A Millennial’s Take on All the Talk About Her Generation

EditorsAug 03, 2016

A Millennial’s Take on All the Talk About Her Generation

Arguing that members of her generation aren’t “lazy,” Senior Editor and millennial Brecken Branstrator talks about the need for a new conversation to help recruit this group.

Truth time: I’ve got millennial discussion burn-out.

And apparently I’m not the only one. Ben Smithee gave a millennial-focused presentation at the recent JA New York Summer show called “Enough Already! Why You’re Sick of the Millennial Madness & Why Most of What You Know Is Probably Wrong.”

It’s sort of bizarre being part of a generation that is studied so closely and written about so much. Brands and companies are trying to figure out how to market to this new consumer group to best capture their spending power and are constantly having conversations about habits that, to me, feel so familiar and natural.

But I think more than anything what angers me most is the fact that so many find it easy to generalize and draw conclusions about such a diverse group, and not usually in a good way: We don’t understand this group, so we’re just going to call them lazy and entitled.

At the JA New York Summer show, I sat in on an education session with National Jeweler Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff and Peter Smith, one of our columnists.

The session was a follow-up to Smith’s article on National Jeweler addressing the future of retail jewelry stores, which is the most-read story on our site so far this year. (Part 2 and a final follow-up also appeared on NationalJeweler.com.)

The Graff-Smith education session was designed as an “idea exchange” to encourage questions and interaction from the audience. It was a hit. The classroom was full and the questions kept coming long after the one-hour time slot passed.

Among many other topics, one of the things that came up was--surprise!--millennials.

In fact, the man sitting right beside me raised his hand and, as part of a discussion about the next generation not wanting to take the reins at family-owned stores, said that many millennials don’t have any interest in the 100-hour, six-day workweeks the generations before them put in and were “lazy.”

Allow me to speak for my generation for a second to say, that last part is just not the case. Are there young people today who may not be hard workers or feel entitled to good jobs without the hard work? Sure. But I think that could be said across all generations.

What’s more, I’d hardly call someone “lazy” just because they don’t want to work 100 hours a week. I certainly don’t want to, and

I like to think of myself as a pretty hard-working person.

This is something that Peter echoed when he said that he believes the “model has changed,” adding that he would be disappointed if his kids, who are millennials, did aspire to work seven days a week. “I would want them to be figuring out ways to do it smarter,” he said.

Most people seem to think that millennials want 50 vacation days a year, a beer cart and ping-pong table in the office, or to somehow be making six figures without a full-time commitment. No.

What we do want is a work/life balance and a job that we find fulfilling. I realize that waiting for said job might seem silly to some in the older generations, but while those companies are busy calling millennials lazy, they’re losing the best workers to companies that are willing to listen.

Michelle also brought up a great point in her response to the “lazy” comment. She said, “This misnomer that the millennials are lazy, I don’t buy that. I think that, for some reason, we’re just not making it interesting for them to come to the jewelry business.”

We all know that one of the biggest problems that plagues the industry is the lack of younger workers. I wrote a story in our fall 2015 digital magazine about that very issue and what organizations and companies are doing to counter-act it.

One of my favorite parts of Peter’s response to the audience member seated beside me was when he pointed out that the industry can and should be looking outside of itself to see how companies are recruiting members of the younger generation.

As opposed to just posting a job listing stating that the position requires X and Y qualifications and X hours, some of the “cooler” companies like Amazon, Google, Zappos and Southwest Airlines also are talking about a higher purpose, continued learning, social concerns and flexibility of schedule. They’re speaking right to the millennial crowd, and they’re getting them.

I know that it’s not an easy problem to solve and I’m not trying to say that it is. It is, however, a problem that can and should be addressed from our side. Just generalizing a whole generation as lazy and entitled isn’t going to do anything. Let’s steer the conversation to a place that’s productive and aims to figure out how this younger crowd can successfully be brought into the industry, to stay.

In the spirit of that JA New York session, I’d love for this to be a conversation and to hear more thoughts on these issues; please share in the comments!
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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