Alison Lea Sher is a journalist, consultant, creative mind, and the author of The Millennial’s Guide to Changing the World. She has a ten year background in publishing and start up consulting, and has worked to build multiple organizations from scratch in industries ranging from hospitality to nonprofits to digital media to alternative currencies. In 2018, she launched Millennials Inc. – a consulting agency that uses world class millennial motivation data to create company cultures where everyone loves to work. Her book has readers calling her “the voice of a generation.” She is passionate about using her unique expertise to reconcile conflicting world views between people of different ages so they can better work together for common missions. We were lucky to find a few hours in Alison’s busy schedule to sit down and ask her some questions.
Why did you become fascinated with millennials?
Well, there’s a world that people use called me-search. I like the phrase, because I am a millennial and I went on a quest to learn about us. That’s why book is an ethnographic study.
Generations are defined, in part, by historical events that shape world views during coming of age moments, and I graduated right into the Great Recession. My peers were applying to the same jobs as our parents. There was a diaspora of young, energetic, idealistic people without any way to make money or plug into the larger society. I wanted to study how we were finding our way through the world, if there were certain people who were thriving more than others and if there were conditions and other internal factors contributing to that success.
I also noticed that there was a lot of depression and anxiety and even suicidal ideation plaguing my friends that seemed situationally created. We’re not happy in the world. We’re looking for purpose.
I started studying how the current system worked so I could teach others about it. So we could transform it.
What was one of the biggest things that you’ve learned in your studies?
I think the biggest a-ha is that we see things as we are, not as they are. This whole project has been what you might call a “paradigm shifting journey” for me, to start to see possibility in the world that is, and to stop — JUST STOP — viewing the system as broken beyond repair, along with the people in it. The system is what we’ve made it. The human condition is what it is, and I now feel passionately about helping millennials, who by and large don’t feel like they fit into it, integrate into this society.
As much as we’re searching for our identity and self-actualization, which many of us see as a right rather than a privilege, I don’t think many of us are happy until we bring this into the world that is. Most of the millennials I know aren’t happy or truly sane when we are disassociating from the world around us because taking responsibility for it is too scary. I don’t think millennials fear change the way older people do. We crave change actually, we just don’t know how to do it in the world that is. This is what my book explains, but the key is that it’s going to take us all.
Is that what you’re doing with Millennial Inc.?
Exactly. As my book was being published, I thought to myself, what is the best way I can bring all of this knowledge that I’ve gathered to the world? And the answer I chose was to go into companies and help them with their millennial problems.
Companies have a lot of millennial problems. Corporate America lost over 30 billion dollars in millennial turnover last year. That doesn’t even include the percentage of millennials that contribute to the 500 billions of dollars that were lost last year due to employee disengagement at work. Because I understand this generation so well, I wanted to go into these companies and create cultures that millennials can be loyal to. Millennials want to work at and also buy from people and planet friendly companies. We want to be part of the revolution of capitalism that’s currently gaining momentum.
What do you wish other people understood about your generation?
There is a war going on between the millennials and the baby boomers. I find it kind of funny now, because the baby boomers raised us, and still, there is so much contention and misunderstanding. Gen X is only one third of the size of these two giant generations, which is why they go under the radar so often.
The baby boomers are all reaching retirement age. There’s a leadership gap that’s forming inside companies. They need younger people to take on leadership positions to carry on the legacy they’ve built at companies they’ve spent the past 3 decades of their lives working at, but there’s not enough of millennials who stick around at our jobs. We usually leave between 1-2 years.
Baby boomers also want to appeal to our consumer demographic, which they have to for their companies to stay alive. However, their products don’t appeal to us, because their products are bad for the planet, and we’re hip to that. The baby boomers need the millennials and the millennials need the baby boomers, because they have all the resources. They know how to make enterprises succeed in the world that is, while millennials have the vision for the future. Maybe there’s a field beyond right doing and wrongdoing where we can meet and change the world together.
So this what I wish people knew about millennials. I wish they knew that our values that are often condemned are exactly the values that need to be integrated into mainstream society during this make or break time on the human path. That’s why a lot of my work at Millennial Inc. focuses on generational reconciliation, and teaching people with different world views how to better work together for common missions.
Why should people hire Alison Lea Sher?
I think every company with a diverse generational composition needs this service. It’s not just about making millennials feel more comfortable. That’s not what I’m here to do. Millennials also have to accept certain realties about life, why we get so negatively stereotyped, and how to overcome them so we can live the life our dreams.
We need to accept the fact that you need a job — and if you want a job you have to work for someone else or start your own company. A lot of us choose the latter, and give up financial security in exchange for having lifestyle freedom and the freedom to be creatively expressed, even though the majority of start ups fail. But because of this, we don’t have retirement funds. We can’t buy houses. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Companies can keep their top talent if they just implement certain practices that allow millennials to satisfy our needs on the job.
Also, millennials need a lot of help building resilience, both mentally and emotionally. That’s why a huge part of what I offer focuses on capacity building for millennials. You’d be amazed at what goes on for some us, while are sucking at our jobs. We’re vomiting from panic attacks in the walk in. We’re so overwhelmed by our personal lives and feel the weight of the world on our shoulders that we can’t deliver. With a millennial, our personal life will trump our professional life — always. And with the baby boomers it was always the other way around.
But why should you hire me? Well because beyond increasing quality of life for everyone on and off the job, all of these practices will help you increase your bottom line. Because you care about this earth and the world your grandchildren will inherit.
You can find out more about Alison Lea Sher at http://millennials-incorporated.com/