Working with a group of millennial women can make even the coolest of 40+ working women feel old—fast. And not the older and wiser kind of old, either. The old I’m referring to is more like the ancient and irrelevant kind of old.
Now, to be a bit more precise here, I don’t know if I’d actually call these millennials women. They’re definitely more like girls. In fact, I’m old enough to be their mother. And I often feel like I am. Yet, I’ve watched them get hired for their first real jobs at almost my salary as a manager, and then get promoted within a few quick months. Then it started dawning on me that the company I work for values these newcomers. Higher ups seem to bend over backwards to keep them.
For awhile I was angry, but I was really more mystified than anything. Sure, these girl-women were nice enough, but they were just so young, and inexperienced, and well, immature. And not just immature, but also self-absorbed, silly even, and true to every stereotype I’d read or heard about them.
So what was their secret? Why did everything seem to come so damned easily to them? After tuning into a few episodes of the new TV series Younger, I decided to do some digging. I was inspired to find out why these young employees were so sought after at work, so revered, so blatantly courted.
I started by getting to know a few of them. I mean, really getting to know them. Like little rats for a covert science project, they were my personal experiment. I wanted to research what made them tick. Mainly, I wanted to figure out what made everyone else think they were so special. Since it was clear that they love nothing more than talking about themselves, and find themselves extraordinarily fascinating, I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with a hypothesis. And I was right! They welcomed me into their mysterious little world with open arms. No holds were barred in our little chats. No topic was off limits.
I asked about clothing, fashion, hair, music, boys, families, job interviews, salary, anything and everything. Lo and behold, my subjects didn’t tire of answering my questions. In fact, they were thrilled with all of the attention showered upon them. It was almost too easy to get them to take part in my little investigation. They even became offended if I chatted with one and not the other. And so I let myself learn from them, drink it all in. All the silliness became my fodder. But surprisingly, I learned some truly interesting information, too. For example, who knew that that if you wear a fake silver ring, you should coat the inside of it with clear nail polish to ensure your ring finger doesn’t turn green? And it works! Even if you wash your hands with the ring on! How helpful! How brilliant!
Can you believe these young people actually think I’m cool? As I chatted with them about their silliness, a strange thing happened. Something changed for me, too. I realized I was having fun at work. It’s fun to hear them talk. I’m like their cool older sister (OK, yeah, their cool mom) and they started to come to me for advice.
And they’ve inspired me to change it up. Reinvent myself yet again. New hair, new style, new clothes, weight loss. Why not? And guess what? I feel good. Actually, I feel great, better and younger than I have in years. And I know I look great because they tell me all the time. Daily, in fact. Talk about an ego boost! These young people I work with constantly tell me they hope they turn out as cool and stylish and awesome as me when they’re my age. Hmmm, not sure that was quite what I was after but it’s clearly a high compliment and I’ll take it.
So I guess I’ve become some kind of cool role model to them, except they’ve got their whole lives to use all of my great little life lessons and tips. So why should I share all my knowledge and experience with them? Why should I hand over to them all my hard earned lessons that I busted my butt for, for free?
Because I’ve got a dirty little secret. I’m older and wiser and no matter what I share, they don’t know what I know about how the world really works. I’ve been there and done that, and then some. They may know what buzzwords interviewers are looking for these days, but I know what actual information those interviewers want to hear. They may be more attuned to the latest fashion, music, social media and apps, but I know how to use that information to my advantage. Their youthful knowledge and enthusiasm can’t match my real life experience.
So as the formidable opponent I now realize I am, I choose to dole out my advice carefully. After all, they’re my little science project, I’m not theirs! And I may be helping them along their way up, but they’re helping me stay on my toes, stay relevant and increase my own value, too. They’re helping me beat them at their own game. And I get to have a lot of fun along the way.
“Bailey White” is a writer/editor/marketing guru who is currently Manager of Communications for a Fortune 500 company. She has written various business-to-business industry columns and won an editorial award for her magazine article on a highly obscure topic. A recovering chocoholic and clothes shopoholic, Bailey spends her free time with her ‘almost adult’ children, going on road trips with her husband, rescuing as many dogs as possible, and sharing her witty insights on life.