White picket fences surrounding a 4 bedroom house and a sprawling lawn for 4.5 people in a single family--complete with a dog, epitomized the American Dream when I was growing up. For some of my contemporaries, the first house was an outward symbol that they had grown up and were now, drumroll, successful adults.
I'm no different. Before I turned 30, I swore I would achieve a level of success that was measured in "American Dream" standards. So I did. It wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.
Now, some time after my 30th birthday (ah-hem), I have caught on to the new ideal. As Courtney Martin states in her recent TED talk, The new American Dream, "Turns out, the biggest danger is not failing to achieve the American Dream. The biggest danger is achieving a dream that you don't actually believe in. So don't do that. Do the harder, more interesting thing, which is to compose a life where what you do every single day, the people you give your best love and ingenuity and energy to, aligns as closely as possible with what you believe in."
Millenials are inviting all generations to rethink the way we define success. The workforce bubble that everyone is preparing for and buzzing about has executives scratching their head trying to figure out how to lead, motivate, and mentor a generation that could give a rat's behind about how they achieved their lifestyle. They/I don't want it but...thanks anyway!
Ideas about relationships, authenticity, consumerism, and ecobusiness pervade every decision when it comes to the younger generation. It's all about having time for yourself, your family, your community...the things that really matter. A recent LA Times article by Patrice Apodaca has this to say, "In fact, millenials are focused on being better parents to their children compared to how they were raised. This generation, in keeping with the more relaxed theme coupled with the fact that more mothers are working outside the home, is reputedly comfortable with outsourcing much of the child care needs." Perhaps as a result of soaring divorce rates, the new generation of young adults are identifying those relationships that are temporal versus unbreakable. The delay in marriage for this group is based more on fear of separation than the ability to be a Serial Dater.
Don't misunderstand the need for being fairly (read "highly") compensated though. Unlike the current workforce who view a pay trade-off as being a necessary part of negotiating more time away from the office, younger workers are pointing to connectedness via technology as a way to support a full salary.
Aside from money, companies are being held accountable for eco-friendly, sustainable business practices. A view to the future with a compassionate lens. It's got to be part of the package to attract talent.
When we are talking about dreams and goals, then, it is important to understand differences in motivation, goals and accountability. If hope is what defines us, and tolerance creates society, then isn't it time we started to really listen and understand what the new workforce is looking to achieve during their lifetimes? How does work play a part in that plan? More importantly, how do the elders teach the entrants what we know? Surely, every generation thinks they know best and that they have all of the answers. The wise one knows there is much to be shared on both sides.
We may even find ourselves questioning what works best for us while we pick out the splinters from that white picket fence.