Are Young Professionals Forgetting to be Young?

Photo cred: Davo

Yet another interesting discussion sparked by the bright minds in #u30pro.  My friend Jon Klar shared,

“I think social media is making it much easier to grow up too fast. Young professionals need to remember to be young while they can”.

Social media platforms have allowed me to tap into so many resources that wouldn’t have been available to me otherwise.  I learn new things from thought leaders, I connect and engage with professionals that I never would have had access to, I’ve developed mentorships, I’ve shared my own ideas with a large audience and the list of benefits goes on...

…but is it a double-edged sword?

I’m 22 but I don’t feel like it. My ’09 graduation feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I now work full time, run #u30pro, maintain my blog, engage with my network regularly and more…  I have more things going on since I graduated about 7 months ago than many people I know who have been working for years.  Without social media, I wouldn’t have so many opportunities, but I also wouldn’t have so many responsibilities.

I don’t think I’d have it any other way.  I’m in a phase of my life where I am very career focused and I’ve set many high goals for myself.  I realize that I have to make some sacrifices in order to achieve those goals.

…and I’m still enjoying my personal life.  I still go out on weekends.  I still hang out with my friends regularly. I still get my share of video game time in there.

And when I look at many of my old high school buddies and what they’re doing, I don’t feel envious of the extra time they have to “be young”…I feel lucky to be gaining so much experience so quickly. I feel like I’m spending my time wisely.

In 10 years, will I look back at my 20’s and wish I spent less time building my career?

Am I growing up too fast? Are you?

(Perspective of those who have been there and done that are welcome and appreciated)

Don’t Judge People By Their Generation

Photo cred: Ian Atwater

I read this the other day: “[Millennials] are relatively laid back—until they feel they have been wronged… and then may quickly apply pressure to make big changes fast. They expect transparency and accountability, just as it is expected of them in the marketplace.”

I read generalizations of Millennials like this one pretty much every day.  Millennials are lazy…inspired…entitled…tech savvy…etc etc…

I have yet to read a description of the Millennial generation that was based on any sort of reliable statistics.  EVERY one of these generalizations are based on a limited point of view based on biased research or on personal experience and fail to take into account a number of aspects, namely socioeconomic status.

When marketers talk about millenials with these unfounded generalizations, they’re contributing to a highly inaccurate conception of an entire generation.

Even wikipedia makes unfounded generalizations, and describes Millennials based on studies performed solely in colleges.

My high school featured a very diverse range of lifestyles and socioeconomic statuses. A majority of the Millennials that I grew up with, do not fall under any of the stereotypes that marketers constantly apply to them.  With that personal experience, I’ve seen first hand how inaccurate the typical millennial classification really is.  I won’t base my argument on personal experience though…

Here are some stats from 2008 pulled from the United States Department of Labor:

  • 68.6 percent of 2008 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities
  • 56.8 percent of the nation’s 16- to 24-year-olds, or 21.3 million young people, were either enrolled in high school (9.7 million) or in college (11.7 million).
  • “…about 6 in 10 recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college attended 4-year institutions.”

My class year (2005) had some similar stats, with 68.6% of high school grads enrolling in college. Many high school graduates go right into the labor force.

The false generalizations we hear about all the time are based on the Millennials that get their college degree or are in the process of doing so.  The fact is, by basing your characterization of Millennials on this segment of the larger population, you’re making highly inaccurate assumptions.

Generations are too vast and diverse to justifiably apply characteristics to the entire population.

Tell a millennial that works 50-60 hour work weeks doing construction in the winter that he’s entitled.  Or maybe tell the millennial facing jail time for selling drugs that they were “pampered” by their parents.  I know a people in both situations.  Do they represent the millennial generation? No, but they’re certainly a part of it, and shouldn’t be neglected when discussing the traits of our generation.

Thanks to Lisa Grimm, Dave Folkens and Chuck Hemann for their help in refining this post.

#u30pro Needs an Intern!

It’s been great to watch the community grow around u30pro.  Lauren and I can’t thank you all enough for contributing your time and thoughts every week.

As it continues to grow, u30pro has taken more and more of our time.  Both Lauren and I are very busy with our jobs, and have decided to bring in some help to manage the u30pro projects.

We need an intern.

What can we offer you?

Well, no money…u30pro doesn’t make any.  But we can offer you the chance to gain valuable experience building a strong community, working with the best team ever, some resume juice, and the chance to be part of something fresh and exciting.

What would you do?

  • Help with the weekly digest.
  • Manage other areas where the community expands. (linkedin, facebook, etc…)
  • Participate in chats/help with moderation.
  • Work with partners on our cross-promotional efforts.
  • General promotion of the community.

We’re not a business.  We’re not revenue driven.  We’re just providing a forum for communication amongst one of the most enthusiastic communities around…and loving every minute of it.

If you’re interested in joining us, email me at dspinks5 at gmail dot com with one paragraph explaining why you’d make a good u30pro intern.

Don’t Stereotype… Use Your Baby Eyes

Photo cred: Sean Dreilinger
Photo cred: Sean Dreilinger

Assumptions can be dangerous, unreliable and unfair.  The problem is, they’re inevitable.  People are judgmental, and they form stereotypes in order to satisfy their natural need to classify and organize.  The minute people meet each other, they are analyzing who the other person is and how to classify them.

A baby doesn’t make assumptions.  It sees everything for the first time; everything is new.  That shouldn’t change. Everyone is different, and should be approached as something new.

Age, sex, race, size, culture, personality, style….everything about us carries a stereotype.

Stereotypes are usually based on some truth.  They don’t develop out of thin air.  They’re developed based on experience.  If someone has a number of experiences with a certain “type” of person, they assume that the same experience will occur with others of that “type”.

Still think Millenials are great with social media?  Or maybe you think they’re entitled and lazy. The only thing that you can say is 100% true about a millennial is their age.  Same goes for Gen X, boomers and on… Anything you assume as a result of that age is based on stereotypes.  Whether it’s a positive stereotype, or a negative stereotype, it is still dangerous, unreliable, and unfair.

Use your baby eyes, like you’re seeing everyone you meet for the first time (I know…ridiculous).  You’ll be surprised how much more you can learn and accomplish with people when you eliminate assumptions.  Thinking about stereotypes may be inevitable, but if you recognize that it exists, it is unfounded, and focus on the specific person as an individual, you can overcome them.

Should We Hide Our Age?

Photo cred: Andrea
Photo cred: Andrea

What started as a little conversation between Lauren Fernandez and I, ended up being used as our first #u30pro topic…and both sides provided some great reasons why you should or shouldn’t hide your age.

So Here Are Some Reasons to Hide:

  1. Responsibility: You will be given less responsibility if you’re young and relatively inexperienced
  2. Opportunity: You may miss out on job opportunities because of your age, when in reality, you’re very qualified.
  3. Respect: Your ideas and contributions will not be respected as highly as that of older, experienced peers.

Notice, all of the reasons for hiding your age are a direct result of stereotypes.  The fear of showing your age isn’t because you probably lack experience and haven’t earned others’ respect yet, but rather because you are automatically assumed to lack the skills because of these possible misplaced assumptions.

Reasons to show your age:

  1. Ambition: Show that you’re better than others that are the same age.  You can differentiate yourself from others in your age group.  If you can face a stereotype, and overcome, you’ll gain that much more respect.
  2. Pride: If someone wants to discriminate against you because you’re young, they can go screw themselves.  You don’t need to hide who you are to succeed.
  3. Advantages: Being younger sometimes has positive stereotypes.  You’re a fresh mind, with tech savvy and lots of energy.  Use it to your advantage.

So should you hide your age?  Chances are, people will find it out eventually.  Still, you may gain access to more opportunities if people don’t realize how young you are right away.

I’d love to hear from more experienced professionals as well as I’m sure you’ll have some great advice.  What do you think?

Come join Lauren and me at the next #u30pro chat tonight (and every Thursday) at 7:00pm est where we drive the discussion to bridge the generational gap, demolish stereotypes and break down differences in the professional workplace.