My friend Ron Alsop just published a new book titled The Trophy Kids Grow Up. More about the book and Ron at www.thetrophykids.com. He was a longtime reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal and previously wrote a terrific book on reputation. His newest book is a must-read for those of us who are labeled “helicopter parents” – the latest trend of parents who serve as career counselors for their millennial children. I confess to being one.
As the Millennials (born between 1980 and 2001) join the workforce, we had better get used to them because it turns out that they are actually a larger cohort than boomers – 92 million vs. 78 million. These prized trophy kids are going to shape the workforce for years to come. Millennial kids will keep managers guessing over what makes their clocks tick. As Alsop describes them, they have a reputation as “the most demanding and most coddled generation in history…most millennials don’t excel at leadership and independent problem solving. They want the freedom and flexibility of a virtual office, but they also want rules and responsibilities to be spelled out explicitly. ‘It’s all about me,’ might seem to be the mantra of this demanding bunch of young people, yet they also tend to be very civic-minded and philanthropic.” Alsop interviewed parents, teachers, educators, recruiters, and corporate managers to find out what Millennials were like at work.
I often envy my kids who have the advice of two working parents. My mother did not work outside the home until years later and that was just to keep busy. The challenges I have faced at work were not those that she ever experienced or could advise on. My father was very forward-thinking but in a completely different line of work than I am.
One summer ago, my daughter the Millennial was working between jobs as an assistant to a boomer entrepreneur. She was startled when her boss chastised her for not being able to write a business letter. He said, “I would think your father would have taught you that.” My daughter majored in semiotics at her ivy league school and is a graphic designer. They did not teach her how to write a business letter or that there was such a thing. The letter she had written was a friendly, casual e-mail exchanging necessary information which is how she and her friends communicated during college years. Thankfully she no longer works for the fellow although we did teach her how to write a business letter.
Ron’s book has many terrific insights and examples of Millennials facing different generations in the workforce today. I just started the book and hope to learn from it.