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.

It’s Hard to Help People Help Themselves

Help
Photo Cred: Dimitri N.

A couple of months ago, I hosted an event in Philly.  It didn’t have the turnout I was expecting  and so I was a little bummed.   My friend Valeria Maltoni came up to me and said “It’s hard to help people help themselves.”

Those words really stuck with me.  I’ve given it great thought. Why wouldn’t people want to be helped? Are they just lazy?  So lazy that they wouldn’t even do the bare minimum to get something?  Or is it something else?

Then, I read Chris Brogan‘s newsletter today…and it all came together.  He said,

Look at your efforts through others’ eyes. Now, in measuring your self-worth, your own eyes are the only ones that matter, but in trying to better understand how well you’re serving people’s needs, try to see it from their side. Are you quick to pounce? Do you have their interests at heart or yours? The more clarity you can bring to this, the better you’ll do.”

So many “professionals” claim to be providing a valuable service, but are really just interested helping themselves. They have a backwards mentality.  Instead of building a more valuable product, they’re concerned with making their product LOOK more valuable. They’re pretending to help customers.

There are many of you that are really trying to help.  Unfortunately [potential] customers don’t believe that you’re actually trying to help them.  They think that you’re trying to take their time and money for your own gain.

They don’t believe you because they’ve been fooled too many times.  They’ve lost trust.

That’s why it’s hard to help people help themselves.

Are you really helping or are you just pretending to help?

Edit: Marissa Pherson left a comment on this post over on Brazen Careerist and linked to a speech that I thought was really smart and relevant.  It speaks about the difference between “helping” and “serving”.

btw…if you haven’t signed up for Chris Brogan’s newsletter yet, you’re truly missing out.  It’s really the only newsletter I’ve ever enjoyed and the only one I actually read through. I highly recommend you try it out.