Re-Thinkers: Millennials at Work


05:57 Ashley:     Yeah. I think employers are realizing that it is becoming more of a problem. I mean, it’s not even like it’s intentionally becoming where there’s this clash per se, but I think there’s just so many different ideologies and ways of going about life. And as a result, the millennials then clash with the boomers or the boomers clash with the Gen Z-ers, et cetera, et cetera. And I think now that employers are much more aware of it, they’re trying to be more tactful in how they’re solving it. I mean, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done and a lot of employers that need to do more things. But I think the thing is that the awareness is there. And I think beforehand, a few years ago, it was like this laughable thing or people are like, “Yeah, we’ll deal with that later.” And now, as the workforce is increasing with more younger people, and especially now with COVID, as some people are even retiring or leaving work and there’s more younger people in the workforce, they’re realizing that they really need to adapt quickly or figure out ways of developing mentorship programs or leadership programs or different things that can intertwine the generations where they can learn from each other and also, further the collaboration so that there’s momentum and a push forward instead of this stagnation going on.

07:11 Monique:     And so, you mentioned a couple of programs like mentoring that they’re doing, what else are companies doing to help smooth out and to increase productivity performance with these intergenerational dynamics? What types of things are you seeing?

07:28 Ashley:     Yeah. I think there’s more listening conversations going on. There’s much more of a-- almost in a sense like focus groups or the employers really taking more time to ask their employees who are of younger generations or even, I guess, older generations as well – in that sense, I want to say “wiser” generation – what their thoughts are in terms of their relationship-building or things that they would want to see change within the workplace. Like for example, even now, even though some people have returned back to work, some people are working remotely. And it was taboo, in the sense, to work remote from home beforehand, like employer would never before COVID. And now, as things are shifting, there are many companies for like, “You know what? You can work from home if you want to.” Some of the social media companies are doing that. And I think there’s more this, “What can we do to keep you, in a sense of what can we do to make this a workplace where you want to be a part of, where it’s an environment that you want to be a part of?” So, I think beforehand, the employers were like, “This is the way it is. This is how it is, whatever.” Now they’re realizing that to get the best talent and to keep talent, they need to figure out ways of listening to them and getting feedback from them. And a part of that is either do those focus groups or even also mentorship programs or things around that nature where they’re engaging more with the younger generations.

08:48 Monique:     Well, and along those lines, something I’ve been actively working on is supporting organizations to develop their managers, to know how to coach their staff, right? 

09:00 Ashley:     It’s so good. I love that. 

09:02 Monique:     The cornerstone of coaching is listening. And so, when you-- instead of being manager and control boss person, it’s about how do I coach the people who report to me, such that they feel valued and engaged so we can get increased in performance and productivity? And it does start with listening. 

09:28 Ashley:     Yeah, I know.

09:29 Monique:     And that’s where I see the big opportunity. It’s like, yes. So, you are talking to the employees, you want to keep them, you want to make sure they’re engaged, they’re advancing within the organization and feeling valued, but are you truly listening to them? Don’t just tell me how you did it.

09:55 Ashley:     Exactly, exactly. I mean, sometimes I think it’s like lip service, right? We want to listen. But then when you get the comments or the feedback, you really don’t want to listen. So, it’s either-- over time, people are like, “Don’t waste my time,” and they’re just like-- the employer is getting lip service all the time but not actually following through with what they say their values are or what they’re standing for. So, that’s how you lose people as well.

10:21 Monique:     There you go. And that’s the lack of listening. Yeah. We’re talking and people are moving lips and we don’t see it in terms of the values and the behaviors. So, when you think about the work contract today, in particular with millennials and what they want from the workplace?

10:42 Ashley:     Yeah. I think the thing is, our generation really wants more autonomy and they realize that there is a way of living life that is fulfilling, authentic to who they are, the impact they want to have in the world, the legacy they want to have. And so for them, it’s not just coming to work just to get a paycheck. They really want to go and be a part of organizations that are creating change or that they feel like they can really contribute towards and making that change. And at the same time, they’re still having this work-life balance where they’re able to have a family, they’re able to make enough money to have a family, or to go on vacation, to save for retirement. They’re also able to pay for student loans, which is a huge thing right now especially. And even people--  I was just reading a recent article about older millennials questioning, even if it was okay or good for them to even get a degree because all the things related to the great recession and how they’re trying to pay back their student loans and getting over that. So, I think companies are helping students or helping their employees, paying back their student loans especially too, is really important or like tuition reimbursement. So, it’s a combination of having a fulfilling life where it’s no longer just about going to work just to work. Our generation is like, “As much as possible, I’m not going to do that.” And if that means I have to go into five different jobs within five years in order to find the right company that works for me, I am willing to do that because to them, life is so much more than just working.

12:11 Monique:     Yeah. And I think that really this pandemic, it’s hard to find any silver lining in any of this because our hands were forced into this new way of work that I think some are actually fine to be in alignment. Like, I want to work from home so I can eliminate the drive time or the commute time, and I can actually probably do more on the hours that I’m working. So, yeah. So, this huge external event has forced our hand into this way and to make us do work differently. So, it’s like dragging along the late adapters that, okay, we’re here now and you’re still standing and you’re still productive. So, what else can we do to flex in the workspace such that workers feel valued, feel purpose-driven, and want to come to work?

13:13 Ashley:     Yeah. I think I really recommend for employers to really take a moment to evaluate and to do almost like-- I would do quarterly feedback surveys with your employees to see how they’re feeling, what’s going on, what are the things that they need help with or they’re feeling overwhelmed by, or just needing guidance on. I think it’s almost like a needed check-in would be really helpful for them to understand ways of not only improving the employee performance, but also really fulfilling the passions and the purposes of their employees. For example, if some of them want to get involved, although I know it’s difficult in this time with being connected by people, but if there’s a way for the employer to give back with volunteering or like, I’m doing something in philanthropy towards some type of cause or initiative that employees are really uninspired by and want to take part in, or if they want to learn more. So, maybe they would bring in a coach, different coaches that they could have to learn certain things on personal development. I just think there are definitely ways for employees to move the needle, not only on fulfilling the hearts of their employees in terms of them wanting to work for the company, but also, by doing so, inspiring them to want to be even more contributory towards the company as well.

14:34 Monique:     Yeah. I think you’ll get that will be an outflow. 

14:38 Ashley:     Exactly. 

14:39 Monique:     When you show the employees how much you are dialed into the life-work balance that they want and what they’re working for. 

14:47 Ashley:     Exactly.

14:49 Monique:     And so, let’s now take a pivot. And why should young professionals not always ask for advice?

14:59 Ashley:     Yeah. I think I’m really big these days on your intuition and your gut and your own inner knowing. I’ve had to-- in a sense, from last year, from even before COVID, and right before COVID happened, I started really doing a lot more of my own inner work and my spirituality and just my purpose and who I want to be. And I think a lot of us probably need more check-ins with ourselves to make sure that we’re where we want to be in life or we’re really living our authentic life and who we are. And so, I think for younger employees or just anyone really in general, I think it’s important for all of us to just sit with ourselves and almost ask ourselves questions and write out answers in a sense, or like journal, and let ourselves know how we’re doing, or there things that we want to do differently or improve on, if there’s relationships or people that we need to let go of, or we need to take a pivot in our journey from where we are to where we want to be, because I think we really do know the answers. We have a lot more knowledge about ourselves and we give ourselves credit for it, but we, for some reason, always want to go externally. It’s like we’ve been programmed to go external, external, external when the majority of the time, who can tell you more about your purpose than you? I mean, it’s already in you, it’s just a matter of having the courage and the faith to look within yourself to know that that is true.

16:29 Monique:     That’s so interesting because I recently spoke with a podcast guest who was talking about, really it’s that self-awareness, right? 

16:38 Ashley:     Yeah.

16:40 Monique:     There’s one thing, and I witnessed this in my own coaching practice, working with young professionals, they want to get it right, they want to be seen as reliable, high performer, high achiever. And it’s all about doing the WHAT – what it is that they’re doing, the what, the what. And the gap is the “Who are you being” when you’re doing that, and for them to have that space of discovery of that, because until you really get underneath, life will catch up, right? It’s just like you said, your intuition, your gut telling you that something is amiss and you’re struggling with putting your finger on it. What comes up for you in terms of resources that you’re aware of, that you know have worked with other young professionals or for yourself?

17:38 Ashley:     I think for me, it’s a lot of-- in the word of meditating-- I don’t know if it’s necessarily the word meditating, but just like, I like to talk to my creator a lot about what’s going on and asking like, “Am I on the right path? Am I doing what I’m supposed to do?” And journaling has been really helpful for me too. And even extremely enough as it’s going to be, I think one day I’ll look back on these videos and laugh, but sometimes I will do go to my video booth on my computer and just talk to myself like, “What’s going on? How am I doing?” And it’s so funny or it’s interesting to me to go back even a couple of years ago and see what I was saying or what I was going through or what I was navigating. And I think it’s really helpful just to let it out really. I also have different coaches that I work with as well in terms of seeing my blind spots or what I should probably-- what am I missing from something that I’m not necessarily paying attention to, like if I’m self-sabotaging or if I’m having some limited beliefs in some area. But I think really the most-- the thing that’s really been helpful for me is just to sit with myself and to let myself journal and write out the answer.

18:44 Monique:     Nice. Well, so I heard actually a few things in that. Number one is creating the space. Okay. And so, having that quiet around you. And then how you apply what’s going on within you – written form through journaling; auditory, by speaking it into your own video or audio recording and capturing that because, to your point, just putting it out. There’s something to be said about once it’s set out loud, it creates some sort of ownership of, “Okay, I’m now putting that in the universe.” Put that out there. That’s just off the mark. And so, what has to happen for young professionals to trust their own intuition more?

19:38 Ashley:     I think they really need to develop courage. And I think when I was younger, when I would think of courage, it made me think of the Wizard of Oz. I forgot who. I think it was--

19:50 Monique:     The lion?

19:51 Ashley:     Yeah, the lion. It was immediately, whenever I heard that word, it’s like this way, though. But now as I’m getting older, I realize that courage really is just the capacity to be true to yourself, to really-- to be so, almost in a sense of humble and gracious, but also just allowing of yourself, to be honest with yourself about whatever it is, and being able to face it head on. And I think sometimes we try to, especially younger generation-- my generation, we tend to-- not all of us, of course, but I think a lot of us, we push things aside or we try not to feel certain things. Or even if we are feeling something, we’ll say, “Oh, it’s because of something else,” when many times it’s because we’re allowing someone else to dictate where we should be in life, what should we be doing with our lives, et cetera, et cetera, instead of finding the truth within ourselves in terms of what passions that we have, what our dreams for ourselves that we want to pursue instead of letting other people tell us what we should be doing. And it’s really hard because you, and my generation too, we don’t want to go off the wrong path. Like you were saying, we want to make sure that we get it right. And I think there’s this programming within our society, unfortunately, and I’ve had this a lot of my life and I’m trying to let it go especially and I have been letting it go a lot more, where there is no right way. There is no right way. And it’s okay if you-- I don’t want to call them failures, but if you go misstep and go a different way than what you thought you should be going, because now you know that wasn’t the right way, that wasn’t what you should be doing. Now you really, really know it’s okay. You can totally go on a different way now. But I think sometimes with my generation, we get so caught up in the “failure” of it not being the right way. So then, we have to redevelop this courage within ourselves to know-- that we do know the right way, when the reality is no one knows it, no one has it all figured out. We’re all figuring it out. And anyone who says that they do, I feel like they’re probably lying.

21:39 Monique:     They do not have the magic key. And that’s so interesting that you’ve said that, and in particular, the Wizard of Oz reference, because in supporting professionals, those who are mid-career or young professionals, and there is a process of work that I have called the personal discovery and getting clarity around your life, purpose, your values, your motivators, those things that really are within you that get you up and moving forward every day. And when a client will start the process, they’re like, “I just don’t know my life purpose.” And I’m, “Hey, sometimes it takes people years. So, give yourself some grace. This is challenging work. And it’s intended to be that way.” And after we journey over a period of time and they start to-- in the coaching space, because it’s all about them, right? There was no judgment on my part. There’s no right or wrong for me. It’s whatever it is for you. It is a-- I want to say 99% of the time, my clients are much closer to knowing themselves and they’ve given themselves credit for it. 

22:32 Ashley:     Yes.

22:33 Monique:     So, they go through the work only to discover, “Oh, I’m right where I started. It was how I was seeing it, wanting it to be something.”

22:44 Ashley:     Oh my God. 

22:45 Monique:     And I’ve said, “You know what? Because you’re just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you’re wearing the Ruby red slippers. You just need to click your heels.”

22:59 Ashley:     Oh my God. You give me chills. Exactly. “You’ve always had--” I had that actually on my vision board – “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

23:10 Monique:     That’s it. That is exactly it. I’ve even told my male clients. I’m like, “You’re Dorothy. You’re Dorothy. Click your heels,” because it is this notion and it is coming from all the noise of us being in a 24/7 media cycle or what. People are somehow thinking less of themselves. They’re thinking, “Oh, that over there must be the right way or the best way or a better way.”

23:39 Ashley:     Right. 

23:41 Monique:     Yeah. And so, as you think about today’s young professional, what’s been most challenging during this period of pandemic?

23:49 Ashley:     I think that mental health-- and I understand that because I think there’s so much with the news cycle, with seeing things on the news and then not being able to surround yourself with people that you normally would spend time with. And then just having to sit with yourself, some people don’t necessarily haven’t sat with themselves, and to be sitting with yourself alone, or not around as much people as you normally are, that can be very disheartening and very draining and very overwhelming. I mean, I even remember like three weeks after the pandemic was announced or the weeks afterward, I was just like in a fog. I was mental-- I was here, but I don’t think I was fully mentally here because I was just taking in all that was happening and watching the news. Being a former journalist, it was a lot to take in, even for my brain to process. So, I just think the mental health part has probably been the hardest part of this whole thing and trying to figure out like, where do we go from here? Because for some people who may have been getting married or dating or planning all these different things, it’s like, how do you-- I mean, even my sister, I’m happy to say she’s going to be having a daughter, another daughter, and just even figuring out things related to the hospitals and family, I mean, it’s just-- it’s a lot to take in all these life changes at the same time as the world is changing so much.

25:11 Monique:     And no one has a playbook, right?

25:13  Ashley:     No.

25:15 Monique:     And to the point, you made in reference to mental health, such a valuable point. And I will say, something I’ve seen is an emergence of people with the spotlight and celebrities and what have you step into the forefront and talking about their own mental health struggles. And from my history in the pharmaceutical industry, I worked for Eli Lilly where Prozac is one of our offerings, that it has been-- I remember back in the day when I worked at the pharmaceutical company and it was like, getting people to talk about their mental health was just taboo.

26:00 Ashley:     Yes. Oh my gosh so much. And I think the more people-- like you’re saying, seeing other people who are celebrities or other people, even who you know, coming forward and talking about it, it releases so much people from their own bondage, from feeling-- there’s just so much empathy going on compared to judgment.

26:18 Monique:     Yeah. And then parallel that with what we all experienced as a nation in particular to the racial disparities.

26:27 Ashley:     Oh my God. 

26:29 Monique:     Layer that on it, things we didn’t talk about. Taboo. …brings on a wave and wash of emotion…..

26:43 Ashley:     Right. Keeping it under, just not talking about it. And I feel like everything is just getting more and more to the surface, so it can just be-- people can heal more, because I think so many people, even for people who were struggling with things before the pandemic, it just became even more so with the pandemic, so.

27:07 Monique:         Yeah, it definitely illuminated. And so, I really am a big believer in conversations to really start at the breakfast table, whether it be for how one is feeling, being true and connected to their feelings, how we feel about other people, other races. I think a lot of adults don’t recognize their behaviors and ways and their children are mimicking that. 

27:35 Ashley:            I totally agree with you. 

27:38 Monique:         And it’s like-- and I know many companies are trying to do programming and DEI, and I’m thinking, “We’re trying to work with adults and we’re having this conversation at this stage oour life.” I just don’t know how broad of an impact because these conversations have been happening for years within organizations. Let’s talk about how we are raising our children…..those different from us…..

28:22 Ashley:     Yeah. Oh my gosh, because we don’t-- I feel like it’s just going to continue.

28:27 Monique:     Absolutely. And again, it’s this thing we don’t really talk about. We don’t talk about that. Well, we’re starting. It will be one opportunity, right? As we draw our time to a close, Ashley, and I so appreciate you joining me in this conversation, what are the lessons that you’ve learned about yourself during this unusual time?

28:42 Ashley:     I think that I realized, I guess going back to that whole quote from the Wizard of Oz –I’ve always had the power, I just needed to learn it for myself – I think a lot of this journey, just with being an entrepreneur, just with everything, you tend to sometimes think like there’s so much more that you should be doing, you need to do this or that blah, blah, blah, or you still need to learn this and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I feel like everything happens now really in divine timing. And as long as I can hold a truce with myself that I’m exactly where I need to be, I’m doing exactly what I need to do, I am capable, I am enough, all these different things, that makes-- that’s helped me just to understand that there’s no need to panic or worry about the future, what’s coming and this and that. It’s just, be present now. And I think for so long, I’ve been in my, in a sense, a little bit of a rat race, trying to-- it was like sprint, sprint, sprint, sprint, when life is a marathon. It’s full of highs and lows, it’s full of beautiful moments and it’s full of moments when you find yourself beside yourself. And I think as long as we can realize that we-- and realizing for myself, I always have the power to move forward and I’m always-- everything is only helping me move forward or teaching me something that I need to learn for later on, or it’s always serving for my highest good. And I think having that strength to realize all of those things within myself has been phenomenal for me personally to just be content and to also know that I can still push myself enough to not be crazy in the sense too because I don’t like that lifestyle anymore, so.

30:22 Monique:     Here’s the thing, are we going to get it right the next time? Maybe not. What I will say is, with life lessons that we are collecting along the way, you’ll identify it, something that’s a miss for you. And I’ll say with a high degree of certainty, you may still bump your head, but the length of time that you’ve allowed to spend there will start to get a little shorter because you’re recognizing it as a fallacy. And we think, “Oh, well, I should’ve learned from that. That will never happen again.” Really?  It may happen again, but let’s just know that we don’t have to stay there as long because sometimes we’re staying there long because we’re just so darn stuck, because we don’t know that within ourselves. I love that you said “The power I need to learn about myself,” and you are powerful and you are gifted. One thing I know I an not, is a fortune-teller. The pandemic will be in our rear view mirror at some point. And we’re going to be like, “Remember back in the day, remember we...” And so, that’s why I say, it is what it is and take it. Let’s make the most of it and learning about ourselves, building our capabilities, there all kinds of resources. Could you imagine what life would have been like if we didn’t have technology to support us during this time?

32:12 Ashley:     I know. I feel like this is the thing too. It’s like, we can either sit around and complain about all the things that are going wrong with the pandemic and be in fear, blah, blah, blah. Or we can use the things that we have in our control, and sometimes in our control, which is how we-- our attitude towards everything, how we’re dealing with the things in our lives, and how we’re having a positive attitude pretty much. Just be optimistic. Be positive. I mean, I know some people are like, “That takes so much more work.” But I’m like, “Hey, it takes just as much work to be negative and pessimistic. So, you choose.”

32:45 Monique:     Yeah, absolutely. And I think it was Dr. Susan Jeffers’s classic book Face Your Fear and Do It Anyway. And she said, because so often we frame things as win or lose. You just make it, frame it as a win-win. So, let’s start on the situations that you really felt like, “Oh my gosh, it was the worst thing ever,” and say, “Okay, let me look at that again with a different lens. How did I win as a result of having had that experience?” And that’s how I’m going to choose to look at this pandemic.

33:30 Ashley:     I totally agree. And everything in our lives. I mean, because I think previously when I was really early in my twenties, I was always taking things from such a negative light. But now I realize, whether it’s like-- whether it’s good or “bad”, it’s always serving me in some regard. Either I’m always learning or I’m always growing, and it’s okay.

33:55 Monique:     Yeah. That’s it. That’s how you frame it. Win-win. Good, Ashley.