All’s Well That Ends Well


 sunsetcomincaEven when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

 Every generation that comes along is often thought of as “going to the dogs” by older generations.  That was just as true in biblical times as it is today.  Yet, somehow the next generation manages to survive and often excel where the older generation thought they would fail.

Which brings me to “our” next generations:  Gen Y, iY and the latest, Gen Z. These are people born after 1980 and are now young adults in most cases. As I have noted, there are always going to be generational differences, but for these millennials, the change is much more.  It is a cultural change.  As Dr. Tim Elmore says: “They think differently, they communicate differently, and they often hold different values than [their predecessors]”.

Millennials make up the largest demographic group in the western world. They are our future (that’s a scary thought).  But their life, and their future, depends on us, the older generations to bridge the gap.  So, following some of the things that Tim Elmore has said recently, I thought I would give a profile of what makes millennials different.

In the job markets, most millennials will have up to 9 different jobs.  This is much more than prior generations where even career lasting jobs were replaced by greater mobility, but never to the extent of 9 job changes.  While I had several entry-level jobs (mostly during the summers when I was in college), my career only had three job changes.  That’s typical for my generation.

Elmore says the corporate ladder has been replaced by the “Corporate Lily Pad”, where job changes are more akin to a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad.  Interesting metaphor. The only problem is that the job market looks for stability in your resume and a person who hops around at several jobs will be scrutinized more than others.

Millennials also want to find work environments in the workplace which has the “feel” of family where “working with friends, mixing laughter, games, passion, strategy, charitable service and even competition” is present.  This is more than previous generations who sought a work-life balance.

My last twenty years in law practice was in a law firm that was counter to most large firms where the only yardstick was performance, i.e. how much you worked and how much money you collected from your clients. We were blessed to have a large-firm sophisticated practice, but our smaller size permitted us to look beyond just making money to emphasizing family and a life outside of the practice of law. We were the exception, rather than the general rule.  I was fortunate.

The millennials – particularly Generation iY who were born after 1990– process information digitally.  A hardcover book is a rarity. Everything is on a screen.  “Their world has fewer words and a greater number of images” says Elmore. Currently, 82% of the internet content is in 10 languages, and futurists are predicting that half of the 6,900 languages will disappear in the next century.

We are already seeing this in the U.S.  For Generation iY, the average vocabulary of children in middle school (grades 5-8) has dropped from 25,000 words ten years ago to !0,000 words today.

As I wrote in an earlier post entitled “Critical Thinking” last October, according to The Mindset List put out by Beloit College every year since 1998, this years’ class entering college (called the Class of 2020) think that books have “always been read TO them on

Millennials are effecting the workplace, where “bosses are being replaced by therapists.” Elmore talked to two managers who candidly said “they feel like they have to be a therapist, coach, diplomat and nanny.”  That’s a big difference in the corporate world I experienced where, except for clear cases of mental health issues, most companies were not all that concerned about the “emotional intelligence” of employees.

The workplace has always had a proverbial “water cooler” which was usually a break room where you could get coffee and sometimes chat with other colleagues at work.  The millennials are replacing the water cooler with social media, which concerns me because it means their interactions are far less personal and face-to-face.

Studies show that the millennials are not good at resolving conflicts.  I attribute this to the fact that they have defective interpersonal skills because they have isolated their interactions to social media.   They don’t know how to resolve conflicts on an interpersonal basis.

Getting back to my title, I am worried that the future, for many millennials, might not end well. Unlike prior generations, for them to succeed, we may have to adjust to them, not the other way around.  A friend of mine, Julie Schmiesing, sent me a video recently which is a talk by Simon Sinek entitled “Millennials in the Workplace.”

She hoped that I would enjoy it, and I did.   I knew a many of the attributes of millennials in the video after a couple of years of study. The link to the video is below – it is 5 minutes long, and well worth watching. The video’s primary thrust is that companies may have to adjust to the millennials to assimilate them as productive employees in the business world.

Recently, Accenture, a company that employs over 330,000 people worldwide, joined several other public companies in eliminating the “annual performance review” which has been a staple of many businesses and professions over the years. Part of the reason is attributed to millennials who want to receive feedback immediately and consistently, not just annually. They want assessments in real-time, not something every twelve months.

There are other notable trends for millennials worth mentioning. They are staying single longer: only 26% of millennials aged 18-32 are married compared to 38% for Gen X (the prior generation) and 48% of the Baby Boomers. They are well-educated with some 23% having college degrees.

They are more multicultural, with some 38% of them being bilingual, which is up from 23% in 2003. On a down note, a recent study by Jean Twenge, a high percentage of them describe themselves as “overwhelmed”, so much so that close to half of them find it difficult to even function. As mentors, we have to help cultivate coping skills in younger adults so that they can develop resiliency to face life’s challenges.

Lastly, they want to do something meaningful in life.  They want a mission, not just a job. Some 87% of millennials consider a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes when choosing a job. Unfortunately, not all available jobs are with companies that want to transform the world.  As mentors and parents, we have to help them learn to do the little things (i.e. entry level jobs) to gain experience.

As Elmore notes:  “How can we capitalize on young adults’ desire to improve the world and, at the same time, demonstrate that they may have to do “little” things first?”

Yesterday, I got an unexpected message from a lawyer (Tom) who I mentored over 15 years ago as a young associate in my law firm.  He said “Bill, you made more of an impact on my life than you possibly can imagine. Thank you.”  His note surprised me. He went on to describe some of the mess that occurred from his divorce and then went on to describe his new “life-time partner (like Sis for [me].”  His faith has deepened, and I am glad to see him on the right track.  I haven’t given up on him.

The challenge here is not to give up on the next generation, but to jump into their boat and help them row through these new currents of rapid change caused, in part, by technology. They need mentors – people with a longer perspective to help them navigate and find their God-given purpose in life. It’s our job to help them “End Well”.  Not everyone has happy endings, but you can make a difference just by being a role model so others can see you handle your own struggles and overcome them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is desperate for inter-generational mentoring, and based on the studies, they need it badly.  You can do your part to invest in the next generation. Even investing in one person can make a difference.

FURTHER STUDY:  The video by Simon Sinek on “Millennials in the Workplace”:

Read about the elimination of annual assessments to accommodate millennials preferences:

For a study on languages:

For a study on the emotional health of millennials by Jean Twenge:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Take My Life (and Let it Be)”

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