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The Millennial Scapegoat

This guest blog post is by Preston Guyton, broker in charge/managing partner, CRG Companies Inc. He employs a wide range of people, including millennials, and has conducted research on this much-talked about generation. Follow CRG Companies Inc. on Twitter.

Millennials are blamed for quite a few things these days: the death of chain restaurants, the decline of home sales and demanding a better work-life balance than what a majority of professional jobs offer today. If mainstream publications are to be believed, the largest and most diverse generation in American history is utterly destroying the economy.

But the simple truth is that millennials are merely adapting to the world they were given and want to make it better, just as generations in the past have done.

Profound changes in the economy call for the same in professional development

Professional development in the millennial era has been more demanding than in the past, but not without its benefits. With the rise of the gig economy and 40 percent of the labor force expected to be freelance by 2020, millennials are changing the way people need to constantly increase their skills and find alternative ways of making money when a traditional 9-5 job just isn’t cutting it.

The rise of the on-demand economy enabled by technology has shifted the way society both views and utilizes labor. You can do everything from order tacos to find a date to get a ride with a few swipes on your phone. The same is now being done for getting help with your Ph.D. dissertation, having a website built and connecting with tax accountants who can save you thousands of dollars.

Having the skills to do any of these things is not enough anymore. With employers demanding more from applicants, such as Github repositories from prospective programmers and a complete portfolio from art grads that would rival someone with five years in the industry, millennials are paving the way for people to market their skills without needing a job. They’re turning the situation from, “I am doing this side hustle because I have to” to “The smartphone economy isn’t my bread and butter; it’s now my steak and caviar.”

With the constantly hovering specter of student debt and live conferences in expensive cities being out of reach for debt-strapped youth, cost-efficient training and education that can be arranged in a few swipes through Udemy, Lynda, Skillshare and the like is now de rigueur. Quora, Clarity and just openly asking for help on Twitter are other ways millennials are changing how we gain skills and share knowledge.

Millennials don’t see networking as transactional or structured

Even if many millennials are still holding on to traditional tenets like networking at conferences and not completely shunning  working in offices, they definitely view professional networking through a different lens as a whole. Being constantly connected through the phone is one way to network, but nothing beats doing it live.

Generations past have preferred to network through structured events while millennials are more apt to do so in more organic settings. And why not? Most people don’t enjoy the feeling they’re being sold to when they’re bombarded with business cards. The transactional aspects of networking are dying as well. Millennials were told the primary purpose of networking is to get a job. But building relationships that aren’t based on that transaction has proven to be more valuable as, once again, no one likes the feeling they’re being sold to.

Perhaps a lot of it is based in perception. Networking is still networking, regardless of whether the environment has changed, but companies and event planners would be better suited adapting to these preferences rather than fighting against them.

Millennials are disrupting the way a lot of things are done primarily because they have to - if not out of economic necessity, simply because they are navigating a completely different world and economy than the one in which they grew up. Adaptation has always been the name of the game, and those who prefer to stay in the past will soon find themselves in the company of businesses that millennials have “killed.”

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