Why Millennials Must Stop Talking to Their Parents About Their Careers

bits of bad advice
image courtesy of nadja.robot

The birth years of millennials, or Gen Y, is apparently something experts can’t agree on. Being born between 1977 and 1994 is one of the widest ranges I found that qualifies a person, and it’s what I’m going with here. This would make me a millennial.

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My parents are the best human beings to ever walk this planet, and you’ll never convince me otherwise.

They both grew up poor, they both found a way to get an education, they both worked their asses off to build successful careers, and they both sacrificed a ton to give my brother, sister, and me cushy lives. They’re intelligent, hardworking, caring, and I respect the hell out of them.

But respectable does not a good career coach make.

We Love Mommy and Daddy, But…

Members of Gen Y adore their parents. We want them to play the parent role, but we also treat them as friends. We want to have drinks with them. We want them to come to our parties. We invite them into our lives continuously, and we want to talk to them about stuff. We have great relationships with them.

Millennials love their parents to pieces, and we really, really want to make them proud. We seek their advice on big decisions, and we’re always asking for their feedback. Most of the time, this works out well for us, and our parents’ recommendations are spot-on.

But when it comes to career, their suggestions are…bad.

…We Have Different Definitions of Success

It’s not their fault. Not at all. And maybe instead of “bad” I should say “irrelevant.” Is that better? I LOVE YOU MOM AND DAD GOD I FEEL SO BAD ABOUT THIS.

The thing here is that Gen Y cares about way different things than their parents (Baby Boomers and Gen X) do. Baby Boomers care about prosperity and ownership. Gen X cares about time with their manager and internal promotion. Gen Y cares about self-expression, social responsibility, and making an impact.

We’re all speaking different languages, especially in conversations on work.

Our parents work for money. They work to be able to own houses. They work to move up within the same company. They work to retire.

As millennials, we think money is nice and we definitely want it, but we’re more concerned with fulfillment from our careers. We’ve pushed the whole home ownership thing aside for now because it doesn’t make sense for most of us. We think it would be unwise to stay at one company for an extended period, at least early on in our professional lives, because we want to continuously gain new skills and we know “paying dues” isn’t the way to do it.

As for planning on retirement, that seems either hopeless or dumb.

None of this is news, really. We know these things. We know there are huge differences in work values among the generations.

But we somehow forget all this knowledge when we talk to our own parents.

What This Means for Your Career

If you want to avoid feeling misunderstood, disappointed, or defeated, you can’t talk to your parents about your professional life.

Their completely different worldview is problem enough, but add in the emotional investment they have in your well-being as your parents, and you’re just asking for yelling and tears.

If it hasn’t already happened to you, it will: You are going to map out this awesome (to you) career path or become really inspired by this amazing business idea you have, and you’re going to tell your parents about your plans…and they’ll either blow up and tell you to get your head out of the clouds and be realistic, or they’ll smile and nod, say vague and meaningless things, and freak the fuck out internally.

Either way, you’ll be stalled or stuck, your confidence will take a hit, and your career will suffer because you’ll return to a path your parents approve of. Again. Until you want out. Again.

Gen Y does not have a problem being realistic. We just believe in a different reality. You’re better off discussing career decisions with fellow millennials (perhaps your personal voice of reason) or a career coach who understands your generation than talking to your parents.

They only want what’s best for you, and, ironically, that can really hold you back.

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Discuss

Do you ask your parents for career advice? Have your parents frowned upon your career plans?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Joe says:

    I relate to everything in this so well (the ‘rents are hard-working boomers and I’m an 84 kid building a career as a record producer).

    • Cassie says:

      I imagine they’re either horrified or at a loss for what to say to you. Hope you’ve found some better resources to confide in and bounce ideas off of!

  2. Daniela says:

    You are so right!!

    This last year I went back to my home country to visit my mom and finish my PhD thesis. My mom is very open-minded, but not as much as I thought because, come on, she’s from another generation, she just can’t understand my point of view about life and work. When I told her that money shouldn’t be the motivation behind great jobs, but to feel fulfilled, she said that I was dreaming. However, I’m convinced about my idea because I’ve lived it. I know that I would be a better worker if I believe in what I do, and probably, to do so, I will have to freelance or build my own company. It’s ok. 🙂 Not everything is about getting married, have children and have the same job for the rest of your life to support them!

    Sincerely,
    Daniela

    • Cassie says:

      Exactly, Daniela! Yes, we’re a dreaming generation, but again, we’re not out of touch with reality–our dreams ARE realistic, they’re just not within the rules our parents play by. Best of luck to you!

  3. Susan Meier says:

    Very well written! As a “GenX”er I see a slightly different point of view but agree that happiness and fulfillment is the ultimate goal in a career. We are lucky to live in an environment that allows us to pursue that at this time. As always you impress me Miss Cassie. 🙂

    • Cassie says:

      Thanks for reading, Susan! Yeah, I definitely believe there are bits of each generation’s work values in all of us–we all kind of exist on a spectrum. And agreed: We are so, so lucky.

      Hope you’re well!

  4. Nicole says:

    oh boy, yes.
    When I told my mom I was thinking of selling cheese full time, I could hear her sucking her teeth through the phone. She was very unhappy about my idea and I knew she thought I was being foolish. We got in a big nice fight about me being “irrational.”

    Related to this hard.
    Anyhow, GOOD LUCK. Try. Learn. Thrive. Love the blog. I help people with blog strategy/tips all the time, so if you’re looking for advice, I’m around.

    • Cassie says:

      “When I told my mom I was thinking of selling cheese full time…”–that is, like, one of the best things anyone has ever said ever.

      Thanks for the well wishes, my friend, and OF COURSE I could use blog advice; I’ll be hitting you up.

  5. Tom Halpin says:

    I think your article/blog has some merit. As the Gen X parent of two Gen Y adult children I have found they have different values than me, especially as it pertains to professional pursuits.

    I don’t know if you have children or not (I assume you do not) but it is very difficult to let them go after you invest everything you have into them. And it is a common parental mistake to assume your kids have the same drive and life goals that you have.

    The only challenge I would make to Gen Y is to make sure you’re not receiving any financial support from your parents when you no longer want their career advice. Financial ties imply a “green light” to weigh in in all life decisions. Lingering financial support is becoming quite common into adulthood.

    • Cassie says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, Tom. You’re correct in your assumption–I do not have kids. I can only imagine how hard it will be to let my own children pursue things I don’t value or understand, or even find irresponsible. I hope I remember my own words then! 🙂

      I think you make a GREAT point about financial support. If the parents are financing the life, they should have a say in how said life is lived.

      And at this point I’d like to tell you that my parents definitely do not pay my cell phone bill at all, not a single bit, and I pay for all of it, totally.

      Heh heh

      OK but seriously, although my parents are very generous and help me every way they can, I cover the vast majority of expenses myself. (phew!)

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Alex says:

    Maybe my mum is an exception then – while offering her advice she’s always encouraged me to do what I feel is right, does that make her the best human being on the planet instead? 😉 She is in my eyes, of course.

    • Cassie says:

      She’s definitely an exception! But best human being on the planet…that’s actually MY mom, so… 😉

  7. Laurie says:

    I’m guilty of this and regret trying to explain my career plans to the folks yet I still keep doing it. Why? Why?! I will stop now. Thank you.

  8. Saul says:

    I came across this article a while back (someone must have Tweeted the link). I think I sent it to my Dad too, and we’ve had some good conversations about the subject!

    Totally didn’t realize it was written by a fellow puttylike/multipotentialite 🙂

    • Cassie says:

      haha yep! Actually, it’s possible you came across the article because Emilie shared it on social media. Love that it sparked some good conversation between you and your Dad!

  9. Utsav Shetty says:

    You are so right! Experienced it today wen i told my business idea to my parents. I was so pissed at them.

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