I’ve not put much about myself up on this blog yet, so here’s a fun, personal fact about me: I’m a “Millennial.” Revealing that about myself should lead you to conclude only that I was born after, let’s say, 1983. Not that I’m an entitled asshole, not that my mom still cuts my meat, not that I have no ambition. I’m really tired of reading all over The Internet how much my generation sucks. In fact, after having to explain many times too many to members of older generations that they do not actually understand the current economic predicament in which my generation finds itself, I’ve started working on an epic blog post to that effect. (Stay tuned.) So, to say that my hackles were raised after reading the article about which I am ranting today is an understatement.
Jason Nazar of Docstoc made it big in his 20s, skipping over all of the unpleasantries that normally accompany an ascent to corporate greatness. So what’s he go and do now that he’s The Man? Tell 20-somethings to bow to The Man, of course.
The dude wrote this Forbes article that is, approximately, the antithesis of his approach to his career in his 20s. As far as I can tell, all he’s ever done is acquire degrees and launch Docstoc. Yes, please tell me more about how I can be one of the servants that you grind into the ground because I’m in my 20s and thus only fit to lick your boot. Here’s what’s wrong with it:
He thinks that because “time is not a limitless commodity,” you should spend more time doing menial tasks at work.
Yes, time is precious. That’s why we want to go home at the end of the workday and spend time with our friends/family/selves. This is actually something I think a significant portion of my generation is getting right (and others of us very, very wrong). Maybe we’re just more sentimental than Gen Xers, but after decades of being told that we won’t be lying on our deathbeds wishing we’d spent more time at work, or hearing that our parents wish they’d taken better care of themselves when they were younger, some of us are determined not to repeat those mistakes. So yeah, after spending the majority of their waking hours at work, 20-somethings want to go home. Just because you voluntarily forewent work-life balance doesn’t mean you should expect that of others.
“We’re more productive in the morning,” found no study ever.
Circadian rhythms and the amount of sleep required for the optimal function of any individual are largely genetically encoded. The fact that, because Nazar thinks he’s more productive in the morning, he’s decided that everyone else must be too, is egocentric and just plain wrong.
“Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.”
Yes, 20-somethings are more inclined to use email than phones. And no, it’s not unjustifiable or always a cop-out. Personally, I prefer email because (1.) there’s a “paper” trail in the case of any misunderstandings or questions with respect to timing, (2.) it’s far less disruptive than bugging a colleague every time you have a non-pressing question or thought and lets them get back to you at their convenience, (3.) I am frequently responsible for answering the phones, so being on them at the same time poses problems.
And if the internet goes down, yeah, I am gonna leave. I’m a smart enough cookie that I can usually find a way to work remotely using a storage device or cloud drive, so I’ll actually be far more productive than if I stay at my desk not doing my online marketing or other internet-requiring duties.
(Unrelated: If one hadn’t already concluded after “shit medal” that Nazar has daddy issues, it’s plenty apparent by this point.)
“Meryl Strep in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have [because nothing in the workplace is more educational than being dehumanized on a daily basis].”
Excellence is good. I’m all about excellence. I once did some work for a woman that everyone else in a law firm with two or three hundred employees was afraid of because she demanded excellence and that made her a “ball-buster” or whatever. We got along fabulously and she was an excellent mentor for the time that I was in town. I also worked under an attorney that no one was afraid of, but who had a new assistant every 6 months because she was a terrible human being. Literally running into me and not saying so much as “oh” is not educational, it’s a dick move.
Failing to lay out clear expectations and/or refusing to initially give someone the benefit of the doubt does not make you a good boss, role model, mentor, or influence of any other sort over a 20-something. What it makes you is mean or incompetent as a manager. If we have to be at the beck and call of people like Meryl’s character in The Devil Wears Prada in order to be of value to corporate America, then the logical takeaway is that 20-somethings are of value to corporate America only insofar as they boost fragile egos or provide a “safe” (read: unimportant) outlet for unwarranted rage. No thanks.
“It takes 2–3 years to master any new critical skill, give yourself at least that much time before you jump ship.”
Snarky pot shot first: Nice comma splice, bro.
Also, in case you haven’t left your golden cage recently, perfectly talented 20-somethings are being forced into shit jobs because of the economy. If they’re leaving as soon as they reasonably can, you should be applauding them for holding onto any ambition in this dreadful economic landscape. You should also not assume that one has to stay at the same job to master skills, nor that staying at a job that offers little professional development would accomplish any such skill-building. Turns out, you can really only be hired these days for things you’ve already done because gods forbid anyone have to invest anything in their employees. So chances are, if a 20-something job hops, there’s still plenty of hope for that skill set.
“Be the first in & last to leave [because why would we as employers honor the efforts of those of you who work hard but still maintain some degree of self-respect when we could just pit you against one another instead?]”
This is straight up bullshit. Okay, yeah, maybe if you’re a crazy person whose goal is specifically to get ahead of people who’ve been there longer, you should take this advice. (Again, not that he did.) We are not behind, we are young. There is no shame in having less experience than older colleagues because—newsflash!—they were young and inexperienced once, too.
I hate the mentality that we as young people should be grateful that companies have hired us out of the goodness of their hearts—and in spite of our many, MANY shortcomings—so we have to take responsibility for training ourselves and being total slaves to our jobs in gratitude. There is almost no professional development in most entry-level jobs (that I’ve encountered, anyway) and there is rarely any direct payoff, in spite of what Nazar thinks, for either the company or the 20-something’s career. Yet, we are to approach these Sisyphean tasks eagerly because… what? Because there’s a set amount of dues-paying expected of us? It’s like we’re all Quasimodo in the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Nazars of the world are our Claude Frollos. Nazar didn’t work his way up any ladder, but expects us to do so gratefully. Who’s entitled now?
Personally, I straight up refuse, errors on my part aside, to stay late for gigs where my pay is based on my working a set number of hours. Let’s say you get paid $750/week with the expectation that you will work 37.5 hours, but you’re actually there from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. most days and don’t know what these “break” things are that you hear others talking about. Congrats, your effective hourly wage is now less than $14/hr! I hope your little sister makes fun of you when she earns more by babysitting. If your employer frequently wants you to accomplish things that would take any reasonably hard-working, well-trained, and otherwise non-idiotic person more hours than you’re paid for, you need one of: a raise, a spine, or a new job.
We might be inexperienced now, but we deserve neither to be taken advantage of for the next decade, nor to be poorer than older generations, when we’ve paid a higher premium for the education they told us was key to our success.
“I immediately give preference to candidates who are ninjas in: Photoshop, HTML/CSS, iOS, WordPress, Adwords, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, Final Cut Pro—regardless of position.”
Why the hell would a “ninja” in one or more of Photoshop, HTML/CSS, WordPress, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, or Final Cut Pro want a non-technical position unless there’s something wrong with them? “Yes, I’d like to lower my lifetime earnings, please.” Maybe he defines “ninja” differently than I do, but these things say to me that you deserve to be a very highly paid: graphic designer, web designer, web developer, database administrator, engineer/video game graphics guru, some sort of analyst, or filmmaker, respectively.
I am continually astonished at how maladroit 20-somethings and their elders are at troubleshooting simple problems, even when dealing with very user-friendly interfaces. The number of times I’ve had to explain some fundamental aspect of Google Drive to individuals of all ages and backgrounds is nothing short of tragic. I would think it would be much more important to be a total pro at the basics and to be capable of creative problem solving and semi-complex thought processes than to be a ninja in some random software. I mean, what is this, the Girl Scouts? The applicant with the most random tech badges should not win by default.
I have no doubt that defending my generation will become a theme of this blog because the media and The Internet are so interested in painting the problems that we’ve inherited as our failings. Of course there are the victims of helicopter parents who aren’t capable of thinking for themselves and there are the losers who moved back home for the sole reason that they didn’t want to put any effort into, well, anything (as distinct from those who moved back home out of economic necessity). But there are also a lot of hardworking, ambitious, decent people my age who just want a more balanced path for themselves than they watched those who’ve gone before us walk. My mom knew so few people who had, or died of, cancer growing up and I know so many, including members of my immediate family. I think this is true for a lot of people my age; perhaps it’s made old souls of us. Regardless, I see among my peers the potential for a more humanistic world.
Why not make some structural changes so that more of us can work fewer hours and enjoy life more? Free/affordable education for all would be a great step in that direction. Is it so wrong that we want to live healthier, more balanced lives?