Via American Shad.
One recent August, I accepted a job as the homepage editor for a large business-news website. The pay was only OK, but I jumped at the chance to write headlines and help direct the coverage for such a well-known publication. This company was clearly investing in its online operation and was forward-thinking in terms of social media and business models. It made all sorts of sense to sign on.
About two months later, a rival publication offered me a job for $10,000 more a year. I turned it down. Why? Because of the young people with whom I worked.
It really only took about a week on the job before I was smitten with my crew. The junior reporters and Web production team members, all of them 30 or younger, were good-natured, hard-working and full of fresh ideas. They weren’t jaded yet, and I loved them for that. The outfit that offered me this other job and higher salary was even better-known, but it was tired, older in all respects. I wasn’t the production crew’s boss yet at that point, but I knew that I wanted to — needed to, maybe — work with them. Turning down that other job offer wasn’t hard at all.
I’m so glad I stayed. This was about the same time as Occupy Wall Street became a thing, and boy, did that movement sour me on what I’d heard were “millennial” gripes: too-high student loans, not enough jobs that match their majors, an unfulfilled promise of employment after graduation. I openly scoffed at their complaints. I worked throughout college and didn’t get my official diploma until a few months after graduation — until I could pay off my debt. I wasn’t “guaranteed” a job after I’d gotten that degree. I lucked into a cheap-as-dirt, short-lived internship. After that I worked two part-time jobs — one as a low-level copy editor at the paper and another as a research assistant at a hospital. “Guaranteed” employment? Please. I counted my blessings every night that I was able to cobble together enough money for rent.
I had this idea — which I now firmly believe is false — that the young folks of the #OWS movement were entitled brats. However, my crew in New York were not that. They started working at the crack of dawn; they answered emails at all hours of the day and night; they took on new tasks outside of what they were hired to do, and did so with a smile. And, they had fresh, innovative ideas that made our newsroom better.
Eventually I became the manager of these bright young people, but even before that they taught me so much: how to use social media without seeming too much like an old fart; how their generation communicated in the workplace (gifs, in case you were wondering); what they wanted as employees (feedback and a voice of their own); that humor almost always makes things better.
When I left for Texas, I promised my young charges, tearfully, that I’d signed on with them for life — that I’d be there for them as a mentor, confidant and friend for as long as I live. I take that responsibility seriously, and I’ll tell you: If I ever were in the position to hire a dream team, they’d be on it. I miss them every single day, and I swear I never want to work where young voices aren’t respected and valued.