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Why millennials have it tough

4th August 2016


I’ve just set up a new PR agency called Ready10. It’s going well so far (thanks for asking). We’re moving into our fifth month, have clients, a roof over our head and there’s half a dozen of us working our arses off to try and create something. And all of the team, apart from me (As a 70s’ kid, I just escape the label by six months), fall under the banner of ‘millennials’.

Lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, disloyal – this group has got a fair kicking from all sorts of groups, not least their managers who, I hear time and again, had it much tougher in their day.

Well my view is slightly different: millennials have it bloody tough and much harder that I ever had it and if, like me, you just escape the ‘M’ label, harder than you had it too. Here’s why:

  1. They are saddled with eye-watering levels of debt like never before. If they have a degree, they are entering the workforce owing a crazy amount of money – around £44,000 at the last estimate.  And they’ll be in their 50s before it’s paid off. That’s some albatross to bear in the early stages of a career.
  2. They are earning less than the generation before them. The last ten years, and the great economic uncertainty that came with it, mean that they are not only the first generation since the Great Depression to earn less than their parents but the first generation ever to earn less than the one directly before them.
  3. The world is scary. Brexit, recessions, global terrorism, political uncertainty… we live in a more unstable world that we have done for arguably 70 years. It must be unsettling to start a career against that backdrop.
  4. When you left the office, you left office. Working habits and demands have transformed in the past 15 years. Remember, before the proliferation of broadband, laptops and smartphones? You left work on a Friday night and, unless you got a phone call over the weekend, there wasn’t really a way to do all that much work. Now we’re always on, however hard we may try to protect our staff. 
  5. They have different skills to their managers. This is perhaps specific to PR and comms, but in an ever-changing world, they often know more about the routes to media (Snapchat, Instagram, VR, to name three) in a way their managers and clients often don’t.  How confusing (and frustrating if it’s not harnessed) must it be to have distinct skills that their superiors don’t?

So how to respond? Well, there are several studies about this, all pointing to similar themes around what millennials want: a need for more flexible working practices, a less structured career ladder, flexible management and a deeper sense of purpose around what they should be trying to achieve.

So next time you are tempted to beat up on a millennial, maybe think again. They want to succeed no less than you did and and they are just as talented. But the world is different. From time immemorial, every generation has thought that those after them have never had it so easy. But in this case, it’s just not true.

Article written by David Fraser, managing director of PR agency Ready10


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