Starting a Career as a Baby Boomer and a Millennial: A Study in Contrasts
I remember my first day of work as though it were yesterday. I was a recent nursing school graduate and had accepted a position as a ward nurse at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. I had gone through numerous in person interviews, attended orientation sessions, and been subjected to a thorough grilling by nurse supervisors.
The night before my first day on the job, I spent hours polishing my shoes, pressing my uniform, making my lunch, and convincing myself that I was ready and able to handle everything that nursing entailed.
As I commuted to work, I found myself brimming with excitement at the prospect of launching my nursing career.
No electronics or smartphone to announce to the world via social media the start of my calling. Just me and my thoughts of the future. The path ahead was clear. I was on my way.
Fast Forward 34 Years
I have been a professional speaker for the past 13 years, and it has been 3 years since I hung up the scrubs and retired from the operating room. While the hospital where I got my start has long since been demolished, nothing can erase the pride and memories of a 30 plus year nursing career.
These recollections stand in stark contrast to what I witness as my millennial daughter launches her own career. Now 23, and recently graduated with a degree in business, the path ahead for her appears anything but clear – the mirror opposite of where I found myself at her age.
Starting a Career in 2018
After a year of travel and adventure, her bank account was somewhat depleted and she had been living at home and looking for full-time work. The job finding process and all the rejection it entails had been taking a toll on her self-esteem. She has plenty of time to worry and wonder about how life will unfold from here, but she starts to look for part-time work and contemplates going back to school.
But finally, her persistence pays off! She lands a job offer for her first full time gig.
The company is located thousands of miles away, and the closest she has come to meeting a real live person has been via a Skype interview. And, quite likely, she will never meet her boss or fellow employees in person.
No need – I guess – when the job entails developing internet ad campaigns. Her duties and obligations are spelled out in a lengthy employment contract full of legal jargon.
She is nonplussed by it all. “Whatever…I just signed it. No big deal” she says.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by her attitude.
After all, millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce with technology that enables them to work remotely, which suits them just fine, given the priority they place on work-life balance.
So, her first official day of work arrives. We exchange banter as she makes herself breakfast. Then she gets up from the counter, coffee mug in hand, and walks upstairs to her room where she logs in and launches her career.
The commute is about 13 seconds, including a stop to pet the dog.
Once logged on, her activities are monitored from central command, with her pay determined by the number of hours she is logged on and productive. She spends hour after hour hammering away at her keyboard. The occasional conference call is her only direct interaction with another co-worker.
Welcome to the world of work for many millennials!
Like many of her cohort, work is a convenient means to fund the lifestyle to which they aspire – travel, adventure, and mobility.
But given that we spend most of our adult lives working, you must wonder how this high tech “always on” world is going to play out for our Millennials in the long term?
Reflecting on the Past and Thinking About the Future
Arguably, I had two careers – one as a nurse, the other as a motivational speaker. As for my daughter, I can only imagine how many positions she will hold over the course of her career in the so-called ‘gig’ economy.
Watching my daughter launch her career has caused me to shift my own perspective and realize that the world of work has changed in ways I could not have imagined just a few years ago.
Not everyone is going to sign on for a clear cut, single purpose career path. And not everyone is cut out to climb the corporate ladder or hold down high-pressure jobs that put work ahead of life.
Regardless of what generation you come from, I believe we all strive to live meaningful lives. It really is up to us as individuals to come up with our own definition of ‘meaning’.
Maybe these millennials have things figured much better than we give them credit for?
What we do know is this: each generation can learn from each other –I can’t wait to see how things play out!
More posts? Bring it on!