Can Millennials succeed under the constraints of today’s global economic reality?

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This was the question posed to me recently. And of course, being not only a Gen-Xer rather than a Millennial, but also the pragmatist that I am, my immediate instinct was to respond with “it’s gonna be hella-tough…”.

High unemployment, stagnant wages, soaring home prices and ever-increasing rent are among the factors challenging our youth and leading a trend towards more and more Millennials living with their parents for longer than past generations.

Millennials, the demographic with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s are already said to be 7% behind financially when compared to where their parents were at the same stage in their lives. Will today’s youth be able to make up these losses? Taken as a whole, the answer is still uncertain. But delve into the “potential of the individual”, and my answer becomes a resounding “absolutely.”

Everyone is attracted to top talent. In my 20 years of working in various corporate cultures, this I know for sure. Top talent will be recognized, groomed, promoted, paid.  Of course the really top talent will be made up of those who will truly stretch themselves to become trailblazers. They will be those who will exhibit courage and embrace new and innovative ideas. They will be those who will believe in their own capacity for progress. And it is typically precisely these people who are ingenious enough to carve out their own careers, on their own terms, often to significant financial reward. Mark Zuckerberg, Jennifer Lawrence, LeBron James – all Millennials – all hella-successful.

Was it luck? Absolutely not. These three seemingly very different individuals found themselves succeeding because of the four very similar character traits that they all exhibited in their quest for “success”

  • They had a passion
  • They made a plan
  • They gained specific knowledge or training
  • They were willing to work hard, harder than the guy next to them

So as most Millennials begin their careers in the aftermath of the worst global recession in one hundred years, they should be reminded that we all have our fortes, that we all have things that we can do effortlessly. Tap into that which is natural and don’t settle for a job you are not passionate about. For passion = excitement = longer hours = higher probability of accomplishment. And accomplishment is very much an inroad that leads to success, be that financial or otherwise.

Some tips I’d like to share now with any Millennial reading today’s piece:

Be innovative.  Use your capacity for intelligent creative creation to offer new ideas of value to your employers, to you co-workers, to your community at large, and most importantly, to your own dreams.

Travel. As much as possible, as often as possible. Expand your knowledge of different cultures, different customs, different beliefs, different foods, different etc. etc. etc. We now live in a global marketplace. The more you travel, the more you expand your horizons. The more marketable you become.

Be flexible. You must be open to change.  You must be willing to move to where the opportunity is.  Seize the moment!

Use technology to your advantage. Because maybe then you won’t need to move at all. Millennials have come-of-age in the time of tech.  Technology and immediate access to information is your reality – new media, digital media, social media, media being delivered directly to your wrist watch – you name it, you have it. This will allow you to stay easily informed about the world around you.  This will also allow for good odds at carving out a career by which you’ll have the luxury of working remotely, from any part of the world that you choose, at any time of the day that you choose – assuming of course that there is good access to high-speed Wi-Fi.

This said, make sure to

Polish your people skills. It’s been proven that people who excel to positions of leadership tend, on average, to be highly emotionally intelligent, have stronger interpersonal skills, and generally by nature, be more nurturing. Spend more time with people than with your tablet. I genuinely believe soft skills will always be in demand.

Keep learning. And no, I don’t mean just formally through continued higher education. Rather, make learning a lifetime pursuit. This will allow you to stay relevant in your chosen field of choice.  This will allow you to stay one step ahead of the other guy.  As the old adage says, ” better be unborn than untaught, for ignorance is the root of all misfortune”.

Keep dreaming. And dream big! Make sure to always set definite goals and tangible action plans.  Work hard, because with hard work come results.  Stay inspired, stay ambitious, stay excited, but be prepared to do the work.  Don’t believe me? Take it then from one of the world’s foremost pioneers:  “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration” – Thomas Edison.


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