Relationship Goals: A Millennial’s View

It is probably the millennial in me that is hesitant to speak for the collective but I’ll give it a shot. If we are working with you we want to be there, we want to learn from you, we want to grow in this experience. We also want to be respected and listened to but I promise we want to be there and we want to do the work. If we act entitled it’s not because we think we deserve the world on a silver platter, but rather that we think we put in the work and effort that deserves respect. I think there is danger in assuming something of a group. At the end of the day millennials, gen X, gen Y, and baby boomers would rather be defined by who they are as an individual than as a collective.

For twenty-two years of my life I have been a millennial. For twenty-two years of my life I have put a lot into every day to be even just a little bit better than I was the day before. A typical week in my life has me bouncing from a college campus, a nonprofit office, babysitting, running a student organization, being invested in church community, and planning for the future. Often all of these things take place in one day.

This isn’t a new habit and it also isn’t a lifestyle I live alone. For years now I have been witness to friends stretching themselves thin in order to be a better person and make a better world. Sure, all millennials don’t fall in this category but I would be bold enough to say, that a majority of us are like this. We were told to do well and excel in middle school so we could be in AP classes and lead organizations in high school. In high school, we were constantly reminded that four years was not enough time to build the perfect resume but we needed to do that and have a great GPA to get into the college of our dreams. Some of us came to college thinking, “I just need this diploma and then I will be set to get that job and live a great life.” Pretty quickly I realized that was not the case at all.

Everyone is getting a degree in something. All of my peers are accepting job offers and balancing a full class schedule. It isn’t enough to just get that piece of paper that says you spent 120 hours on a college campus. Now if you want a leg up you have to be looking at grad programs and double majoring. To stand out in the crowd you have to be excelling in at least three different areas of life. Somedays I feel a little overwhelmed to keep this up. I worry that my future children will be stuck in years of schooling and debt just so they can keep up with the competition. But most days I wake up so excited to tackle whatever color coded mess is in my planner.

Millennials were raised in this era of busyness is best. Look around, America is a fast-paced let’s get things done kind of world. It is all ages. My grandmother is 80 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. She has an iPhone, an iPad, and a laptop so she can check her email and keep up with her grandkids on Facebook.  She retired several years ago but still has a packed schedule of volunteering, dinners, and bridge. Maybe it is because I share DNA with Carol Smith, but down time still has to be planned. My executive director, while young at heart, has been pedaling hard for years. The man bikes everywhere in Austin, sends emails at 4am, and knows the family story of every important person in the area. These are the people millennials are learning from.

Hard work doesn’t look the same as it did 20 years ago. Gaining knowledge sure doesn’t either. I walk around often with headphones in my ears, but I am not just listening to music to avoid conversations. Chances are I am listening to a news podcast to stay informed. I may be looking at my phone while riding the bus but I am probably reading an article or part of a textbook. Just because technology is near me at all times doesn’t mean I am not paying attention. I am taking notes, making list, setting reminders, communicating, and networking. I am trying to be more efficient than my peer who could take over my job at any moment. But while I am working hard to be a stand out individual, I am celebrating the success of the ones around me and helping them any way I can.

One thing I have learned with working so closely with my generation is the reality of expectations. I am a Type A, slightly obsessive, nonstop personality type. I know this about myself, but I also know that not everyone is like me. My roommate is a bit more of a free spirit. She is a crazy hard worker but her life always looks a bit like a tornado just happened. I know if I want to do something with her or have something happen at our apartment I have to give her day and time. Vague doesn’t work in her schedule well. The same with the expectations of the 186 college students I find myself leading every week. If I say, “Hey friends we need this paperwork turned in soon,” nothing happens. If I say, “These four documents are due in one week,” things get turned in. It’s not hand holding, it is being clear about your expectations. Every now and then a professor will ask that we not use laptops or technology in their classroom. They want us to be engaged so paper notes it is. Do 100% of students follow through with this? No, but a large majority do. Odds are if you have hired someone into a position you think they are capable and they respect you. If you have expectations for them but don’t let them know, you cannot be disappointed when they fail to meet them. There has to be grace any time someone new is added to the equation.

I say that for both sides. Chances are high that you have invited a millennial into a workplace that is established. Tell them how things work and what expectations are but also be willing to listen when they have new ideas. Friendly reminder, you can be younger than 30 and still have good ideas. Second friendly reminder, an old dog can and probably wants to learn new tricks. There are times I am shocked that more people aren’t using Google Docs, GroupMe, and Doodle Poll when they are working on collaborative efforts. However, I cannot tell you the last time I told someone older than me that these resources were an option. We all fall victim to expecting people just to know things. We forget that there is beauty in all of us knowing a lot about a little. Knowing a little about a lot of things doesn’t change the world. Passion and focus is what changes the world. So again, I say, have grace, we all have a lot to learn from one another.

Tina Schweiger