A Letter From a Millennial to Everyone
As the millennial generation is said to make up over 50% of the workforce this year, I wrote an open letter on what 2020 as taught me.
The you who is experienced and inexperienced. The you who is young or older. The you who falls on the spectrum of race – so everyone. The you who is certain of their path or still figuring it out. The you who fits within a community or who prefers to stand alone. This letter is for you. Hello.
My name is Aish – identifying as a woman, Asian-American, millennial, gaining experience over time, and still figuring out my path… although I have my running shoes laced on. By the way, the you I am writing this letter for includes me. Power of reflection.
I’m going to use this opportunity to reflect on what 2020 taught me. The lessons I’ve drawn up below are ones I will carry forward with me, and I hope this will help you better understand someone who happens to similarly identify themselves as one or more characteristics above. Whether it is a friend, family member, colleague, or stranger, my hope is this letter guides you to an open mind, a new perspective, or simply get you to actively challenge my thoughts.
I work on the growth team for WDHB Strategic Learning. Naturally, I’ll relate these lessons to people and strategic transformations, but I would like to think that these can also be applied to life in general. While this isn’t all-encompassing, it’s a start, and I encourage you to be introspective and discover your own lessons of 2020.
Lesson 1: We Are All Capable of Adaptation and Change.
“Man plans, God laughs.” I think it’s safe to say that 2020 proved to us that change is inevitable. We have the option to sulk or adapt and change. Personally, I would like to remind myself of the latter, and it’s important to remind our organizations of the same. Whether it is a new work environment, pivot in product offering, acting on social injustices, we are all capable of modifying to our environments. When you have no choice but to change, you simply can and will.
I am going to attempt to put myself in situations where I am able to challenge my capabilities. Would you consider doing the same? Nothing in life is permanent or predictable, and we must accept it. I truly believe humans are the most resilient species, and that comes with admitting our vulnerable moments as well – of ourselves and our communities.
Lesson 2: Transition from Self-Obsessed to Humanitarian.
In times of selfies, filters, and presenting ourselves in our best light, can you blame millennials for having a bit more self-interest than the previous generations? I’m guilty of it, certainly. We live in a time where expectations are driven more by the individual than the collective. Social media created a world in which a new demand for personal content triggered supply. However, I see we are reaching the end of the “entitled” millennial narrative. Many may disagree with me on this one, but recently, I’ve seen social media make a step towards becoming a voice for advocacy, support, journalism, creativity and guidance for a greater community. Have you?
Are we able to challenge ourselves to think of a community’s mission larger than ourselves? Or team? Or organization? Or ecosystem? Perhaps, we will be serving my own interest by serving others. I think we should have that discussion at work too and see if we can build a culture of humanitarianism.
Lesson 3: Generations Are Not Competing Anymore. We Have No Choice but to Collaborate.
I hear it so often… “Watch out, Gen Z is going to take your jobs!” They are more digitally native, I get it. Why does that mean they are going to take our jobs? As a millennial, don’t I have skills particular to the point and time I entered the workforce? Can’t we bring these skills together to create something revolutionary?
Millennials have been deemed the “lost generation” and the “unluckiest generation” as a result of reputation, job search during a recession, political climate, and more. This is also the first time that five generations are in the professional workforce at the same time. While we look for racial and gender diversity on boards and organizations, could diversity in age be a factor of consideration? One may argue that age equates to experience, but is it my naïve self arguing that this isn’t necessarily true at all times? Currently, I serve on a Young Professionals Board for a pediatric cancer research foundation with the intention of encouraging philanthropic action for younger generations.
I encourage leaders of organizations to take the opinion of your younger colleagues, dare I say learn from them. They will, in turn, will look at you for guidance and mentorship as I do towards the governing board of the Morgan Adams Foundation.
Lesson 4: Increasing My Mindfulness with Intention.
With all that’s going on in the world, I constantly feel this sense of distraction. I feel hypocritical for wanting to make a bigger difference, but repeating the same circle every day. While a single person is capable of significant change, I find it’s important to focus on what I can immediately control… If that’s delivering a successful program for a client or producing a marketing strategy for my boss, then that is what I will do.
The answer for me is to be consciously mindful and to remind myself what I am grateful for now: my job, daily structure, and being surrounded with ample support. Once I’m mentally and physically standing with two feet on the ground, I feel to be more useful to those who need extra support to fight their cause. And I realize that my sphere of influence is big enough to make a difference every day.
Lesson 5: Continuously Learn… and Learn Fast.
At the start of the pandemic, we saw people creating workout equipment out of random house supplies, colleagues found engaging ways to stay plugged with one another, and your downstairs neighbor may have regained his interest for his drum set from his university days. Skills, new and old, resurfaced, and it showed how quickly we are able to learn.
This year, I enrolled in an online education program from an accredited university in order to justify my actions towards achieving our marketing initiatives. Next year, I promised myself to re-learn French. What is your new skill that you hope to learn or re-learn? What have you put off for years now? Make 2021 a success by holding yourself accountable to that.
Can organizations encourage an environment of continuous learning, even (and especially) when times get tough? Can we accept to learn from unexpected teachers? Can a new hire teach an executive?
Using times of adversity to develop personally and professionally is almost cliché – but because it’s an inevitability. These are the five lessons I hope to carry forward to 2021. What were yours?
Dear you, dear me, and dear us. 2020 was tough, and it might get tougher, but so will we.