cost-effective, memorable marketing message. Em-Media knows the importance of communicating clients’ messages in an ever-changing digital world combined with traditional media. Our team is up-to-date on new digital media trends to adapt to our clients’ ever-changing needs. From start to finish, our staff is ready to design your website, manage your social media platforms, and increase your presence on the online spotlight.
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