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Millennials: The kids are all right

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Being in this wonderful business of being all in everyone else’s business, I get to talk to people a lot, and even more importantly I get to hear people’s views on the world and the people in it — and, let me tell you, there are lots of different views (some quite interesting actually).

The one view I used to always run into when I was working in entertainment was the view that both baby boomers and Generation X has about the millennial generation.

Yes, I am getting ready to open that can of worms. Why? Because most folks don’t seem to remember that boomers said most of what is being said about millennials about Gen-Xers — or latchkey kids as we are also known — as well. I imagine this strange way of looking at things has gone on since Genesis. I, for one, am sick of the stereotypes.

Personally, I find that boomers and Gen-Xers identify millennials as lazy, entitled, disrespectful, self-centered and unwilling to conform. They seem to cite the same tired examples of a generation who only comes to work if and when they feel like it, and they have absolutely no idea how to communicate.

Is any of this true? Sure, but it only applies to some, not the vast majority of individuals born of this generation. Here’s the kicker, though — the same thing can be said of a portion of every generation that has pointed that same judgmental finger. There, I said it, now close your mouth and keep reading.

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life either working with teenagers for employees or photographing high school sports; I have seen this generation firsthand and I am getting ready to enlighten you.

Believe it or not, this is not the generation that will bring about the end of the world as we know it — quite the opposite, actually.

My generation, the Gen-Xers, pushed our kids to focus on education, education, education. We cast aside the need for after-school and summer jobs and pushed for academics — the end result is a more educated and tech-driven millennial, sometimes several years ahead of where we were at the same age.

That has also created somewhat of a vacuum of a dedicated workforce for lower-level jobs — or did it? I never had any problem at all filling my non-management workforce, which was 100% minimum wage, with very hardworking teens and young college kids. I think the real issue is middle-aged adults who are now accepting those same positions and squeezing an actual entry-level employee out of, well, an entry-level job.

It’s also never been easier for young people to work from home and earn a good living, sometimes as much as their parents, simply by using the technology we have put in their hands. Think about it: You keep hearing about teenagers with thriving businesses — all online, all just doing stuff that teens do — the web is an interesting place that knows no entrepreneurial age limitations, and these “lazy” kids are killing us there.

As far as disrespectful and self-centered — again, you will find this in every generation, but with the hyper-connected world we live in today, it’s much easier to see. This generation is actually very caring and giving if you stop listening to the television and start listening to actual millennials.

Yes, this generation wants to make its own rules. So did mine and so did the one before that and the one before that. The fact that 51% of millennials own or intend to own a business states loud and clear that people of this generation are going to make their own rules. They have already launched twice as many businesses than boomers ever have. Oh and get this: they see a much larger gross profit margin than boomer entrepreneurs.

If you believe they don’t know how to communicate, know that these young managers are successfully leading larger teams: staffs of about an average of 122 people, compared to Gen Xers’ 30. Yes, they are bullish and driven — but they go about earning success in a different way. They are breaking rules and patterns, like the one that says you will be in business for at least three years before making a decent profit.

Gross generalizations aside, many millennials work very hard. They do make sacrifices, but they do it on their own terms. As employees, the problem with Millennials may not be in their attitude, but in how they are managed.

I have always said I wanted my children to be smarter than I was, go further than I did and be more successful than I could ever imagine. Our children are doing just that. Let them do it without the judgmental pointing on how they are accomplishing it faster than we ever did.

Mark Cone is owner and operator of SouthernNashNews.com.

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