You Look Great … for Your Age

Bridge and the abyssYes, it’s true. I have reached that magical age where I am told I look great … for my age. I’m not sure that’s a compliment!  Compliment or not, that phrase brought to mind all the many judgments and assumptions we make about people based on age.

Here’s what I think about this whole generational divide. We make it bigger than it really is. Many of us forget that at one point, it was our generation that was going to ruin the world or save it, depending on which side of that divide a person was sitting on.

I was reading an article the other day on this very topic and the author said something along the lines of “as we get older, our adventure window starts to close and we view those with their windows wide open as suspect.”  Millennials don’t have the years of experience we have. Many have wide open adventure windows. They haven’t learned to back away from opportunity because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”  That’s a good thing, but slightly off putting for those of us who have.

Another author said “Why don’t we just view everyone as a person first?”  A great question! When we lump people into a category, we assume everyone in that category views the world around them the exact same way. That has never been true for any generation. In every generation, there are are leaders and followers. There are people who push boundaries and those who prefer to live well within the boundaries of the current norm.  It is the people who push, who question and who perhaps sometimes demand instead of ask, that create change.

We can all learn from each other.  And for those of us who’ve been around a little longer, I believe we have the obligation to create environments where open dialogue happens. Let’s not expect the young and the brash to already know the lessons it took us years to learn.

Let’s crack our adventure window open just a little wider and let’s not take those back-handed compliments personally.  Be patient with the eye-rolling and sometimes condescending attitudes the younger folks give us. After all, someday they will be on the receiving end of them and wondering just how quickly those darn kids are going to destroy all the good they created!

Success from a Millennial’s Perspective

Google “managing millennials” and you’ll find a long, long list of articles and resources all addressing the question “How do organizations adapt to the unique perspectives and qualities millennials bring to the workforce?”

I was recently given the opportunity to read a book written from a millennial’s perspective on how to be successful in today’s constantly changing corporate work.  The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World, written by Aaron McDaniel, touches on basic truths that apply to all generations.  Perhaps the scariest part is Aaron’s statement that these concepts are not being taught in college.  Hopefully that is not true across the board.

I must admit I was really hoping to learn something completely new, completely different, but I didn’t. And that’s not a bad thing.  In the end, the road to success hasn’t changed a whole lot.   Success is not a right; success is not a given.  Success depends on a willingness to:

  1. Work hard
  2. Take risks
  3. Learn from others
  4. Learn from mistakes
  5. Create a career path
  6. Be flexible
  7. Challenge yourself

Aaron speaks to millennials from a millennial’s perspective.  Remember how your child believed his teacher or scout leader, instead of you, even though the message was the same?  A millennial hearing the message from one of their own, someone who has enjoyed significant success, may be more willing to listen.

Aaron also provides specific examples of how behaviours that are new in today’s corporate world apply to old truths. For example, the importance of acting professionally is not new.  Aaron reminds young workers that their behaviour, even when on break or outside of work, impacts other’s perceptions of them.  Posts and updates on Facebook, twitter, blogs and other social media channels are open and accessible for all to see and posting  unprofessional “party ‘til you drop images” on a public forum may very well impact the next promotion, the next job opportunity or the successful close rate with customers.

For me, the two most important lessons from this book are:

  1. Take control of your career.  Create a career plan.  Identify where you want to go and what you need to do in order to get there.  Nobody is waiting to give you what you want.  Go out and get it.
  2. Learn how to successfully leverage mentorship.  Identify potential mentors and ask them to be a mentor.  Recognize and value their time, their knowledge and their experience.  And when someone asks you to be a mentor, do it.  Giving back and helping others succeed is good for them and for you.

The Young Professionals Guide to the Working World is an excellent resource for millennials looking for ideas and suggestions on how to be successful in today’s corporate world. The truths Aaron outlines have stood the test of time. They work and he is a living, breathing, millennial example of that.

(Thank you to Career Press for the opportunity to read and review Aaron McDaniel’s book, The Young Professionals Guide to the Working World.)