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It is the best of times and the worst of times to be a Millennial/Gen Zer. This pandemic scarred generation has been resilient so far, what with the delayed placements/joining/ or even the lack of face to face onboarding as corporates went into a virtual and WFH (Work from Home) mode. Moreover, the pandemic arrived at a time when most of those under 30 were either starting their careers or preparing for “take-off”. This led to severe mental health issues among these age cohorts, with many 18 to 25-year-olds burning out or experiencing elevated levels of stress, which brought panic attacks and anxiety issues in their wake.
However, it is to their credit that the Millennial/Gen Z generations have been resilient so far. Indeed, the TikTok generation that is now entering their 30s has to keep going in the face of adversity and here are some words of wisdom from a middle-aged Gen Xer, who notices the same “irrational exuberance” that his generation experienced not too long at the height of the Dotcom mania and sees the Unicorn bubble bursting anytime now, what with the end of easy money. So, the challenge here for the TikTok generation is the time when investors and venture capitalists ask them a simple question, “show me the money”!!
This is not to say that the world of the Millennials and the Gen Zers is about to crash. Rather, what I want to convey is that trends such as The Great Resignation, where your peers and coworkers quit en masse to either take time off or become a Gig worker, points to the “virality” of your actions where anything and everything goes as long as it is captured in a selfie, a video, or an Instagram post, or for that matter, any social media activity. This is what peer pressure does and so, you are not alone here as we too transitioned through this stage where the need for “instant gratification” and “fleeting fame” overpowered us to the extent that the “present shock” that those under 30 are in now was with us until we hit 40.
Of course, if the Millennial/Gen Zers in the West and especially in the United States are in the throes of The Great Resignation, those in India have a different problem and that is they have simply stopped “looking for work”, or, in other words, are demoralized and discouraged to the point that they don’t see “any point” in remaining in the workforce. No wonder India’s restless youth feel so overwhelmed and hopeless at the lack of opportunities that social unrest and disorder, by this age cohort are becoming an everyday occurrence.
Moreover, the gargantuan jobs crisis is compounded by the shrinking informal economy, and a largely unregulated gig economy, which has become a Wild West of sorts, for their flagrant flouting of any norms of worker protection and empathy towards their wellbeing. Of course, the TikTok generation has found alternatives, which is creditable for its resiliency and the youthful energies that are driving the creator economy. However, one needs a reality check as the creator economy needs us to reinvent ourselves at each step, and I am not sure how long the “positivity” and the relentless “self-help hype” on LinkedIn and other platforms would last.
In short, the time when “show me the money” pops up is due and so, whether it is LinkedIn or any other networking site, there is no point in drinking the Kool-Aid of aspiration. Yes!! There are many TiTokers who are raking in the Millions. But, how many others are languishing on the margins, sidelined by the ever-changing algorithmic sorting of the winners moving inexorably towards a “winner takes all” mode or the survival of the smartest and the loudest. Moreover, how many of those under 30 have survived the corporate jungle to the point they feel confident about the next decade or so of their careers?
It is good to dream!! After all, this Noonday generation was born with the proverbial “gadget” thrust into their faces and grown up with the virtual substituting for the physical. Right from double-income Gen X parents using YouTube for lullabies to them being awarded prizes for just showing up, the Millennial/Gen Z were indeed a much-feted cohort. However, dreams meet realities as well and as these generations enter their 30s, they need something solid to grasp at. Despite our supposed failings, we had Social Security (or Provident Fund) to help us through lean years, company-provided healthcare for emergencies, and so on. Does TikTok or YouTube or any other platform provide you with such protections??
You might very well say, the party is beginning and that I am a party pooper!! However, the coming years would be full of many such disruptions such as the pandemic and the Ukrainian war, as we “transition” to the Digital Age. Of course, you did have a headstart and that is the best part!! However, the trick is to keep it going and the Champagne flowing into your 30s and who knows, you would actualize the long lost Gen X dream of retiring at 40!! Moreover, it is time for you to take stock, understand where you are, and plan for where you are headed. After all, you don’t want to end up where you started, with only your gadgets for company, and worse, no one to babysit you as you age.
So, here is the gist!! Show me the money is the Day of Reckoning that all of us have to contend with and especially for the TikTok generations whose Billion Dollar dreams need returns fast, or they fail. More so, if you are thinking of marrying and what our parents and other Uncles/Aunties call “settling down”. You might also need to buy houses, convert them into homes, and the works. Last but not the least, you need to repay all that debt that you racked up for your education, fund your lifestyle, and launch your channels. To conclude, hitting 40 is like separating the winners from the losers, and you surely don’t want to miss your reunion just because you “didn’t make it”!!
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