In Response To Forbes’s “20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get”


Jason Nazar, a contributing writer for Forbes, wrote a column last month detailing the 20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get. I’m sure everyone my age appreciated the condescending and generalizing advice, because of course, as a generation, we are not only all identical but also collectively “just don’t get it.”

So, I decided I’m going to go through his list and respond, piece by piece. Is some of this bitter? Impractical? Whiny? Antagonistic? Sure. Does it apply to every boss or career? Of course not. But if a contributing writer for Forbes can make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people, you better believe I can.

Time is Not a Limitless Commodity

You’re preaching to the choir. When you insist on us doing a task in the least efficient way possible because you either don’t understand a better way to do it or simply don’t care, it is an incredible waste of time.

You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated

It’s funny you recognize my talent, because what I’ve realized in my time in the real world is how remarkably untalented a lot of the managers are. Similar to how I thought my parents were infallible as a child and realizing that they’re real people who make real mistakes, I always thought professionals were at the top of their game. How wrong I was.

We’re More Productive in the Morning

Who is “we?” Now you’re not only generalizing my generation by your own? I have bosses that are definitely morning people and bosses that are definitely evening people. Who cares when work gets done as long as it is done on time and done in the best way possible.

Social Media is Not a Career

No shit. However it does exist, and being against it just makes you seem even more old-fashioned than you already are. Just because you saw some horror story on 60 Minutes of a teacher embarrassing her school by twerking or a job applicant getting caught making fun of his interviewers on Twitter does not mean that we all are socially inept. Trust me, those of us worth hiring know how to put our stuff on lockdown.

Also, being active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else is incredibly good for both the company and individuals as it allows you to shape and monitor the discussion on your brand. Not to mention that in a truly global economy, you’re not going to find all of your clients via a phone call or by bumping into them at the grocery store.

Pick Up the Phone

I know this is directed at my generation that doesn’t feel the need to make some cold calls and not just send out cold emails, and that’s a fair point, but Boomers need to get over the fact that we are “always on our cell phones.” Sure, sometimes we’re swiping people right and left on tinder (There’s a guy in your profile pic? Left. You know what I’m after) but we can also be incredibly effective. We can see a breaking news story about a client on Twitter, open the story with Safari, share it via email, and call those people it affects in a matter of seconds from the palm of our hands. Oh, and it doesn’t take us an hour to type out that email either. Respect the power.

Be the First In & Last to Leave

Facetime is important. However, I hope you get that this obsession with being in the office to do work has been dying for quite some time. We know about it. Chances are we have friends that work in those roles. Don’t think we wouldn’t jump for a chance to do the exact same thing we are doing now in our pajamas from our couch or in jeans at a coffee shop. Laptops and cell phones have existed for years.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do

Oh, really? Because when we take initiative usually we get told we’re doing something wrong, or doing something that isn’t our job, or “thinking we’re more important than what we are.” Chances are, if you are a millennial in the workforce, you have easily identified something that could be improved. Easily. For all of our faults, we have no patience at all with inefficiency and quickly find ways to improve it. We are also “a generation of overachievers” and are “always looking to do something to get that coveted gold star” so tell us what to do every now and then! When you’re young or new, direction isn’t a bad thing. That is literally your job, boss. Do it.

Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes

It would be easier if we weren’t demonized for mistakes. We’re “not a generation used to failure,” so this is hard enough already, but when some dickhead is raging about something that ultimately was never that big of a deal, how likely do you think it is that we’re going to fall on the sword for it? If you want a positive work environment, make one that embraces mistakes and allows you to learn from them, not just take the hit for it.

You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked

Listen, we’re a generation that went to school full-time, played a sport or two after school, then practiced an instrument, then did more homework than any generation before us. We’re used to this and have caffeine or Adderall addictions to back it up. In fact, chances are we can handle way more than you think we can and would love the opportunity to do something meaningful for a change. You say that Meryl Streep in “Devil Wears Prada” is the best boss you could work for. You know why that movie was written? Because she’s a horrible fucking boss. That’s the entire point of the movie. They literally call her “the Devil” in the title.

A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing

Maybe not, but neither is staying in a shit job that either doesn’t pay, doesn’t give you valuable skills, doesn’t offer upward mobility or is just generally miserable. When you’re young, job-hopping happens, especially in this day an age, and any sense of “25 years at the same company to retire with a pension” is long gone. If you’re not going to give us the opportunity to succeed, do something meaningful, make money, or whatever else we value most, we’re gone, and it’s costing you on average $25,000 for the turnover. Sucks to be you.

People Matter More Than Perks

You know what you can’t pay bills with? A good office culture. Yes, it is good to have people around you at work you can be friends with. Yes, it is nice to have a boss who isn’t a shitbag. (I wouldn’t know). But really, if I can get comped dinners on Seamless, a bigger year end bonus, the ability to work from home, or whatever else I want, that’s going to take priority. I have friends already.

Map Effort to Your Professional Gain

The advice given for this one is to “connect what you’re doing today with where you want to be tomorrow.” Of course, the problem is that so many of us here are doing something that only marginally, if at all, related to what we want to do tomorrow. While there’s value in finding relevance and crafting a good story for the future through your current experience, there’s also value in getting the fuck out when you get a chance to do something you actually want to do.

Speak Up, Not Out

We are not a “generation of shit talkers,” or at least not at the office. You know who I hear talking shit? Boomer secretaries. Boomer office managers. Boomer VP’s about other VP’s. Also, if I’ve learned anything, it is that “if you have a problem with management, culture, or your role and responsibilities” it is much better to just keep your mouth shut about it. Is that a good office culture? Is that how it should be? No, of course not, but who says you’re going to be working in an office with a good, open environment? Thanks for that, Boomers.

You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops

This is a joke right? Minus some experienced junior bankers schooling me at Excel, I’m going to make another sweeping generation (this is fun) and say that our generation runs laps around yours when it comes to technical ability. Bring it.

Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter

No shit. There is not a person in business who doesn’t understand “it’s who you know” that matters.

You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors

Really? If I only have 2 I’m screwed, then? I’m not sure there are three people at my company that I would even want as a mentor. Listen, mentors are both important and invaluable, and there are people who have helped me get where I am now and there are people who will help me get to where I’m going, but just like how this list is looking more and more arbitrary when it comes to numbers (see the last “point), the suggestion that there is some number you have to meet is ridiculous. One mentor, if good, can change everything. Seven mentors, if awful, can do effectively nothing.

Pick an Idol & Act “As If”

Someone’s been watching Boiler Room. Knowing a successful person’s path is incredibly informative, and watching how a successful person operates can be very helpful too, but no two people are the same. This person who you idolize probably has different strengths, different weaknesses, and came up in a different time. It’s better to find what makes YOU successful, not try to act like someone you’re not. Also, if you go around wearing French cuffs, a Hermes tie, and suspenders in your entry level job because your idol wears them, you’re still going to get ridiculed. If you roll around in a Porsche 911 and then eat ramen every night because you can’t afford food with the payments, you’re still going to get ridiculed.

Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts

Starting “either/or” arguments is an effective way to get no one to take you seriously. I read more than most people I know, tweet more than almost everyone I know, and text more than most people I know. I can listen to classical music while browsing facebook, study advanced topics while texting a girl, There isn’t some either/or cultural divide between the exalted ones who READ BOOKS and the idiots who read phones.

Spend 25% Less Than You Make

Sage advice, along with save at least 10% of what you make, but we’re living in a time of unmatched student debt, where a lot of people in their 20’s can’t even afford to live on their own, let alone save money. It’s always so easy for someone making at least six figures to dish out advice on saving or spending, but when you’re barely making a third of that things get a bit more complicated.

Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It

Thank you, internet anonymity. At least we have that. Besides, I think “damaging” her reputation did more for Rebecca Martinson than “maintaining” it ever would have.

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I used to write for TFM and PGP when they were funny.

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