Generational Theory Forgot The Xennial Experience

The Xennial Experience Survey

I have long had a love/hate relationship with the generation talk. The part I hate is simply boiled down to the fact that employers and marketers alike often think that generational theory provides them with a magic checklist with which they can compartmentalize people, subject them to certain conditions and reap the rewards by them behaving just as the theory proposed.

Generational theory at it’s best provides individuals with the language to describe the way they see and interact with the world. Humans like to group things. I think we like it because it makes it easier for us to process experiences or people by having a set of norms be attached to one group versus taking the time to sift through the multitude of difference.

Personally, I have been thrown in the bucket of Millennial based on when I was born and it never sat right with me. Depending on who is speaking, millennials are typically born between 1980-1995. This is the generation that is digital savvy, wants it all and is supposedly unwilling to work for it. A terrible generalization, but nevertheless I find it hard to identify with a generation that hasn’t really accounted for my personal experience. My very unscientific experience has been that I have very little if not nothing in common with someone who is 22 years of age in 2017. That is to say, my approach to life, work and even technology is vastly different than someone born in 1995 and it even differs the later you get into the 80’s as well.

I was always quietly frustrated with much of the generational talk as an HR professional because I never met one generation that spoke directly to me. That was until, I read Mashable’s: The Oregon Trail Generation: Life before and after mainstream tech. Reading this piece by Anna Garvey, my life and perspective was illuminated. She talked about the unique experience of people born in the late 70’s and early 80’s who lived in a time before the digital boom experiencing a largely analog life and who experienced adolescence at a time when technology was undergoing a major shift.

If you grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s in the US, Oregon Trail was one of the first games you learned to play on the old Macintosh’s so plentifully supplied to the computer labs of elementary and middle schools in the U.S. Playing games like this on floppy disks cascaded into the wonder of CD-Rom and the dial-up internet age that we all came to love in our adolescence.

Before I get too nostalgic, it is important to note that unlike our younger millennial counterparts, we grew up in a time where technology was a nice-to-have rather than a cornerstone of everyday life. It is my belief that this experience is unique and has shaped people born from 1978-1984 in a much different way than previously thought.

I have always struggled with the duality of appreciating the norms of analog life while also being incredibly excited and sometimes annoyed by how quickly technology has shifted everything we know. When asked, I would always tell people I felt like I was a little Gen X and a little millennial. Who knew someday that the Xennial Experience would become a thing. Xennials are essentially a hybrid micro-generation that encompasses both Gen X and Millennial qualities.

Consequently, when Anna Garvey’s article hit the cyberwaves online it went viral. Thousands of people shared her article across social media sharing that they felt similarly, but never had the language to describe the feeling.

As a result of all of this, I want to take it one step further. I have created a short survey to get a sense of how Xennials experience life and career. It is called: The Xennial Experience Survey and it is my goal to get as many people as possible born between 1978-1984 in the U.S. to take my survey.

Full disclosure: There have been several articles on this topic coining different names for this micro-generation. I am now seeking to put some data behind it to substantiate the claim that we deserve a generation that stands independent of Gen X and Millennial.

If you or someone you know was born between 1978-1984 in the U.S., please take and/or share my Xennial Experience Survey below:

I will be running this study all year. I hope to have some preliminary results to report in 2018. Thank you for participating. Stay tuned!

P.S. If you are interested in receiving my findings when they become available, please reach out to me at: Janine@talentthinkinnovations.com

P.S.S. I did a show about this topic of Xennials on my Ask Czarina Live show recently. You can watch the show by going to: bit.ly/XennialsTV.

 

Is the “Grown Up” World Where Talent Goes To Die?

Image courtesy of Flickr

Image courtesy of Flickr

I am deep into a book called: No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need To Do To Have a Great Career by Larry Smith. In this book, he asserts that: “the grown-up world is where talent goes to die.” Reading this statement jolted me gratefully inside – as this is something I have come to realize in my own career journey and in the scope of coaching my clients in business.

You may be thinking that this statement is: “harsh” or “an unfair generalization”. Perhaps, you’re right, but I will wager that you are not necessarily wrong, but rather predictable. I say you are predictable rather than wrong, because you belong to a subset of thousands – if not millions of people who believe in a precept of work that is fast becoming a dinosaur. This precept of work includes: Choosing a degree field (preferably something that will allow you to support yourself upon graduation), studying hard even if you hate your field of study, finding an internship where you give your gifts away for free,  only to search for whatever job the economy will loan to you. This my friends is the age old definition of success and job security. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is: The lot of unhappy people and wasted talent living and participating in a society that appears to being conversely impacted by a perceived lack of skilled workers.

While what I just outlined is not indicative of everyone’s career; it is the reality of the majority. Very rarely do I meet someone who says: I love my job and it is allowing me to utilize my full range of talents. In my head, I know of a handful of people in both my personal and professional circles who truly love the work they do. I know that “love” makes people uncomfortable, so let me define what “love” means in this context:

The handful that “love” their work are:

1) Doing work that aligns with their natural talents, interests and passions.

2) Fulfilled by the work, interactions and daily dynamics of the job.

3) Reinforced by having their basic needs for compensation, benefits, flexibility, long-term growth, challenge and continued learning met in return for their efforts.

Most people are not “in love” let alone fulfilled in the way I just described above. Every week, I observe the sentiments about work as we inch towards Friday. Most people, appear to be happiest from Thursday through Saturday. Sunday is a reminder that work starts in 24 hours on Monday – which brings on the inevitable social shares and/or griping about the drudgery that is returning to work. Put plainly, people are miserable and feel stuck.

Coming back to the title of this article which is: Is the “grown-up” world where talent goes to die? Is it true? I think it is. We start children off conditioning them to conform to the world rather than disrupt it. This conditioning often forces them to ignore their interests, innate skills and passions in favor of the road most traveled, lucrative and accepted. In doing this, we ship them off to university to study what seems like the best option for them. Sometimes it works out and other times a pivot emerges to the dissatisfaction of the parents, because of course we are supposed to have our entire life figured out at 22 – how reasonable!

Should we be lucky enough to get a job after graduation, more advice comes our way. The advice is: “Work hard, keep your head down, follow the rules and you will be promoted and successful in no time.” In “no time” is the operative word, because in this current economy promotions seem to be rather elusive and hard or good work is no longer a silver bullet for success on the job. By the time, people look up – they have a home, 2 cars, some kids, a dog, bills and a job that is a terrible fit for their skills and lifestyle; but the bills have to be paid, so onward with more drudgery.

For every person that works a job there is a dream and creativity deferred in the journey towards personal and professional success. We have all been conditioned to believe that holding a job whether it is a passion or not is a badge of honor – your right of passage into adulthood. More money, more bills, and more material effects are just a few of the things that define your adulthood in our current society. The problem with this rat race of superficial success is that it is superficial. Success is subjective and therefore much more to having longevity in your career than the degrees, certifications and clocked years of service.

Agreeing or disagreeing with this statement of talent dying in the grown-up or corporate world doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take a moment to realize what you want your life and contributions to stand for and taking stock of where you are so you can ensure that the two align. Here’s a hint: In the coming decades, success will not be defined by your retirement package, the money in your bank account or the amount of hours you worked – it will be about how you made an impact (however small) in your part of the world.

I spoke about success and what is means to be an adult in the modern world on my Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live. You can watch it below.

 

Talent Think Innovations Intern Talks: The Business of Social Media

Talent Think Innovations Intern Talks

My marketing professors used to say that some companies would hire millennials to take care of digital media needs partly because they were, you know, millennials. I can understand having that viewpoint somewhat, I mean we did grow up with the technology. Over the past twelve weeks, I have been assisting Janine N. Truitt also known to many as “CzarinaofHR” in managing her brands for her businesses Talent Think Innovations, LLC and The Aristocracy of HR. In that time, I have realized that I knew nothing about social media in the business sense and could not help any business succeed in the social media part of their marketing strategy with just what I knew from college and my personal use.

Here are a few things that I have learned:

  • Social Media Is Very Fickle: I have come to realize that while I might like Facebook as a personal platform, as a business platform it is hard to manage. I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to continuously get the same or more reach per post on Facebook and don’t even get me started on likes on the page itself.

After Facebook comes Twitter, this is my personal favorite and managing it has been so much fun. My favorite part next to engaging with people is the hashtags. It’s always interesting to see what people post under the common ones; but I especially like the ones that are used for business. The way I see it, it’s another opportunity to engage with people and possibly get some new followers. My only gripes would be: running out of characters when you have the perfect hashtag but it can’t fit. In those moments I can’t help thinking I need just one more character, especially when you have the perfect tweet.

  • When it comes to digital marketing for business it’s not just about finding content, but content that represents or is related to the industry of your business: Before starting this internship, I thought brands just put their content out on social media or re-tweeted some of their followers’ content. I am so glad that it is so much more than that. Often times, people try to gain followers on Twitter by mostly posting cat videos or something that is funny. When you’re managing a business, you can’t do that and personally I don’t think it’s limiting; but rather it allows you to get more creative with the content that you do post.
  • Social media is part of the marketing strategy not the strategy itself. During my time with Janine (“CzarinaofHR”), I learned that there is so much more to marketing than I thought – even though I studied it in school. Everything that I have learned during this internship is important, but I think my one main takeaway is this: there are so many parts to a marketing strategy. A business can have one overall strategy with several different components. Social media is just one component. While social media is important, it shouldn’t make or break you. As Janine says: “if one of these platforms goes down or goes away, it shouldn’t impact me so much that I have to close my doors.”

I have learned so much more during this internship than I thought I would. I look forward to having fun managing her social media brand for the remainder of my internship. This experience, has also helped me refine my career path. I know that I want social media or digital marketing as it is called to be a part of my job but not all of what I do. I love digital marketing. I wasn’t sure about that before this internship, but I am clear now. I have decided I want to be more involved in the overall marketing strategy of a company.

I want to thank Janine N. Truitt of Talent Think Innovations, LLC for guiding me these past few months and teaching me so much. She gave me the best launching pad for my career.

Author Biography:

Kimberly Minto is has a B.A. in Marketing from Hofstra University. She is a Digital Media Intern for Talent Think Innovations, LLC. Kimberly aspires to have her own Marketing/PR firm someday. Follow her on Twitter at: @Kimberly_Minto. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Tread Lightly: Why You May Want to Reconsider Befriending Your Boss

Image courtesy of Flickr.

 

It’s a fabulous thing when the stars align and you gain a great boss in taking a new job.

What makes them “great”?

Perhaps, they have a great personality. They aren’t the usual stuffy leader. Maybe, it’s because they are concerned with your well-being. They ask about the family and how things are going. All in all, there are a myriad of reasons why your boss may be “great”.

It is human nature that we become comfortable with people who make us feel at ease. How comfortable we become is a matter of discernment and individual disposition.

When it comes to the people you report to – how friendly is too friendly? Is there such thing as being too close for comfort?

In my humble opinion, I think there is such a thing as being too familiar, too friendly and too close with your boss. I have been too close for comfort and it has gone wrong and I have been very familiar and it has been just right.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to befriending your boss:

1) There is a difference between being “friendly” and being “friends”. You may come to know things about one another in time, but it wise to not misconstrue friendship with pleasantries. If you have ever had a seemingly “great” boss, you will know why this is important.

2) Your personal business is none of your boss’s business. I don’t care how friendly or nice your boss is – there are limits to what you should share. Oversharing gives them too clear a window into your life and may or may not give them fodder with which to make decisions surrounding your employment and/or career opportunities.

3) Listen more. Observe more. Speak when necessary. It could be the introvert in me, but I like to observe people before I become friendly. I need to assess people and watch how they operate. It has helped me to do this, because it gives me a leg up on understanding whether I need to tread lightly or if I can loosen up a bit.

4)  Never gossip with your boss about co-workers or others in the organization. Notice that I said “loosen up a bit” in #3. After you have observed your leaders and decided “hey, they are cool”, stop yourself short of gossip. Some of them will gladly indulge you in this kind of talk- especially if it allows them to blow off some steam about people you work with. In the long run, talk gets around and it will never be them that looks poorly if you were involved in a gossip session. It will be your ass on the fire- always!

5) Numbers 1-4 will not apply to every boss. The key is understanding and knowing what makes them tic and considering in advance what could go wrong for you.

If the pros outweigh the cons and you have yourself a good egg, go for it – skip through the meadows with one another. However, if you are unsure and you are just a happy go-lucky person with everyone – stop yourself and consider a friendly, but professional relationship.

Working with leaders with varied personalities, agendas, and management styles can be challenging. Don’t be too quick to befriend before you consider the ramifications of a more personal relationship with someone who manages you.

Millennials: Making The World a Better Place One Startup at a Time

Campaign/FTC disclosure: I will receive paid sponsorship for promoting this campaign. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. This opportunity was made possible because of my participation in IBM’s #NewWayToWork Futurist Program.  I am not formally employed by IBM. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of IBM.com

There isn’t a week or month that passes where you don’t have the bad fortune of coming across a doom and gloom article about Millennials. If experts aren’t warning us of the demise of the workforce as we know it – they are busy labeling an entire generation of people as being needy, lacking work ethic, technologically savvy and many other half-truths that seem to be fodder for the usual generational conversation.

With our workforce slated to be infused with a 75% millennial workforce by 2025, it is clear that we either need jump on the millennial bandwagon or move out of their way. This generation has learned well from previous generations. They know what they want and will not settle for anything less. Call it “obnoxious” or “entitled” it doesn’t much matter. The point they drive home is that we all have a purpose- we just need to find it and execute.

If we are to believe any of the stereotypes, the millennial-led startups in IBM’s #NewWayToStartUp competition will certainly provide a different lens for this often misunderstood generation.

What is the #NewWayToStartup Competition?

It’s easy to say we support innovation but what are we actually doing about it? IBM has taken action to foster innovation by creating a startup competition of ten millennial-led companies that are focused on social good. They invited one member from each startup to SXSW in March to pitch their venture to an expert panel. Ten startups pitched their companies whereby five startups were eliminated.

The remaining five teams went on to participate in a week long accelerator that included daily challenges and granted them the a year’s access to IBM’s Watson Analytics and their newest software, IBM Verse.

The progress of the startups is documented in webisodes that have chronicled their participation since the pitch event at SXSW.

The grand-prize winner of the competition receives free entrance into TED@IBM for up to three team members.

If the prize sounds cool- you will be equally impressed with the actual companies and founders.

Putting good things back into the world

If you’re going to go to the trouble of putting in the hard work, blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice that is synonymous with entrepreneurship, why not create something that benefits everyone? This is the kind of innovation and creativity that IBM is trying to foster through the #NewWayToStartup competition. Each of the five companies have founded their companies on the premise of being helpful and putting something good back into the world. After watching all of the webisodes, I was inspired. It left me feeling like the world may have a chance – if we have founders and companies like the ones I’m about to describe.

Being under the pressure of strict deadlines and the lens of some of the greatest minds in business is nerve-wrecking. Anyone who has ever pitched their company or has been a spectator of a pitch competition would know how that feels. Bravery comes to mind when I think about how vulnerable you feel as a founder sharing your idea with the world. At a minimum, they should all be applauded for taking a chance on themselves and their companies.

If you think I’m pulling your leg about the greatness of these startups, here is a short description of what each company does. I dare you to not feel inspired by what these millennials missions.

The Lassy Project– gives parents the ability to notify an entire local community about a missing child in seconds. They use a combination of community, data, and technology to create a new global standard for personal and public safety.

Owlet Baby Care- is a wearable infant monitor that can alert parents if their child’s heart rate or oxygen levels are in a dangerous range. They are caring parents who want to usher in a future where, just like a car seat, every baby comes home with a wearable health monitor. A future where there are less infant funerals, and more empowered parents.

Sproutel–    makes health and wellness a playful part of everyday life. Their first product, Jerry the Bear, is an interactive learning companion for the 18% of children with chronic illnesses that combines animated content with an electronically enabled stuffed animal.

Stretch Recipes– is an app developed to help everyone eat better and save more by building an amazing app that will help empower people who are stretched for time, energy, resources, and knowledge to enter their budget, choose their meals, and automatically get their shopping list and coupons.

Charity Chargeis a platform to help customers create positive impact each time they make a purchase. Their first tool is a credit card enabling customers to donate 1% cash-back earnings to charities and organizations of their choice.

As a parent, I was immediately moved by ‘The Lassy Project’ ‘Owlet’ and ‘Sproutel’. The worst thing in the world that can happen to a parent- is to have a child go missing. The Lassy Project makes notification simple and quick by notifying networks of loved ones and friends-with the ability to escalate to authorities-if need be.

Two years ago my youngest daughter became ill with a bout of Pneumonia and we nearly lost her. A product like ‘Owlet’ would have been extremely helpful in our initial assessment of her condition. Not to mention that this has the ability to rid us from anymore sudden infant death cases.

With regard to ‘Sproutel’, who doesn’t love a cute teddy bear? It is beyond cool that children with chronic illnesses can have a friend in Jerry The Bear- while also learning  more about their disease.

Both ‘Stretch Recipes’ and ‘Charity Charge’ have great promise, as we are in a time where every penny and minute counts for so many families. They are saving people time and putting customers money to work in beneficial ways.

As I mentioned in the beginning, so much of what you hear about millennials is negative. These millennial-led companies are doing what they love while adding to the greater good. In fact, the team at Owlet has taken lower salaries just to see this venture through. This is the kind of passion and sacrifice that awakens the senses and creates engaged workforces. I will wager, that we can all learn a great deal from these founders.

Whether you work for someone or for yourself, it is a necessary practice to ask yourself – if you are:

1) Being of service to others.

2) Working with a purpose in mind.

3) Passionate about what you do?

In Webisode 3, I love the talk the Mayor of Austin, Texas has with the founders. He mentions to them that what they are doing is not an academic exercise. He emphasizes the importance of failing quickly and creating something great in the world. This kind of advice is completely contrary to the advice fed to previous generations. With several generations in the workforce at once, it is no wonder there are misunderstandings and disconnect among the generations.

How much more productive and cohesive could we be as a workforce if we became comfortable with failure? In this webisode, you come to understand that failure is not a negative, but a necessary stepping-stone towards success.

Who will win?

Social voting is going on and ends today. The winner will be chosen on July 1st at 1-2pm EST. I won’t dare make a prediction. The original 10 were great and certainly the final five are all fantastic.

Call me a nerd, but this is the sort of reality television I could get used to. These founders are tackling some of the most important problems of our time. The reach and magnitude of what they are developing has the ability to change lives and the world. IBM should be applauded for giving these innovators the spotlight to share their gifts and passion with us all. This competition has the ability to not only inspire younger children to start their own businesses, but to inspire older generations to create the business they have been putting on the backburner.

The workforce is beginning to look very different- which may scare some. I prefer to get excited about the future. There is definitely something different about millennials, but it isn’t bad. They see the world differently than most generations. At the core of who they are, they care about others and are dedicated to creating the kind of society that favors everyone. On that sentiment alone, I have a renewed sense that the future for my children is bright because millennials are on a mission to make the world better one startup at a time.

Join me in supporting these impressive men and women, by watching the entire webisode series. You can check out the pitch competition below- along with links to all of the subsequent webisodes.

 

For more information on the #NewWayToWork Futurist Program and the work we are doing, go to: www.ibm.com/futurists.

 

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