Advice to Millennials from a Forbes Columnist
By Crystal Tate
Journalist and speaker Caroline Beaton covers millennials and modern psychology as a columnist for Forbes. We caught up with Beaton to talk about finding the right career path, getting raises and promotions and embracing quarter life crises as a millennial. Keep reading for our interview with Beaton that’s packed with crucial advice for every millennial.
How did you decide to take the leap and become a full-time freelance journalist and millennial influencer?
Caroline Beaton: I graduated college with an English/Creative Writing major and a minor in psychoanalysis, and then I moved to Vancouver to be with my boyfriend. I was trying to figure out the whole career thing, and it wasn’t working. The work I do now particularly pertaining to millennials and careers really comes out of this sad time in Vancouver when I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I sort of had this vision of how I could combine my passions but it’s really hard to get paid for it. Eventually I realized that integrating my love for psychology and writing would take some time, so I got a job as a receptionist and a few other jobs all while I was building out my writing portfolio. I eventually got a huge break with Psychology Today and Huffington Post, and soon I had freelance clients and publications reaching out to me through my website, so I was able to write full time.
Being a full-time freelancer can be very hard. For me it’s worth it, but sometimes I think millennials idealize working remotely and doing whatever you want but it’s not like you don’t have a boss. You have multiple bosses. They’re your clients.
How does a millennial successfully choose the right career field to enter post-college?
CB: One thing that helps millennials no matter what their life goals or career aspirations are is this hand-in-hand process of experimentation and then commitment, which is essentially “open” versus “closed” orientation. An open orientation is taking your journal or Evernote around the world with you and noticing what you’re interested in, what you care about, what conversations you find yourself drawn to, what publications and topics you find yourself reading and getting immersed in. That’s the observation period. The closed orientation is narrowing down your options, saying “These are the things I most love, care about and am good at. Now how can I niche down and make this into a viable career?” Sometimes we try to niche down too soon, before we’ve really grappled with our interests and talents. Alternatively, sometimes we resist niching down because that means closing doors, which can be anxiety provoking.
You've discussed millennials not being promoted before. What do you think are the top three reasons millennials aren't promoted and/or given raises when they believe they deserve them?
CB: A few reasons:
1. Working too hard on the wrong things—Many millennials are working their tails off but they aren’t working the right ways. They’re working really hard but doing administrative stuff and not solving problems. This is how working too hard can work against you because the company starts to see you as disposable, and they don’t value you. Be a problem solver and show you’re indispensable to get promoted.
2. Too clingy to supervisor—I think millennials who are fresh out of college are often insecure and want to be affirmed, so they constantly check in instead of taking a project by the horns, taking initiative and fulfilling the project goals from start to finish and then going back to a supervisor. Neediness and insecurity will not get you promoted.
3. Looking for training and support in the wrong places—I recently had someone email me who had just graduated college and ask me to be his mentor. You don’t get a mentor by just asking for one. I think a lot of millennials believe they can, like, purchase a mentor or find one through an app like Tinder. But a lot of mentorships are reciprocal relationships; helping someone out so they guide you on other aspects of your life. So that’s a misconception that’s damaging our chances for promotion.
There seems to be a huge workplace shift to working remotely. How does a millennial work for a company in a remote setting or even start her own business and work from home and still remain as focused as one is in an office environment?
CB: My stance on working remotely changed when I became a freelancer. If you can work in an office for several years, that can be incredibly helpful. I’ve had to double my workload in various training aspects of my job simply because I didn’t have the exposure that staff journalists have.
If you’re working occasionally from home or if you absolutely have to work from home in your field, it takes a certain type of person. This isn’t to say you can’t change, but remote workers have to be self-motivated. They have to be able to get up at the same time and start work at the same time every morning. For example, I always start work at 8 a.m.. Remote workers need a schedule. I also think a capacity for introversion is important for remote workers. I have a friend who became a full-time remote marketer and he says it’s tough to be alone all the time because he considers himself an extrovert. That’s something worth thinking about. Are you the type of person who feels like they need to be around people all the time? If so, remote working may not be for you, or maybe you join a co-working space, or maybe do you the type of remote work where you’re working with clients all the time.
You have mentioned that millennials should embrace quarter life crises. Can you please further elaborate what exactly a quarter life crisis is and why millennials should have them?
CB: Quarter life crises are hilarious because they’re so real. It’s like nearly every one of my friends. One part of quarter life crises is the fact that we’re delaying a lot of our commitments. Psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett calls this phase – which is characterized by delayed commitment to career paths, marriage, stability and more – “emerging adulthood.” It tends to last from age 19 or after college graduation to about 25 or 26. Usually the tail end of that emerging adulthood phase is when the quarter life crisis happens. As opposed to midlife crises, which are often associated with a loss of role like getting a divorce and creating a new identity for yourself, quarter life crises are caused by not having a sense of a role at all. For a lot of people, when quarter life crises are happening, they feel like they don’t know who they are, what their goals are or what their purpose in life is. It’s existentially horrifying and it’s a really hard time. On the upside, it makes us ask these questions about who we want to be in the world – important career questions we wouldn’t otherwise have asked.
Lastly, can we talk a bit about millennial loneliness?
CB: Loneliness is actually contagious. One longitudinal study found that if you’re around a lonely person, you’re 52% more likely to become lonely yourself. And there’s the Internet. A lot of people turn to the Internet to alleviate loneliness, and it works short-term. But then, longterm, the time and energy and those resources that go into the Internet end up taking away from the time and resources you can put into more fulfilling offline relationships. Lastly, since 1985, millennials have become much more likely to describe themselves using terms like “assertive” and “independent.” And one study found that although millennials are more socially isolated, meaning they have fewer close friends than adolescents in earlier generations, they are less likely to feel lonely and they’re less likely to say they want more friends. They just don’t have as much of a desire for more friends. So a final explanation for millennial loneliness is that we don’t actually value social relationships as much as other generations have
Crystal Tate is the editorial manager of The Life Currency, and a freelance editor, writer and stylist based in New York City. When she isn't sitting behind her laptop, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and inspiring young women to shatter glass ceilings. Follow her on Twitter at @CrystalDenise and see more of her work at Crystal-Tate.com.