I had a chat with a talented young lady, about her career struggles. After finishing her university studies and while working for a small firm, she found the work not challenging, and the firm unprofessional. She doubted her professional choices and couldn’t figure out what she was good at and wanted to do anymore.
She self-inflicted a social pressure by comparing herself with friends, concluding that they are better off, working for big corporations, happy about their choices. But she is not attracted to what she calls a traditional corporate slave career. She wants freedom, small, cooperation, creativity.
I was intrigued, not only because I care for this young lady, and want her to succeed and be happy, but also because it triggered me to look for answers and understanding of multi-generational ways of thinking, and on how much these could explain this lady’s journey.
I read some texts on inter-generational dynamics, to empathize with her dilemmas rather than jump to conclusions using my references. Lacking this understanding can create miscommunication not only within families but also at work, where multi-generations meet and work together.
We say that humans repeat history and keep making the same mistakes. Well, it seems to be an automatic reaction to forget our own struggles as a teenager or young adults, and judge new generations behaviors less acceptable than ours. In my time…it was different! Of course it was. But there are common threads for all generations of all times. For one, we want to make our own destiny, affirm ourselves as individuals, and to not repeat other people’s experiences, particularly that of our parents. Even if we could run the risk of making the same mistakes.
Haven’t we all been there? The other common thread is that as the world evolves, every generation creates new standards, sets new trends, and braves new paths, and that is exactly the point where the intersection of misunderstanding between generations is created.
If I compare my generation with the millennials, I see that we were compelled to adopt an attitude to work where ‘pragmatism, go-get, take risks, get real, take care of yourself, always ask why, there are no heroes’, were the marching orders. This created a high drive for achievement, workaholism, making careers and living the ‘rest’, for when we have time. The millennial generation (born 1980-2000), are the kids of parents from my generation. Some of their characteristics are: to be connected 24×7 with the internet, be tech-savvy and have instant access to people and information around the globe, what was never possible before them. They are family centric, achievement oriented, team oriented, attention craving (I’m special), serve your community. It’s not difficult then to grasp their shock with their parents’ mindset and habits.
The millennials saw their parents working like ‘slaves’, and having hardly time for them. They became less worried about mega careers, less individualistic and short-term focused, and more concerned about nature, collectivity, and sustainability. They kept the achievement-drive from their parents, which coupled with attention craving and being special, as well as this belief that all is done instantly, make room for an explosive combination. If they don’t get what they want, they are left at a crossroad of despair and frustration, because they are not prepared to deal with not having, instantly, an answer to their life’s quests before taking actions. That’s the sad moment they figure out that we can’t get it all from google searches!
Many people, regardless of their generation, have made it hard for themselves in their quest for the right career, right life. They may never try to discover their talents and passions, and keep waiting for the perfect choice, letting many opportunities pass them by. Others take paths they hate, and convince themselves that they couldn’t get any better.
I found a quote from Dr. Paul Samuelson, which gives us guidance not only on our careers but to the dilemmas we often are confronted with.
“Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play.
This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors. “
To find this, one needs…to play. The sad truth is that, instead, people paralyze because they start looking for the holy grail. There isn’t one.
Coming back to my lady’s dilemma: I feel the urge to tell her: give a try, discover on the go what you are good at, what you like and want. If it doesn’t work, try another way. There isn’t a perfect script for anything in our journeys; we ought to dare to live instead of rehearsing our lives.