If you've followed this blog for a while, or if you've known me for any time, you know that I enjoy teaching. Part of the reason I keep this blog active, if you can call it that, is that I have been fortunate enough to have a great many experiences in life that provide teaching moments for others.
If you scroll through the hundreds of posts here, you'll find a number of different lessons. I've shared, extensively, about my journey through the Organizational Leadership program at Gonzaga, including some course descriptions and lessons learned. One of my most popular posts is about using Craigslist with your Non-Profit, a very dated article that needs to be updated soon. I've shared reviews of products and reviewed books that I loved and enjoyed. I've even told stories about friends who have passed, in the hope of keeping their stories alive by teaching others about their lives.
From a professional standpoint, I've taught in varied settings. I've taught at the Technical College of The Lowcountry, a great experience that I truly miss. I've lead seminars on technology and communications, I've served as a tutor to elementary students, I've helped other graduate students expand their understanding of the world by creating new courses, and I've helped organizations understand what their future will hold.
Heather and I launched a business last year that aims to teach people about the world around them, specifically by exposing them to an often misunderstood area of the world that is loved by many faiths, the Holy Land.
It seems that I cannot escape teaching, nor am I sure I'd like to.
In 2012, Heather and I embarked on our "Debt Year", 12 months where our singular focus was to wipe out our consumer and student loan debt. In less than a year, we paid off over $40,000 in credit card, car loans, personal loans, and student loans. Since then, many friends have asked me to share our story in person, or encouraged me to write about our experiences. I've largely put them off, due to a misplaced desire to be humble.
However, over the last few months, a few things have inspired me to take up this mantle again, albeit in a slightly different sense. One of the things I am most pleased with in my career at ProQuest is the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people I have ever encountered. Many are much younger than I am, which is a difficult thing to realize when you're only 36. They remind me of myself when I was their age, though more aware of the world around them and more aware of the challenges of life in 2016. I'm honored when they come to me for professional advice, about career advancement, about continuing their education, about how to more effectively lead their teams, or about personal advice, the details I'll leave out here.
As these conversations continue to occur, I have noticed two recurring things. First, millennials are living in a world that is different from the one they were promised. And, second, that world has failed to adapt to their unique and valuable understanding of the role of people, organizations, and businesses. Let's unpack those two things.
Millennials live in a world that is different from the one they were promised.
What does that really mean? I'm going to ignore the inaccurate myths about millennials and just focus on the reality. Millennials were told to go to college, do well, and the American Dream (whatever that really is) could be theirs. They were told that a college degree is the key that unlocks success. They were told that the same companies that employed their parents would provide a decent life to them. Unfortunately, those things aren't true. We, as a nation, are facing adaptive challenges in employment and technology. Just as the jobs that once guaranteed someone with a high-school education, or less, stable, honest, and well-paying work have disappeared (when was the last time you knew someone who worked in a textile mill, or an auto plant), so too have the jobs that once guaranteed a stable, honest, and well-paying career for college grads disappeared. Millennials live in a reality where they struggle to pay off their student loan debt, much less save for their first home. And even if they did save 20% for a down payment, many are not interested in owning a home after seeing friends and relatives lose their homes, or be trapped in house that has lost most of it's value, but none of it's mortgage.
The World has Failed to Adapt to Millennials Understanding
This one is a bit harder to explore, but bear with me. The world that we occupy, at least in the States, is still the one that was built by the boomers. It's a world that can't, or chooses not to, understand the challenges faced by your average college graduate entering the workforce. Boomers, largely, trust the decisions and leadership of the companies they work for. Millennials have seen the dark side of corporate greed, poor leadership, and inept management. Compensation packages favor the needs and wants of Boomers. They include health benefits and other perks designed to keep an employee with a certain company, yet the loyalty that once existed between employer and employee is long gone. It's not that millennials won't delay gratification for future rewards and promotions, its that many have seen that jobs disappear before those promised promotions materialize.
It's altogether too easy to blame differences and challenges in the workplace on the newcomers. We see that in our personal lives, and even in our communal life as a country. We spend more time worrying about who to blame for a situation than we do understanding the motivation and drive of the people we're accusing. I hope to use this blog, and my more frequent updates, to help the two sides of this tension understand themselves, and the other, better. For millennials, I hope to provide concrete help in navigating a world they didn't build. Not only help in the workplace, but help understanding the world around you and how to position yourself for success. For Gen Xers and Boomers, I hope that my extensive experience working, leading, and mentoring these younger contributors will help foster a sense of understanding and a willingness to be openminded to possible changes that can draw out a new generation of leaders.