You may or may not have come across this gem of a viral story that was trending at the end of last month. Kelly Blazek, head of a Job Bank in Cleveland Ohio was caught rotten, having issued a stuffy and verbose rebuttal to a friend request on LinkedIn. Kelly sees herself as a desperately important woman, as evidenced by her words: “Wow, I cannot wait to let every 26-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job.” The response, which was lengthy and very aggressive was posted to Reddit, where the internet responded by, predictably, attacking.
While the words she used are over antagonistic, and a simple “I don’t know this person” would have sufficed, it does raise an interesting point that is oft-toted by the older generations. This new generation of “Millennials” (a throwaway term used to denigrate everyone from early teens to folk in their late twenties) are an entitled bunch, who expect everything handed to them on a plate. They want constant connection to everyone including their heroes, and seem to have some insane notion that they are deserving of praise and success with little effort. The blame of course is placed squarely at their own feet, without a moments thought as to the root cause of this attitude.
Here’s the facts: If you raise an entire generation with the message “You Are Special” being pummelled into their heads by a purple dinosaur, because you weren’t bothered actually raising your children, the result is a bratty bunch who believe they are unique and individual snowflakes. Couple this with the interconnected web, a network which allows for open contractibility and you end up with the situation that Kelly Blazek found herself in last February. A young, internet savvy person, used to connecting directly with peers and heroes online, used to grabbing the bull by the horns and reaching out, made the mistake of contacting her. And she let her know just how incorrect a move that was, oh boy did she what.
But was it really incorrect? What was wrong with what she did? Does Blazek really think that everyone starts from the bottom? That no-one reaches out to senior people in companies for advice and access to contacts. As far as I’m aware that is exactly how the business world has always worked, far before the advent of the “entitled ones”. Go getters have always been go getters, Blazek should be thinking about the amount of “entitled millennials” who NEVER contacted her. Who didn’t care either way. So what she has done in this instance is chastise someone for being proactive, one of the best qualities you can have in an employee.
Are you seeing how this is personal to me? I’ve been that person, passed over because he was young, hated for his self starter attitude. When someone did finally take the chance to give me a senior role, despite a relative lack of experience, based on my commitment to work hard I rewarded it in full, by being the best employee I could possibly be. If your boss has faith in you, and shows that they believe in you, it’s a lot easier to go that extra mile. I’ve no time for seniority masking itself as superiority. True seniority recognises the future as being in the hands of the youth, and change as an inevitability, something Blazek is extremely afraid of.
If you are unwilling to connect with someone because you feel they are beneath you, fine, don’t. Bear in mind that someone else will, and they will give that “green” and “tacky” young man or woman a chance. For that they will receive endless loyalty, appreciation and dedicated hard work. You just lost the future, you just threw the person who will take your job in 30 years under the bus. Given the attitude, and the spite in her reply it’s obvious that she feels threatened by a younger generation who expect communication. What’s hilarious about all this is that she was apparently awarded for her ability to communicate. Irony is a beautiful thing.
By the way, I once reached out to Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and general genius, to portray my respect and ask for any advice on a career as a tech-person. I was working in Apple at the time in a seriously junior position. Here’s a quote from his response: “We who are not that young can at least inspire and encourage other young people to go for their dreams. We can mentor them also”. Is there any more perfect a response for a young and naive “green” coder? Kelly Blazek could do with taking on board his words, as could many in the more senior generations.