If there is anyone suspicious about books for millennials, it’s millennials.
And why shouldn’t we be? We certainly get dumped on a lot. When we’re not getting dumped on, we’re getting preached to by people who often don’t have a sound understanding of the world we’re living it. Sure, we might love social media. Sure, some of us really love avocados. But are avocados the real reason we can’t afford our dream homes?
Maybe it’s because of the crap state your generation left the economy in, but I digress.
So when I heard that Robyn Tingley, the New Brunswick-based founder and CEO of GlassSky released a book called 10 Essentials for the Motivated Millennial, I’ll honestly admit I was hesitant about its contents.
Not because of Tingley herself, of course. She’s a brilliant woman with an impressive career that includes executive roles at Fortune 100 companies. She was named one of the top Female Trailblazers in North America and Europe by Diversity Magazine and The California Diversity Council named her one of 20 Most Influential and Powerful Women in the state. Oxford University also chose her to pilot their inaugural global women’s program. I know, right?
With a badass track record like that, I decided that if Tingley wanted to give me career and life advice, I should hear her out. I got a copy of the book and as it turns out, I wasn’t disappointed.
10 Essentials for the Motivated Millennial is a practical book geared towards recent graduates and those in their early professional careers. It’s not preachy, unlike some books marketed to the millennial generation. It offers interesting personal insight, research and simple exercises for different aspects of life and career that, let’s face it, a lot of millennials struggle with. Instead of giving a list of ten commandments, Tingley offers readers 10 essentials.
I recently chatted with Tingley about why and how she wrote the book:
What inspired you to write a book for millennials in the first place?
It was actually the people I was speaking with at the different companies that were inviting me in to tell my career story. When I first moved back to New Brunswick, a lot of organizations locally, but also from my networks in the United States were calling and saying, ‘Hey could you come in and talk to our women’s group?” or “Could you come in and talk to our new hires or our new management trainee program? Just about your past and some of the things you’ve learned along your way.”
As I would do those talks, inevitably people in the audience would say “Do you have a book?” or “Can you write a book because we want to understand the tools you use to set goals … or we want to understand more stories that are appropriate for us where we can maybe learn some things.”
It just kept rolling around in my mind that maybe I should set some time aside to write a book, but I didn’t know a thing about that part of the publishing industry. So I did a little homework. I hired an editor and, in earnest, it took me about six months, but it was really in response to requests for tools and exercises.
What was the approach you took when writing the book?
There’s a lot of information about millennials, as there is about any generation. It’s very pervasive right now because millennials are coming in the high volume that they are and with the high purchasing power that they have. But you see a lot of it is geared towards managers and how you manage conflict in the workplace or how you harness the share of wallet and the enormous buying power this group has.
I wanted to talk less about millennials and more to millennials. From what I was hearing in the room in the workshops, I thought there was really a need to help them realize their potential because they have enormous potential given all the tremendous assets of this generation. I thought that for some reason, they just have a shortage of mentors, a shortage of role models, less training than I had. I thought if I could just speak to them and distil some of my best advice for them, and if I could just help one or two or 10 people, that would be fabulous.
When you’re reading the book, it’s really practical in tone. But a lot of the works I’ve read geared towards millennials often really preachy. Your book doesn’t seem to do that. How did you avoid that when writing this?
Maybe because I spend so much time talking to people and listening to people and understanding their perspective. I really do try to be collaborative and thoughtful about my approach and put myself in their shoes. Maybe that’s the training of a journalist (Note: Tingley attended journalism school at the University of King’s College in Halifax), really thinking about where the other person is coming from and what they need to hear.
The other process that’s important to this is to have a good editor. When I think of all the speeches I’ve given, all the one-on-one meetings I’ve had and all the columns I write, I’ve given a lot of advice. You need somebody who can help you step back and look at what is repetitive, what is really solid, what is necessary for this audience.
If I was to speak to a group of mid-management women in leadership, for example, the stories would be different. Because they are at a different place in their life and they are at a different place in their career. That was probably the key part of the project. It wasn’t the content. I had a ton of content. It was just being reflective and making sure that it hit the right tone. I wanted it to be practical and I wanted it to be respectful and helpful.
Throughout the book you cite different research done by your company, can you tell us a little more about that?
There’s a lot of general research out there. That’s important. But if I was going to write a book, I wanted to make sure that I was doing my own research.
So I conducted two surveys. One was global with 700 plus respondents on the psyche. How people were feeling about their confidence level, how people are feeling about their ability to fulfil their goals and dreams in life. How are people wanting to be socially conscious? That was a large-scale survey and from that I had a market researcher extrapolate the millennial data.
Then I did a second survey of 250 millennials who I asked just about workplace preferences. How are you going about finding a job? What kind of training is it that you expect once you get that job? How do you want that training delivered? How do you want to get feedback in the workplace? Those types of questions. That gave me a lot of good insight. Then, of course, I use that and I follow up with people I’m talking to. I mentor six to eight people at any one time … I use them as a sounding board. [I ask] “Are you experiencing this? Does this make sense to you?”
Your book also includes exercises readers can do. Why did you think it was important to include them?
I think that’s one of the most important parts of the book, in fact. The stories support the exercises. But the exercises are necessary because sometimes people don’t know where to start. It’s like they have an idea or they have a vision in their mind of how they’d like to present themselves … or how they’re going to get to that next job, but they don’t know how to move from A to B. I thought if I could break down the process into simple exercises and you could flip to any chapter based on what your need is at that point in your life and you walk away at the end of the chapter with two or three tangible outcomes based on the exercises that move you closer to your goal. That’s why I thought the exercises were absolutely key.
It’s really a self-help book. It’s not a book that says “These are all the answers and this is all you need to know about this generation and thou shalt.” It’s not about that. It’s about helping somebody work through the processes themselves.
What do you hope millennials take away from reading your book?
I hope they realize their potential. I hope they find something whether it’s one exercise, one chapter, five exercises, whatever it might be, that helps them realize more of what it is they want to do in the world.
This group is a powerhouse generation, but unfortunately, the economic circumstances and the realities of our times mean that jobs are more part-time, contract and temporary. Training is more differentiated and budgets have been cut. Workplace role models and mentors are more scarce than they were when I was starting my career. I hope this book is a supplement to help them where they want to go and help them get there.