Debunking the myths over Millennials, an open letter to stopping the bullshit

Please do carve every word before you let it fall.

It’s been some time that I wanted to speak up on the subject of Millennials, because — I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of the bullshit people are throwing over us. Pardon me for the angry talk, but it seems we still haven’t been heard, so please read carefully and share your thoughts in the comments section — because yes, we’re open for a real discussion ;-).

“There is something wrong with our generation, starting with being lazy pigs.”

This is me, standing up during a conference at the Hyères 2017 Fashion Festival, after hearing a designer saying our generation is being lazy. The picture was taken by Bradly Dunn Klerks, CEO of Iris van Herpen.

So apparently, we’re “entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused and lazy”. When asked to do something, I admit we like to question it, not because we’re so-called lazy pigs, but because we need to understand why we should do it. In a world that changes so fast, where the status quo is being questioned at all times, it just seems normal to us, why wouldn’t you? I’d like us to put things back into their context.

We, people who were born after 1982, have grown inside a system that shows many signals of decline. The Glorious Thirty are long gone and we’ve been repeatedly told so. As a kid, I watched the daily news showing people getting fired from companies they dedicated their life to, being thanked with a kick in the ass. I’ve seen people cry, fall into depression, all of that because they have no more purpose in their lives.

So no, we’re not lazy, we’re just not ok with being used as a non-talking back workforce. I’m sorry but this time is over, at least in democratic countries [sigh].

“We’ve been told we’re special, so we expect to have everything without working for it.”

LOL, yes, we’re just waiting for it to happen. Source: Waitbutwhy.com

It might have been true for a while, but trust me, Life has taught us back what it means to work hard for something.

I indeed have been told I was special, my mother used to say I could achieve anything. But again, you need to put things back into their context to understand why so many parents told us so. My mother grew up in the 1960’s Hong Kong, in a poor family with parents who ran away from the Communist China. They didn’t have contraception at that time, and so she grew up being the second of an eight children family. She was picking up cartons in the street to resell them so my uncles and aunts could have a dinner at the end of the day. She sometimes got hit, because she wanted to pursue her dream of being an interior designer. Which she of course didn’t, because there was no time for dreams.

So she raised me saying this “Girl, you need to study. You need to study hard, because the world is a place where there’s no room for lazy people. I believe in you, because you’re special, and I know you will be able to achieve anything”. Would you blame her for saying so? She did not say I would achieve anything by sitting there like a lazy pig and waiting for things to happen, just because I was special. She said I could do anything if I worked for it.

And I did. I sacrificed a lot to be able to study. I worked hard to enter a business school, only to realize studies are a product like any other in this consumerism world. Schools are no longer teaching us how to grow into great managers, they’re only here to take our money. If you’d allow me, I’d like to remind you that it is not our generation who invented this schooling system in the first place.

“We’re speaking too loud, with nothing interesting to say.”

Noooope!

Some of us indeed speak loud, I admit at least I myself am one of them. But we do have interesting stuff to say. You see, we have eyes and ears too. And we’re “educated”. So when we see that something’s not working, why should we keep it for ourselves?

I used to work in the advertising industry. I did so for four years after graduating. And when I remember the back cover of my graduation internship report, I see this image, I was so proud of having found.

Hell yes, but not always as you imagine it.

At that time, when I presented my internship report to my business school’s teacher, I was so proud to say I finally found out what I wanted to do with my life! What a fool I was… What happened, was that I had the best team ever for this internship, where I met one of the only two or three real managers I encountered in my short life (I’m 28). One day, when we had nothing really urgent to do, he asked my former boss and I if we had some time to spend with him for a lesson. We said yes. He told us to grab our notebooks, and that he would teach us what makes a great ad. And that’s what he did. He spent an hour explaining us how the KPI charts from our client worked, and what we were expected to do as an agency. What made a great ad, according to him, was mostly the accuracy of the insight it was based on. And so he taught us what an insight was. I learnt more during this short hour, than I did durning hours sitting in a classroom listening to teachers — who don’t even know what a real workplace looks like now (if some of them read me now, you guys really should do some internships too).

After this incredible experience, I found a job in another agency. Where I rapidly understood that my dreamy internship was just the exception making the rule. I spent one year there, going from being the adorable little pet of my boss, to becoming his bitch. I realized it soon enough and rapidly looked for another job. And so, I quitted this first job before the end of the contract — sitting over a € 4.000 precariousness bounty, because I couldn’t stand one more day being someone else’s bitch, and it was the price for my own sanity.

Oops, the boat is sinking, but yes let’s not change anything!

Then I spent two years back in the agency of my dreamy internship, in another team, which I still adore but with whom it was more complicated than with the first one. I learnt so much during these two years, but I still hold a big frustration from it. I spent so much energy there trying to convince the team that we were doing our campaigns wrong. That we couldn’t just make a “star” film and think of its “digital pendant” at the end of the process. At some point, my creative director did listen to me and told me “I’m sure you’re right. But how old are you? You know you’re working with people who’ve been there for more than 20 years. You can’t make the boat move by yourself.” and so he admittedly told me to stop fighting and leave. Which I did. And now, years after, I’m sad to see I was right, and that this company failed to train many of its senior teams, choosing the easy way, firing them to hire people who do know how digital works. They did try to train us though, and I was the first to register for the training sessions. Only to find out they hired some random blogger that failed to teach us anything, and so no one went back to the sessions. Hundreds thousands of euros thrown over the window.

I have many other stories like that, but you get my point. Unfortunately, the advertising industry and generally the enterprise as an institution fail to integrate our generation because of this kind of problems. So, to make it short, I decided to leave it a year ago, to build my own business, with my own values. But that’s another story :-).

“We’re digital natives, so we know what we do with tech.”

We’re just kids with tools we don’t fully understand. Read this if you still believe you know a crap about what you’re doing: How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist.

The last myth I’d like to debunk is not the least. Just because we were “born” with smartphones — wait, were we? Nope, not me! I got my first mobile phone, which was of the size of about a telephone cabine, at the age of 11. Ok that was early, but I learnt to use it just as you did. I learnt to use the Internet just like you did. And I am still learning.

A recent post from Vice’s Motherboard illustrates this perfectly, citing a study published in June in the Teaching and Teacher Education.

Studies [in the domain of didactics] show that students born after 1984 don’t necessarily possess a particularly thorough and fine understanding of technology”, Kirschner and De Brucyckere explain. “Their knowledge are often very superficial, and stick to the use of office applications, their mailbox, instant messaging applications, Facebook and a web browser.

The authors add that digital and technological uses should be studied properly at school, because without it students don’t know how to document themselves, other than simply searching on Wikipedia. And this is so true, we have this amazing tool that Internet is, but we jumped into it without having a proper education about how to use it. So some of us might use it right, but most of us just don’t! It can be even worse for the younger generations, they do use a lot of applications, but fairly for entertaining purposes.

So yes, we do need to be taught how to learn. Giving tablets to kids thinking it will resolve the learning problems is just another way to put our heads back into the sand.

So what can we do to live in peace together, grow and make our world a better place?

Welcome to Unicorn land! Image by LillytheLeafeon.

First listen, then talk and discuss :-) we’re open for discussion, we crave for learning and discovering new things, and most of all for growing, at least this is how I feel. The world has so many good things to offer, we should rather look at these and learn, rather than continuing on complaining on what doesn’t work. No one cares, so why should we keep on killing ourselves with negative thoughts? The world is already doing it for itself.

We can also read Simon Sinek’s last chapter in his latest book Leaders Eat Last, “A practical Guide to Leading Millenials”. Based on everything he’s learnt along the way of writing his previous book (Start with Why), he offers some perspective to remind employers to practice empathy, have us accepting that the negative feelings we have about ourselves are not unique and not of our faults, and finally admit that we can all learn from each other.

And that’s what I find particularly great in today’s world. We’ve finally come to a place where a grand-mother can teach her grand-daughter things about life, and where the grand-daughter can teach her back many things about what she sees with her young eyes. She can go on YouTube watch tutorials about how to do crocheting, and ask her grand-mother for advices, and so can her grand-mother!

So now, please stop saying we’re so bad, and start learning from us. Because we want to learn from you, and we all have so much to gain from each other.

Peace & Love,
Noémie