The Exciting Millennial Generation

The Exciting Millennial GenerationIt seems that I’ve recently heard a lot of complaints about this “younger generation,” known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y (those born after 1984—or between 1980 and 2000—depending who’s doing the explaining).Employers moan that Millennials don’t want to work; they arrive late, lack motivation, and do not make good employees.Customers complain than Generation Y doesn’t seem to care and looks strange.

True, each successive generation causes angst and head scratching from their elders.However, with Gen-Y there is an additional factor at play—the emergence of a postmodern mindset.(See What Does Postmodern Mean?) Generally, Gen-Y, and to a lesser extent Gen-X that preceded them, have postmodern perspectives on life, whereas prior generations are more likely modern thinkers.Herein is the rub that causes the above frustrations.

One element of the postmodern outlook is that they want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world.Career, wealth, and possessions tend to have little draw to postmodern people.And this excites me.

I recently asked a 21-year young lass if she would soon be graduating from college.(This was a bad assumption on my part.)She hemmed a bit and then admitted that she had just dropped out of cosmetology school—her second post-high educational effort.She realized that a career in cosmetology would be a shallow and meaningless pursuit.She wants to make a difference in the world by helping those in a third-world country—she leaves in two months. Millennial's want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world. Click To Tweet

Another acquaintance abandoned her career path as a paralegal and is cranking through grad school—so she can join the Peace Crops—and then aid governments in developing countries.Another 20-something friend is wrapping up a yearlong stint in Russia.Even though he’s not yet back to the States, he is already planning on a return trip as soon as possible.A fourth simply desires to travel the world—to help the people she meets.

I could go on and on about this “younger generation” who are set on making a difference, have forsaken materialism, and seek meaningful work—and it excites me greatly—Gen-Y has the potential to make this world a better place.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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What Does Postmodern Mean?

What Does Postmodern Mean?I was talking with a 20-something friend and tossed out the phrase “postmodern.” His ears perked up and he asked what it meant.

“You’re postmodern,” I spontaneously asserted.

“I know; that’s what people tell me,” he replied, “but what’s it mean?”

“First there is one aspect of postmodernity that doesn’t fit you,” I clarified. “Most postmoderns do not accept absolute truth; to them all things are relative. The only thing they accept with absolute certainty is that there are no absolutes.” (Don’t think about that too long—it will give you a headache!) Postmodern is not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset Click To Tweet

“The rest of the profile seems to match you,” I continued. “In general, postmodern people value relationships and relish experiences—for them, the ‘journey is the reward.’ They want work that is fulfilling and allows them to make a difference in the world, but they guardedly balance work with their personal life. They tend to not be materialistic and money doesn’t mean as much to them as a ‘modern’ person. They are decidedly non-religious, but are quite open to spirituality and metaphysical dialogue.”

He agreed with my assessment that he was postmodern.”And what about you?” he asked.

There is a propensity for younger generations to be postmodern and generations people—like me—to be modern. It’s not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset. Being on the tail end of the baby boom generation, I should be modern, but in reality, “I skew towards postmodern.” He smiled at that; I guess that’s why we get along so well.

If you work with or manage postmodern people (typically generation Y or the Millennials, born after 1984), you will likely be challenged beyond anything you’ve experienced.  Keeping this brief overview in mind, might help you to better understand them. But don’t assume they think and act like you (unless you’re also postmodern) or you’ll never really connect with them.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Dialing for Dollars: Frustrations with Accounts Payable

Dialing for Dollars: Frustrations with Accounts PayableMy least favorite task is making collection calls, but it was again time to do so. Although it took less than an hour, I spent more than a day getting psyched up for this distasteful task. I find that I am quite adept at finding other things to do (which are decidedly more interesting and satisfying) in order to avoid “dialing for dollars.”

My perspective is that it is moral and ethical business behavior to pay all bills by their due date, if not sooner. Therefore, I shouldn’t be put in a position to have to ask people for the money that they freely and readily agreed to pay me for my services. It's moral and ethical business behavior to pay all bills by their due date, if not sooner. Click To Tweet

I have found that my customers fall into four categories:

  1. Most pay their bills on time, every time. (Thank you!)
  2. Some generally pay on time, but need an occasional reminder or a resent invoice.
  3. A few always need a phone call before they pay. (This could be a result of corporate policy or cash-flow issues.)
  4. A couple can’t or won’t pay what they owe me.

I once worked for a company whose policy was to pay all bills, net forty-five. It wasn’t a cash-flow issue, but a desire to operate off other people’s money. This made it most challenging to engage new vendors and keep existing ones happy; they always wanted to be paid net thirty. Another company I worked for had cash flows issues—sometimes majorly so—and paid almost all bills late, sometimes months late; this was an even more challenging environment.

I have decided to treat my vendors the way I want to be treated: I usually pay bills within twenty-four hours. That requires a bit more cash reserves—and many would call it fiscally foolish—but I call it the right thing to do.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Is It Time For a Vacation?

I’ve been thinking a lot about vacations lately. It’s been years since I’ve taken an annual two-week break from work. This year is no exception. I wonder if this is wise.

I suspect employers began offering vacations to long-term employees as a reward for their service, expecting workers to return from their two-week sojourn rested and ready to work with greater effectiveness. Just as the weekend provides a short break from the workweek, a vacation provides a longer break from the work year. And we do need breaks.

Yet too many employees cram as much activity into their vacation time as possible. They come back exhausted instead of refreshed. They need to return to work to rest from their vacation. This is not as it should be. For these folks, their work prior to their vacation is wasted in anticipation, and their work after vacation is equally unproductive because they’re too tired to do much.

Then there are people like me. At most of my jobs, no one did my work while I was gone. I’d spend the week before vacation, trying hard to work ahead. Then, afterwards, it would take a couple weeks to catch up. For all the good my vacation did – and I actually rested on my vacations – the backlog of work when I returned quickly negated its benefits.

For the past fifteen years, a two-week vacation has been out of the question: the overlapping production schedules of multiple publications leaves me no time to take a long break. Instead, I’ve opted for shorter respites, an occasional long weekend, a day trip here and there, even time off during the day for a quick outing.

It’s a rhythm that works for me, but all the while I wonder what I might be missing by not taking a two-week vacation.

When was your last vacation? What did you do?

Is Gamification a Trend or a Fad?

I was quite skeptical about “gamification,” the use of game concepts to motivate desirable behavior among customers (or employees).

I reasoned that while expecting customers to “play games” might result in a short-term increase in brand involvement or purchases, I doubted if it was sustainable. However, I am rethinking my knee-jerk assessment.

As a Netflix customer, I was likely involved in a basic gamification effort. As I posted movie reviews on their site, I was given a “reviewer rank.” As I posted more reviews, my rank would improve. At one point I had worked my way to the neighborhood of 5,000 out of several million reviewers. Bettering my reviewer rank became a game for me. Yes, I enjoyed watching the movies and, yes, I found it rewarding to share my input with other Netflix customers, but the validation of my efforts came through watching my reviewer rank improve.

However, if it was a “game,” the problem was I didn’t know the rules. I assumed more reviews was good, more readers of my reviews was beneficial, and more people flagging my reviews as “helpful” in comparison to “not helpful” was also a factor. But this could not be verified, as everything I did was competing with what others did. So I could do something to improve my reviewer rank, but if others did even more to improve theirs, my rank would actually decrease.

I reviewed 71 movies and then abruptly stopped when I realized I no longer enjoyed doing so.

It seems gamification may work after all — at least for a while.

There Has to be a Better Way

I don’t know if I wasn’t listening or am slow to catch on, but it wasn’t until later in life that I realized how to land a job:

  • The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview,
  • the purpose of an interview is sell yourself well enough to receive an offer, and
  • the purpose of an offer is to negotiate a compensation package for your new job.

Silly me. I thought that people should just hire me because I could do the work — and would do it well. (I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t believe that.) I viewed the application/resume and interview steps as unnecessary irritations in the process. As far as compensation negotiations, just skip that part and pay me what I am worth.

The sad reality is that — except for a few positions, such as sales or marketing — being able to pen a compelling resume or conduct a convincing interview is no measure of one’s ability to actually do a job, merely their ability to obtain a job. The result is that unsuited people are hired and — I fear — good people are overlooked. There has to be a better way.

The same is true in politics. You need to be able to raise money to campaign and you need to be able to debate well to raise your poll numbers and you need to speak with conviction to create interest among the electorate. But these skills have little bearing on your ability to lead well.

Whether it is obtaining a job or being elected, the conventional processes do not allow the best person to prevail. There has to be a better way.

Partner or Employee?

Last month, after much planning and consideration, my bride joined me in my publishing business. Her long commute to her prior job was becoming wearisome and with winter approaching, bad weather would make it even longer and more of a worry.

As we shared this possibility with others, the idea was met with raised eyebrows and skepticism. One doubtful friend directly stated, “Married people should not work together.” A wise friend, however, advised that we consider whether Candy would be my employee or my partner. That was a great question and we opted for partner.

We even did a trial run this spring when she had some vacation time to use up. The test went quite well, so we moved forward with our plans. Now, six weeks into it, we are pleased with the results. It was a good move and I wish we had done it sooner.

The only occasional hiccup is that sometimes she acts like an employee and sometimes I view her as one. Still we are steadily moving towards the goal of becoming business partners and I suspect as she more fully understands the business, that goal will be realized.

Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins

Mohandas Gandhi considered these to be society’s seven deadly social sins:

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice

It sure gives one something to think about.

Do You Have Power?

Last weekend we decided to watch a DVD.  The only problem was that we were in the midst of a power outage.  Undaunted, we gathered around a laptop and popped in the DVD.  It would not play; something about a missing plug-in.

Although frustrating, we moved to a second laptop.  The DVD played fine — until the battery died with only a couple of scenes remaining.

I pulled a third laptop out of the closet, but the battery was dead.  Fortunately, the battery from the first laptop was interchangeable; unfortunately, that computer had issues as well: one program had an audio problem and the other one, video.

However, a small UPS in my office still had some life left in it, so we migrated there with laptop #2 — and watched another 30 seconds before the UPS ran out of juice.

The movie would need to wait for tomorrow.

As I lay in bed, wondering how it ended, I recalled the power inverter in my car.  We could have retreated there to power the laptop and conclude the movie.  While I considered the merits of sitting in a car that was parked in a garage to watch a movie on a laptop, I drifted off to sleep — and to the sound of my neighbor’s generator.

The Long and Short of It

Sometimes after a day at work, my bride comes home and remarks, “it’s been a long day!”

Being the supportive and understanding spouse that I am, I quickly concur with appropriate empathy.  Unfortunately, I am seldom content to merely agree, so I sarcastically add, “Yes, I heard on the news that today was 35 minutes longer then yesterday.  Today, was, truly a long day.”  That rarely wins me any points, but does garner an irritated glare.

What she may mean is that work lasted — or seemed to last — for a long time.  Alternately, it could convey that work was very frustrating. I know what she means, but she doesn’t say what she means.  Instead, she insists that the day was somehow longer than normal.

It like fashion, some people quip that yesterday was the longest day of the year.  But that is not correct either.  It was the same length as all the others; it merely contained more daylight minutes — and correspondingly less nighttime minutes — than any other day of the year.  That is, for those of us north of the equator.

For those in the southern hemisphere, theirs was the shortest day of the year.  Not really.  It just had the least amount of daylight and the maximum amount of darkness.

What about those on the equator?  I understand that they enjoyed an even 12 – 12 split of light and dark, just like every other day.

So whether your day was long — or short — or the same length as all others, I hope that it was a good one.  Mine was.