A view of the horizon for millennials
Millennials are the paradox generation. Thanks to the advent of social media, they crave news updates, attention and validation perhaps more than any previous generation and yet they shun personal communication so vehemently that many of them would rather text a person across the room rather than engage in a verbal conversation.
Is this a problem?
On the surface there might appear to be some advantages to being able to text exactly what you think or feel without having to deal with the face-to-face consequences that your words create inside the person on the receiving end of your transmission — especially if you then take the position that it is also acceptable to “ghost” someone who calls you out on your behaviour by ignoring, blocking or “unfriending” them.
If this is the cyber code of conduct that you practise in your personal life, are you setting yourself up for success in your professional life?
Call me old-school but I am from the generation that once looked forward to dressing up for work. Donning a suit and shiny shoes on a Monday morning, I instinctively knew that I was heading off to work in an environment where manners and professionalism ruled every business encounter be it by means of a letter, e-mail, phone call or personal interaction.
Today, however, the lines are much more blurred. Shuffling into the office in slacks and sneakers with unbrushed hair, my thumbs hammering at the smartphone jammed under my nose might seem comfortable, convenient and efficient, but is this a mode of behaviour in the workplace that actually makes me approachable, let alone promotes idea-sharing, positivity or a productive work environment?
If your answer is “Sure, I don't need to deal with anyone to get my job done”, I wonder whether you have ever considered what sort of a future you are setting yourself up for by avoiding developing your personal communication skills. Better yet, have you ever considered what opportunities you might be missing out on now by continually sending the message “leave me alone, I'm busy”?
If your answer is “No, at work we have to put away our phones and find a way to meet face-to-face, make plans and decisions and help each other reach our common goals”, then why is it that we are still tempted to engage in emotionless cyber whiplashing in our personal lives?
Furthermore, if you are spending the majority of your time simply “reacting” to the barrage of incoming stimuli beaming towards you via your social-media accounts — be it positive or negative — has it occurred to you that you are, in essence, only experiencing “connectivity without substance” and running the risk of locking yourself into a passive state where you pass from one day to the next creating nothing, and wondering why life never seems to improve?
There is no doubt that it is possible to learn many skills independently online but deeper learning — things like mind-expanding conceptualisation, wisdom and behavioural modification — still happens best with face-to-face interaction.
The same is true of career and life planning. The leaders of tomorrow will be those who have spent time developing intangible human interaction skills such as patience, listening, empathy and public speaking. To even inquire what opportunities might be available to you requires engaging in a career development discussion with your employer in which you need to be able to express your areas of interest and career aspirations in a calm, concise manner and work with your boss to develop a career development plan.
And guess what?
To identify the career and life goals that you will outline in this conversation will require investigation and thought and planning and discussion with colleagues, near and far.
It may include asking questions such as: How did you get your current position? Do you like what you do? What would I need to study to qualify for a position like this? Who would I need to work shadow to learn more about this opportunity?
Then once you have done this research, figuring out how to present your findings in a thoughtful and compelling way to your employer to elicit assistance in formulating and confirming a career development plan.
While the internet age has brought much to our lives, the fact is that technology cannot replace quality human interaction in many life-changing situations — to navigate these moments successfully, requires practising and refining our interpersonal skills as often as possible.
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at The Olderhood Group, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org