I have just talked to my friend about her millennial son. Anton is a junior and doing well. He has been accepted for his second internship at a top tech company. It’s very likely that after graduation, he will be selected for Silicon Valley in a 100K+ job.
However, this boy is reluctant to leave college but why? He knows that he would be ok fitting the job, but he is not sure whether he would be ok with fitting everything else but the job. He doesn’t want to be defined by his job. The question is who is Anton based on his generational profile?
I am from Generation X, so my generation was born from the mid-1960s to 1980. If you are from my generation, you know that we are known as balanced, skeptical or even cynical, focused, goal-oriented, individualistic, achievers, and mostly clear with our identities. Gen Z, the next generation after Millennials, called us “the ‘Karen’ generation,” as in Karen, the middle-aged white mom who is always asking for the manager and wondering why kids are so obsessed with their identities.” (Strapagiel, 2019) It’s funny, but that’s not the point.
The point is that we Gen X people, born between the mid-1960 to 1980, were and still are expected to be clearly defined to be reliable and identifiable, otherwise, it’s confusing for other Gen X. The criteria used for such an identification are very straightforward: male or female, profession, married or not married or divorced, is originally from, has graduated from, lives in a house or not yet, and in which part of the city. I found that this is especially true in the United States. When I moved to the U.S., I was surprised (and annoyed) by how obsessed the people I met were to “classify” me into boxes of “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?”, “How many kids do you have?” It seemed that they couldn’t communicate clearly until they classified me. One of them was clearly frustrated when I kept answering that I was from the United States, honestly referring to all the states where I lived, while my accent was obviously foreign.
No wonder why Gen Xs become frustrated with the next generations because they are “obsessed with their identities.” Gen Xs are not obsessed. They are clearly defined. And they want others to be defined as well.
Millennials (1980s-late 1990s) and Gen Z (2000 – current) are different. I work with Millennials (my undergrad seniors and my master’s students). I am in love with Millennials, and I enjoy learning from them. I have just started to work with Gen Z (my freshmen students), and I am intrigued by them. What I have learned so far is that both of these generations refuse to be clearly identified. They refused to be defined with obvious dimension [“race — why? age — don’t ask, education — working on this, politics – none of your business, personal life — none of your business, profession — thinking about it, a hobby – oh, let’s talk about it”].
The challenge behind their passion is the CHALLENGE OF DIFFERENTIATION. (read on three types of “what’s next?” challenges)
Millennials know that they differ from Gen X. They want to differentiate from other Millennials. They want to be interesting and special. They want to be a boutique. That is why colleges’ dual-triple degrees are so popular now. But the jobs that Millennials can get after graduation are still, too often, one-dimensional. [Yep, it’s us, Gen X, who designed these jobs, sometimes with the help of Baby Boomers. So, the jobs are straightforward, simple, and reliable as they should be… for Gen X and Baby Boomers].
Millennials then feel trapped: they have invested so much in their multiple degrees and diverse interests, but nobody wants to pay for that uniqueness. If they pick a job for the money’s sake, they don’t really belong there as the job fits only one of their dimensions. They change jobs in the search of the one that fits THEM in their uniqueness. What does Gen Z do? They trash “Gen X Karens who designed those jobs”, but they are still too young to really care.
We start by bringing together her multidimensional profile into one coherent message of what she, with her multidimensional profile can OFFER to the market, what scope of organizations would fit her offer, and what value she could add to these organizations. Let’s start from there. Let’s start with Elucidating her Professional CORE — the first step in the BE-EDGE method.
We can start with visualization practices to help her envision her “next” space and help her convert this vision into a “My CORE as a PRO” statement. To help her with this statement, we can assist her with an assessment of her already accumulated resources and capabilities, and we can apply business strategy techniques (e.g., VRIO, BCG) to help her in defining her voice and priorities. While this is the first step, it is a foundational one. It will equip our Millennial with the personal capital of a strong message of maturity and clarity regarding her passion and on the scope of organizations and projects, she believes she fits best.
Everything else will follow.
Within my blog map, this post targets understanding the psychological profile of Millennials. It means that it’s located within the Elucidated CORE/Personal Capital area at the “why” level.