Frank Moldstad is the only 50-something at a west coast digital marketing firm comprised almost entirely of 20-somethings. This is the last in a series detailing his ongoing travails....
It is my last day at work. I have been offered a position I cannot refuse in a distant city, and have accepted it. The company culture at the new place will be radically different. From what I can tell, the average age there seems to be in the mid-40s. I saw only a couple of forlorn Gen Yers lurking in the halls, keeping their heads down, trying to fit in. I know what that is like, having spent the past year as the token mid-lifer in a 20-something world.
Now that I will be reunited with my own kind after living among the savages* you would think I would be happy. But the truth is, I will miss the millennials. They have taught me many things about myself and even about life.
One of the most frequent questions I have been asked is, "Doesn't it make you feel old working with all those 20-somethings?" While I have been constantly reminded of the age gap and the cultural differences, in truth the experience has made me feel younger. I have become less set in my ways, and feel more open-minded and accepting of new things. I have had to be. Well, I still don't like their music. But I do understand the attraction of something that parents and other species find intolerable.
Another thing I cannot share is the millennials' naïveté and youthful enthusiasm for clearly impractical ideas. This might seem to conflict with my previously referenced open-mindedness. But it is unavoidable. At a certain point, you grow out of your naïveté, unless somebody like Bernie Madoff is offering investment returns that far exceed the market norm.
Nevertheless, I have witnessed naïveté as a force of nature that allows Gen Y to attempt the impossible and sometimes succeed. This is a generation that is deposing dictators worldwide, after all. And believe me, my Gen Y co-workers are keenly aware of their power to mobilize in the face of such odds. Two people in my office have helped to establish alternate relays to countries where governments in crisis have shut down the internet.
The next time I see my Gen Y co-workers, I may be retired and they may be in management. We can talk about their frustrations attempting to motivate the uppity little Gen Zers in the workforce, who share none of their values and have their own ideas about how to do things. I will find this amusing.
As I finish packing my stuff, a continual parade of Gen Yers is coming around to say goodbye. Until today, I did not realize the effect they have had upon me. Hopefully, the reverse is true.
* I stole this title from a 1953 novel by Shirley Jackson, which she described as "a disrespectful memoir of my children." Works with similar titles have been penned by missionaries, shipwreck survivors and even Benjamin Franklin. The common thread is that after their encounters, they came to see their subjects as not so savage after all.