Mar 12

Lend a Hand

“Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe; marching and organizing to remake the world as it should be. We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.”

So read Barak Obama’s tweet to the students who protested gun legislation in the wake of the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The social and political activism by these students is indeed truly heroic and inspiring.

What struck me about former Pres. Obama’s message was that he offered a message of hope and help. That he, along with like-minded individuals, would champion these students, helping them to, “remake the world as it should be.”

The idea of empowering the younger generation to pursue what matters to them in life and work sounds wonderful in theory, but, in reality, is not always realized.

As a millennial myself, I’m often told by other generations that my peers and I are a lazy, entitled, ambition-less bunch. However, I wonder if these same people have ever thought to lend a hand or word of encouragement to a seemingly apathetic young adult.

While I have yet to see the millennial stereotype personified – most young adults I know work full time, volunteer, travel and go to the dentist twice a year – I’m often confronted by this attitude and assumption that my age automatically assigns me negative attributes.

A few weeks ago at a work event, I was told by an upset attendee that he intended to speak with an “adult” – and, by implication, not with me. In work meetings, I’ve had my ideas shot down because I’m too young to remember a reference and the words I use are too buzzy. I’ve had a stranger turn to me before an interview and say, “You look just like my daughter.”

Traumatic? No. Empowering? Far from it.

As a communication professional, I am very accustomed to constructive criticism; however a helpful directive rarely follows a patronizing hand to the back and an explanation of how people your age have no work ethic. Unfortunately, these encounters are all too common among my friends and peers I can’t help but think of the potential, mentorship and creativity that are lost by demeaning the younger generation of workers. Intentional or not, these interactions tend to halt productivity and open dialogue.

Our former president’s tweet, however, highlights that the next generation of leaders are young adults now and are primed to be mentored and guided by today’s leaders. According to the Case Foundation, millennials are a generation of socially engaged activists, and the Pew Research Center reported that we’re the most tech savvy and optimistic about our country’s political and economic future.

These reports sound like a whole lot of potential to me and I wonder what this generation, poised for a radical, change-making future, would be able to accomplish with a little help from mentors in the workplace?

So, baby boomers and Gen X-ers, we’re here and ready to remake the world. Do you have our backs?

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