It seems that “millennial” has become a bit of a swear word in the workforce. We are flawed, so it has been said by almost every news outlet. Personally, I find this wholesale write-off to be incredibly counter-productive, especially given the unique skills my generation brings to the equation.
This is not to say that the millennial generation is without flaw. Our biggest downfall, at least from what I can see, is that we were under-prepared to use – healthily – the very thing that has come to define our generation: access to validation.
Now, let me be clear: access to validation is the sum of its parts, making the “access” component just as important as the “validation” piece.
We were born with and into social media: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and so on and so on. Millennials are the group of people to whom everyone had access…all of the time and in every way conceivable. For the first time in collective experience, this group of people could access almost anything from anyone and make accessible almost anything to anyone at any point and forever!
It’s the ultimate validation vortex.
Millennials have been raised by a new rule of social acceptance: no one should be accepted as just an accountant, or just a manager, or, in my case, just a doctor. Our generation is the first to believe that each of us can be – or even must be – seen to be multi-dimensional and multi-talented. Each of us is a brand new collection of creative parts, the likes of which the world has never seen and that offers everyone else a uniquely interesting and worthwhile experience, if only they’d follow the social feed.
We believe that each of us can be more than our parents could have become…we can make money, be validated for our creativity and, of course, make the world a more interesting (but maybe not “better”, as that’s too judgmental) place.
And herein lies the problem. It’s a dangerous game, as one could imagine, to play with our feelings of self-definition, self-worth and meaning in a context of continuous access to validation. We are falsely led to believe not only that we can be validated through social channels, but also that we deserve to be validated through social channels.
Why? Well, simply because we have access and people will validate with “likes”, “shares”, “views”, and any other micro-validation that our tech overlords dream-up for millennials to eat-up.
The millennial believes that her or his creativity, the select thoughts and momentary perspectives that flutter or burrow in our minds, are valued and worth something just because we’ve put them out into the world…just because we’ve posted them.
But this perception is new to human experience, not just the millennial generation.
My mom (a retired nurse of 30 years who sacrificed her back for the welfare of her patients) certainly did not think, not for a second, that people cared about every thought, musing, or creative spark she might have felt compelled to share. She did her job, proudly. She helped thousands of people and gained a lot of meaning from that work.
This is where we fall down as millennials, I believe. We sink into the vortex of false validation and continuous distraction; we lack a coherent conception of meaning, or a sensible path toward meaning making, and we often, therefore, lack purpose.
For millennials, it isn’t good enough to be a successful chef, or a loyal and studious transport driver, or nurse who gives more than he gets back. We, as millennials, need a side gig, we need something else, we need more validation.
It’s time for us to get back to the basics of purpose and meaning.
What is our why? Why do you do what you do everyday? Where do you see yourself in 1,2, 10 years? And why are these goals important for you? What do you enjoy doing everyday?
Forget all the chatter and the continuous scroll of social media….find and then follow your own purpose, unabashedly. And be damn proud of it.