There’s a strange misconception floating around the automotive industry that millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are somehow less inclined to work hard, be motivated, or be part of a strong sales team. Well folks, sit down and be prepared to possibly get your feelings hurt.
I was born in 1991, so I’m perfectly inside of the generalized “millennial” age range. I started working when I was 13 years old at a golf course in South Florida where my father was the general manager. Now, you might be thinking “nepotism” and that I was given a cushy job based on his title…wrong. My job was getting golf balls out of the lakes. I would wade into murky ponds for golf balls surrounded by alligators and snakes for $6.25 an hour. Doing this for several years taught me the value of hard work, the how to accept being at the bottom of the totem, and how to handle being treated like I’m nothing.
Fast forward to 18 years old, I started moving out of the country club industry and into dealerships and digital marketing. Around this time I connected with the owner of the dealership and that grew into being the Director of Social Media for one of the most nationally known automotive website providers in the United States, and now the Social Innovation Manager for Dealer Authority, the premier automotive digital marketing agency. You’re probably asking yourself, “why the backstory?”. The backstory tells my current story.
Right now I work for a digital marketing agency doing social media management for dealerships across the country. I work more than my scheduled hours, I dedicate nights and weekends to career development, and focus on new and innovative ways to stay ahead in this ever-changing industry. Yet, almost every week I sit through phone calls, webinars, and webcasts where “older” automotive people talk about how “kids today don’t want to work.”
The struggle to stay motivated is there when it often feels like people in my generation are being generalized and are constantly fighting an uphill battle for recognition.
Erika Simms, Vice President of Dealer Authority (and fellow millennial) was quoted recently on the topic: “It is hard to be a Millennial Leader, not because it’s new but because we as a generation have to prove ourself. My generation is seen as lazy, high maintenance, and Difficult. However, that hasn’t been the case for a large majority of us. We re driven to be better and help better those around us, we are outcome-based thinkers and we are the first generation to grow with tech making us more productive and successful workforce. The Millennial generation has been brought up understanding that to be successful you have to put the work in but you can also love what you do and it can bring your life joy and meaning.”
In the media, the term “millennial” has become an insult of sorts. Meaning lesser or beneath. As a millennial, I do find it entertaining reading the harsh comments by 60-something year old men talking about how easy our generation has it, how we’re dependent on the technology that is stealing their jobs, how we are “snowflakes”, and how we couldn’t make it in sales “back in their day” – all while these are the same angry people we work with day to day in the dealership that have an absolute mental breakdown when the printer stops working and scurries to find the nearest 20-something year old to fix it. Our strengths are often mocked by those that lack them the most. The technology we are learning to master is the future, the processes we are implementing for ourselves is the future, and WE are the future.
So, I’ll leave you with this: We’re not asking for safe spaces, we’re not asking for our hands to be held, we’re not asking to be treated specially – we’re just asking to be treated with respect. Lead by example and implement a culture into your dealership or place of business that respects people of all ages, backgrounds, or mindsets. We’re a driven generation that knows how to work smart.