Getting Unstuck: Mentoring the Boomerang Generation in Finding Meaningful Work

Life Development Institute (LDI) has spent the last 35 years assisting teens and young adults who have learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and other similar learning and social differences with their successful transition into independent living.  This experience has provided LDI’s CEO Rob Crawford with incredibly insight regarding the ability to find and obtain meaningful work.  In keeping with changes in society, LDI has evolved to consider how different generations approach and see the world.  As such, Mr. Crawford utilized December’s webinar to discuss how Millennials, also known as the Boomerang Generation, are able to find meaningful work in their lives that will enable their success.

To begin, Millennials are known as the Boomerang Generation because many individuals from this group leave home prior to becoming full-pledged adults and end up returning home. These persons may live for college or other reasons but have not yet obtained what is necessary to truly strive and thrive on their own.  The Boomerang Generation includes persons born 1980 – 2000 and is unlike any other generation.  Approximately 80 million work-age individuals make up this group with about 36% of them unemployed, which is the largest number for any generational group.  Millennials take 6 years or longer on average to complete college and end up with incredible student loan debt.  Furthermore, 33% of American Millennials live with their parents, while about 48% in the European Union live with parents.  This group’s population has mental health issues for 49% of its members while 45% are either married or dating.  Discovering the cause for these conditions may rest in the realization that this generation has seen 2 great recessions, several wars, 9/11, “No Child Left Behind,” and the rise of Google and smart phones.  The culture has becoming one with increased reliance on technology and social interaction via the web.  As such, their value system is “driving” differently, and parents are often finding a “crowded nest” rather than an “empty nest.”

Therefore, Rob suggested that persons should find the scope when finding their way. Employers are beginning to replace “hard skills” with “soft skills,” such as work ethic, attitude, open-mindedness, ability to ask questions, and willingness to learn.  These skills are taking precedent ahead of academic and work experience.  The reason is that careers involve on-going process of grading one’s skills, which in turn should create longevity.  Combine this with the need among Millennials to find meaningful, creative, and immediate feedback (not just positive), and one will note that currently 775 hate their jobs while 87% do not like what they do.  In fact, the focus is on the next job, which creates an atmosphere of job misery in America and leads to employees cruising social media and complaining about what others at work are not doing.  As a result, a staggering $360 billion is lost each year in productivity.

Continuing, however, it is important to realize that a miserable job does not equal a bad job.  Rather, a miserable job is one where the employee feels anonymous, irrelevant, and immeasurable.  Miserable jobs do not allow employees to realize their impact nor see their successes.  In place of this reality, bosses should take the time to know employees’ names, help them to know that they exist, and help them to set up personal metrics.  At the same time, those seeking careers should change their questions from “how” to “what.”  Specifically, this means adjusting questions in the following ways:

  • Change from how will this benefit me to what am I willing to pay.
  • Change from how long will this take to what commitment am I willing to make.
  • Change from how will I get my coworkers and boss to change for me to what is my contribution to the problem I am concerned with.

The change in focus helps persons to determine if they are looking for a job, career, or calling.  Further, persons need to know if they want to work, how important work is, and ultimately what matters most.  Some persons may believe that work is a necessary evil, and some may have work goals that are not realistic.  However, all should realize that if pleasure is found in work, then pleasure can found more in life.  As such, persons determine meaning with work, meaning through work, and meaning in-spite of work.  The key is to find balance between work and pleasure.  For Millennials, this understanding takes root earlier on in life.  Concurrently, however, Millennials should know the role that work plays in life, as meaning should develop in part from careers.  

Finally, resiliency is built through knowing what matters most and what one is willing to do.  With this resiliency, persons recognize that freedom has limits and boundaries in the workplace.  These are set by the employer, and employees are able to achieve success by following what is expected of them.  Although there is always freedom to act outside these limits, persons realize that the consequences come with breaking the boundaries.  As such, if employees blow it with the boss, then the impact can be found in other areas.  Thus, successful career planning and job development beings by investigating jobs and careers to discover the essential functions, assess skills, abilities, aptitudes, and experiences, assess interpersonal communication skills, and determine organizational fit.  By using this methodology in addition to asking what questions and identify what matters most, Millennials and workers of all are ages can truly find meaningful work.

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