Millennial Think Tank: On the Road and Blending Generations

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Last week we changed things up and did our Think Tank on the road, hosted by ArCompany friend Ken Mueller at his most interesting place of work, Tellus360. This week our panel consisted of 4 generations; Silent, Boomers, Gen X and Millennials, all members of either Lancaster Downtowners or Lancaster Transplant. Both groups share a love of their small city, nestled in the Central Pennsylvania countryside, and we were thrilled to get this blended panel together.

This week our attendees included:

Alaina Salks, an older Millennial

Gary Lienberger, an older Boomer

Alex Serrano, a mid Millennial

Candice O’Donnell, a young Silent generation member

Lance, a Gen Xer

Pat, a Silent generation member

Hawa, an older Millennial

You can watch the entire hangout here, or read on for our recap:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
One reason I was excited about moderating this panel was to get at the root of what frustrates me so about the marketer tendency of stereotyping huge swathes of people, most often by generation. I thought that by talking in a mixed forum, we could snuff out some of the labels that every generation gets handed in its youth. I started with this quote:

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words…

When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.

That quote may appear to be one directed at the oft maligned GenY, or even Boomers in the 60’s. Nope, it was written by one Hesiod, a Greek poet writing in the 8th century BC. Sort of reinforces my viewpoint, huh?

What does Question Authority mean to you?

Candace spoke of standing in the quad at Washington University in St. Louis singing We Shall Overcome, going wild over Joan Baez talking about President Johnson’s unspeakably horrible foreign policy. Alaina described questioning authority as a very positive thing, as a necessity  – that we shouldn’t take anything at face value.

Pat spoke about her younger brother escaping the Vietnam war draft by running and how much tension that created in her family.

Gary, currently a professor at Millersville University, recollected shutting down Lehigh University in protest over Kent State, and realized that we should always question authority – the world is changing so fast. He said his biggest complaint about his Millennial students is that they don’t question enough.

When did you buy your first home, and how did that feel?

Interestingly, all of the Millennials on our panel do own their own homes, which is not common on our standard MTT panels; the fact that these. Hawa jumped in to tell us that she is a first generation Millennial who did not finish her degree, has an outstanding amount of student loan debt, but still owns a home. She thinks of the student loan debt as a ball and chain, but not her mortgage. She still feels that home ownership is an incredible achievement and very satisfying.

Pat spoke of buying their first bungalow in the early 60’s for $3,000. Her husband attended school on the GI bill, and that helped. She spoke about moving ‘up’ a level with each new home, and wondered how young people do it today.

Lance works with a lot of members of the immigrant community, who come to the US because of the American dream, and home ownership is part of it. He thinks that a lot of immigrants see home ownership directly connected to success.

Alex, another Millennial home owner, described it as the most terrifying thing he ever did. He is proud to be a homeowner, but with interest rates so low at the time he bought, it just made sense. He is much more focused on his bucket list items, most of which are experiences.

Candace, who grew up in a 3rd floor walk up apartment sharing a bedroom with her mother, and remembers the incredible thrill of owning her own home.

Alaina, who didn’t really want to own a home, ended up a home owner to give her step children security because they’d moved so many times in their short lives. She doesn’t care about the home for herself.  Alaina never saw the American dream as connected to home ownership. For her generation she sees it as more centered on a love for living and doing meaningful things, which is what we often hear from Gen Y.

Where do you see yourself from a career perspective?

I was really curious as to where our older panelists thought they would be from a career perspective when they were in their 20s compared to where they ended up, and also, where our Millennials pictured themselves.

Gary, who is an academic, spent the early part of his career dreading the Vietnam draft, so he went into ROTC. That protected him from Vietnam and landed him in Germany. When his army stint was up, he decided to take a year off and travel in Africa. I couldn’t help but think of Millennial aspirations to travel.

Alaina, a Millennial, has two jobs: one full time, and one is her passion. Alex has one job, working in the staging and automation business for live events. He loves what he does and sees himself doing it forever, if he can avoid the typical burn out.

Candace was a teacher when she was young, although she loved the theatre (her current passion), but was too worried about he economic insecurities of that profession. She reflected on the advice her mother gave her when she was in school:

Honey, I think you’d better take some education courses, so you’ll be able to get a job in case your husband dies.

She noted that it was just the expectation in the 60’s that your husband would support you. Education was her back up plan.

Lance has always worked in non profit, and was specifically looking for a job where he could be ‘out’ as a homosexual. He is fascinated by the Millennial ability to always be out – to never have had to ‘come out.’ He pointed out that he is financially able to work in the non profit arena because his husband is in the for-profit world and allows him to be altruistic in his profession.

Pat, a Silent Generation member, always worked, first as a medical technician then went to Armstrong World Industries to make more money. She always knew she’d work her entire life, and although she had children she never considered not working.

Is your marriage an equal partnership?

After hearing, in detail, about what appears to be a true gender division of labor within the home in Millennial marriages on our regular think tank, I had to go to this question with our blended panel.

Hawa, a Millennial, sees a very tradition division of gender roles within her marriage when it comes to chores. Her husband works long hours, and she takes on most of the housework.

Alaina has a reversal of gender roles; her partner is a Gen Xer who does all of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping etc. This is in part because she works far from home, but it’s primarily because it works.

Our non-Millennial married panelists had very traditional pattern of gender roles. Candace described never doing yard work or getting her car inspected, and pointed out that her husband never changed a diaper. Pat, who worked her entire time, described herself as ‘Super Woman,’ and did everything herself. 

What does technology mean to your day to day life?

Of course all of our panelists use technology daily, but the answer from Gary, our professor, is the one that struck home. When I asked him if his students were distracted by gadgets mid class, he said no. What he added made an impact though: he takes pictures of his students on the first day and hangs them up so that they know each others’ names when it’s time to work together. No one hangs around class and talks afterwards; they’re all dialing or texting as soon as class ends, meaning they are not getting to know each other.

What did we learn?

This was a different week for certain, since we had a brand new group of panelists and not necessarily the same context that our regular panel affords us. What we did learn is, I suppose, a reinforcement of some of my theories: young people, despite the generation, share commonalities.

From a career perspective, we all know that things have certainly changed over the last 40 years; it was still interesting to hear from our older panelists about their own experiences in their 20s.

I am hopeful that we are seeing a change in equality within marriage; this panel reinforced what our two Millennial Think Tank panels suggested; that gender roles are falling by the wayside when it comes to division of labor within the home.

This week we are returning to our standard format on Thursday evening at 8pm and tackling Social Media’s Impact on Personal Relationships.

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

One thought on “Millennial Think Tank: On the Road and Blending Generations

  1. susansilver says:

    The more things change the more they remain the same. I wonder sometimes if the only thing that separates us is perspectives and language. Alex’s mentality about collect “experiences” seems to be a common theme of my generation. I don’t think that is a generational thing at all.

    Maybe Millennials realize at a younger age that there are a lot of things out there to do because technology lowers barriers to knowledge.

    I think that I somewhat disagree with the problem of texting after a class. Texts have replaced talking for some. It isn’t uncommon for me to be in a group of friends and get texts with some snarky comment from someone else in the party. The text gives another outlet of one to one communication in the middle of a group. End of class is traditionally very noisy and a text might be an easier way to have a conversation.

    I would be worried if the professor didn’t see any students walking out together after class rather than not talking to each other. That would mean that people aren’t bonding. I think body language in this instance would be more telling.

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