Young or old, age isn’t everything.
No, that headline isn’t just clickbait, though I do want to grow the readership of my column. As I started thinking about age and how that plays out in business, I realized these topics aren’t entirely unrelated.
I have an ongoing bit in our office about how old I am. It really sunk in for me at a prior job, when we were talking about New Kids on the Block and the majority of my co-workers weren’t aware that NKOTB had an album before “Step by Step.” It saddened me that an entire generation of people didn’t know what “The Right Stuff” was. It also made it crystal clear that I was no longer the young one at the office.
At 34, I fall squarely between the Millennial generation and Generation X, which means I’m just young enough to see the value in Millennials and their grasp of technology but just surly enough to talk about “the old days” of dial-up Internet and busy signals. It drives me crazy when young people type professional emails like they do texts, with “LOL” peppered generously throughout. It makes sense, I suppose – they grew up using Facebook, email and texting, so Internet-speak has always been the easy way to communicate. For reference: I got Facebook when I was 26, email when I was 18, and a cell phone at 19.
On the opposite end of the spectrum – but equally frustrating – is older folks’ refusal to adopt technology. I finally got my parents to get DVR and Netflix, and now they can’t believe they ever lived without it.
The media seems just as confused. One minute, Millennials are lazy and dumb; the next, they are the wave of the future and the next group of innovative leaders. The term “Millennial” is so overused at this point that I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about an entire generation of human beings.
Similarly, when Hillary made the official announcement that she is running for president in 2016, it came with a media firestorm – and I couldn’t help but notice the focus on her age. She will be 69 at election time, the same age as Ronald Reagan when he took office in 1981. Interestingly, in 1981, life expectancy was 71 for men and 77 for women. In 2016, life expectancy will be 79.9 for men and 83.7 for women. If you look at it that way, Hillary’s really got a lot more life ahead of her than Ronald did at the time.
To sum up, my question is this: If Millennials are “too young” and Hillary is “too old,” does anyone stand a chance? Be it business or otherwise, maybe we need to stop paying so much attention to age and start focusing on the individual.