by Derek DeWinter, Parter at The DeWinter Group
Leveraging the ‘old guy next door’s’ expertise and industry knowledge to advance your career.
I’m a 45 year old who lives in Los Gatos. I was raised on Maui, went to school at Santa Clara University, started my career in public accounting, and have spent my entire adult work life in the Bay Area. Given that, I had to do a bit of research on the actual definition of a Millennial. I have to say some are pretty funny - thanks Urban Dictionary. The three I’ve chosen to share that have relevance to this narrative are below.
Millennial: Generation coming of age around the beginning of the millennium. Born from 1980-1990.
Millennial: A term used by insecure idiots to dismiss somebody aged 10-35
Millennial: Special little snowflake
In my mind, I imagine a Millennial to be the 27 year old who is “Head of Fun” at a start up in San Francisco that just reluctantly took Series A Funding uttering the 2nd definition.
I then imagine a 45 year old Gen X guy who lives in Los Gatos, an aging dog by his side, a beat up red and white cooler full of Old Style beer uttering the third definition quickly followed by, “Get off my lawn!”
The worst part is – I am THAT guy (except for the lawn, that’s brown because of drought restrictions….and I don’t yell at people, that often). How did this happen? I think I used to be a millennial? When did I become THAT guy? Was it somewhere between marriage, a mortgage, the .com bust, having a child, then another child, soccer games on the weekends, and worrying about 529 college savings plans.
I was 27 once. I enthusiastically started my career hoping to achieve big things. I was youthful, inexperienced but determined, smart, ambitious…. So when did these traits in another person make us look at them as if we were dogs who heard a shrill whistle?
The truth of the matter is, we are more similar than different.
An important thing to recognize, especially over the events of the past several weeks and year. The other truth is that we’re a little jealous and maybe a little hurt.
We’re certainly jealous of you, or at least I am. You are going to solve the world’s problems one social cause at a time. You are going to enjoy life before, during and after your college education. You’re not going to follow the rules or programs or methodologies we used to get to where we thought success was found, you’ll get their your own way, and you look like you’re having a ton of fun... we want in!
We’re also a little hurt - hurt that you’re not asking us how we got to where we are. After all, we’ve stubbed our toes, made mistakes, worked hard and sacrificed, learned along the way, and many of us have parlayed that into successful positions in Corporate America and our Communities. We’ve got 25 more years in our rear view mirror than you do and that alone is something to leverage….right?
Speaking personally, I started my career in the Big 6 (not 4). We did audits using paper (not computers), red and blue pencils, and lugged around 100 lb. boxes of prior year workpapers because that was our repository for information (not the cloud). I learned how to fax, then scan, then email. We took messages on pieces of paper when someone called for a colleague and made sure we wrote down the return phone number correctly (now who uses a phone for calling someone). I’ve seen the speed of a chip go from 286 to Pentium and beyond, software go from floppy disc to downloads routinely done by my 12 year old.
And, I’m not unique and this wasn’t 1950, it was the mid 90’s. We Gen Xers have a ton to share…not about how far we had to walk to school or that it was uphill both ways, but about life, work, family, community, collaboration, respect, and success and failure. And I know you do too.
I think we can help one another. The next time I’m on my porch come up for a beer. Let’s talk about fun stories about using a paper map to get around. The next time you’re on my lawn invite me to come down there with you and your friends and play beer pong (sustainably sourced hops and recycled cups). We can talk about Instagram, Snapchat, and the social causes you’re so passionate about.
The long and short of it is that we both have a lot to offer each other and its best if we both are successful. Besides, my lawn needs watering and there must be an App for that?