Career 03 April 2017
Millennials, like baby boomers, are a group defined by their birth dates. A "millennial" refers to someone who was born after 1980. More specifically, millennials are those born between 1977 and 1995 or 1980 and 2000, depending on who is writing about this generation at the moment.
Also referred to as Generation Y, Generation Why, Generation Next, and Echo Boomers, this group has taken over the American workforce. As of 2016, nearly half of the country's employees fall between the ages of 20 and 44 years old. Estimated at 80 million, millennials outnumber baby boomers (73 million) and Generation X (49 million).
The label "Generation Why" refers to the questioning nature of millennials, taught not to take everything at face value but rather to understand why something is. Access to the internet has only fueled this desire. After all, this is the first generation to have grown up entirely with computers. Even many born in those disputed years of 1977 to 1981 had their first interactions with computers in elementary school. Technology has played a crucial role in their lives and it progressed quickly as they grew up. Not surprisingly, millennials are the unofficial tech experts.
Raised during "The Decade of the Child," millennials also benefitted from greater parental attention than in generations past. Typically, this included fathers who were more involved in their children's lives. Their childhoods have influenced their understanding of gender roles in the home and the workplace as well as their future expectations.
Meaningful and inclusive work
Already, millennials have expressed a desire to pursue work that is personally meaningful. They tend to resist corporate hierarchy and are accustomed to getting work done in a variety of environments, often shunning cubicle-confinement. Flexible scheduling is of great appeal to millennials who place a high value on work-life balance.
Many companies are following this trend by providing an employee-centered workplace that is flexible in both place and time. They are changing the traditional approach to management, and are known as multi-tasking team players who thrive on encouragement and feedback. Companies that can appeal to these attributes often see great gains in productivity.
Millennials may also be the generation that closes the gender wage gap by the time they retire. Although women typically earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, among the millennials that gap is closing tighter.
Every year since 1979, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a report on the annual average of women's earnings compared to that of men. In 1979, women earned just 62.3 percent of what men did and by 2015, that reached 81.1 percent.
In that same 2015 report, women in the millennial generation were earning as much, if not more, on average each week than older women, revealing a significant increase in skilled labor jobs that have opened up for women in the workforce. It also tells us that millennial women are competing more and more with their male counterparts in a technologically-driven society.
Last year, millennials edged out Generation X (35 to 50 years old in 2015) as the largest share of the labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. Furthermore, they have also passed baby boomers. With its disproportionately large share of immigrants, and at an age of transition from college to the working world, the millennial generation's workforce is highly likely to grow even further in the near future.
First, immigration to the U.S. will continue to disproportionately enlarge the ranks of the millennial labor force. Immigrants coming to the U.S. are typically in their young working years. Relatively speaking, few immigrants come to the U.S. during childhood or during older adulthood. In the past five years, over half of newly arrived immigrant workers have been millennials.
Furthermore, a significant chunk of the millennial population are 18 to 24-year olds. These are the years when school and college-going are often front-and-center, and not surprisingly, labor force participation is suppressed. As the youngest millennials get older, more of them will be searching for jobs. The millennial generation as a whole, not just the workforce, overtook the baby boomers, in 2016, as the nation's largest living group, according to the US Census Bureau.
Millennials by the numbers
The average millennial stays at her job for 4.4 years, according to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics
Ninety-one percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @Work" survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers: translating to 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their working lives
A survey by Net Impact found that 88 percent of workers considered “positive culture" important to their dream job, job-hopping helps workers to learn new skills and roles: workers today know that they could be laid off at any time-after all, they saw it happen to their parents, so they essentially consider themselves “free agents."
Millennials embrace diversity as beneficial to an organization
Greater diversity: according to a study by Fierce, Inc., over 40 percent of survey respondents believe that their organization would benefit from greater diversity
Discrimination in the workplace: 18% say they've seen others discriminated against, 20% say they've seen others discriminated against for political reasons, and 21% say they've seen others discriminated against based on their gender
Gender views: between men and women, nearly twice as many women than men noted they felt they have been discriminated against based on their gender (21% vs 12% respectively)
Workplace safety: one in five millennials surveyed have felt unsafe at work, but for women that increased to more than a quarter
Workplace transparency and inclusivity: millennials, overwhelmingly, are in favor of being educated and involved in all workplace practices, a disengaged millennial will often lead to employment departure costing the company valuable resources
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.