E6 S1 - Talk Roleshare Podcast
Christine Michel Carter is a leading voice on the subject of black millennials and millennial moms with featured articles in Forbes, TIME, The New York Times, and many others. Millenials anticipate having career ultra marathons. Hear how their expectations will undoubtedly impact the future of work - flexible working and meaningful work being at the core. Photo Credit: @bulmafields
Sophie Smallwood: Hey, this is Talk with Roleshare, I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. So today we talk about the big 'who' of the future of work. Millennials. Christine Michelle Carter is the leading voice on the subject of black millennials and millennial moms with featured articles in Forbes, Time, The New York Times and many others. She's also a global marketing consultant and the creator of Mompreneur and Me, really cool, inclusive, parent and child-friendly networking events that are happening across the US. Here is Christine, a proud millennial and the true embodiment of a career portfolio that is wholly mission- driven.
Christine Michelle Carter: As a writer, I'm knowledgeable about all things millennial, mom and black consumer, and I write for global publications on those demographics. And then as a consultant, my mission is to provide a fresh and impartial perspective on a company's brand and suggest branding solutions that will help transform the organization. As a speaker, my mission is to provide a unique perspective to workshops, podcasts, conferences, you name it. And then personally, as the creator of Mompreneur and Me, I try to provide parents across the country with a free mommy and me style networking and professional development event.
Sophie Smallwood: That's amazing. So you are quite versatile. What was it that made you focus on the millennial generation? Why are you so passionate about them?
Christine Michelle Carter: Sure. So I'm passionate about them because they're me, and I feel like I have a passion to tell their complex story, their hopes, their fears, their dreams, especially black millennials and millennial moms. I think they are both very misunderstood in the workplace, they're misunderstood as consumers and I just wanted to try and change some of those misconceptions with the writing and the speaking that I do.
Sophie Smallwood: What do you think is the biggest misconception about millennial working moms?
Sophie Smallwood: I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that we believe we can have it all. I've actually looked at a number of different studies of millennial moms, and while we're optimistic about parenting and optimistic about our place in the workforce, we do understand that there are tradeoffs. All too often I see us presented as these perfect individuals in the media who have this wonderful home life, and this wonderful career, and we're blossoming and we understand that there are going to be tradeoffs. We definitely understand that on the days that we're rocking and rolling in our career, on the other days, we fed our kids, McDonald's and Burger King for four days straight. You know, there is always tradeoffs, and that balance and that reality is something that I don't think it's captured.
Sophie Smallwood: So actually, today I saw someone post on LinkedIn and they are a millennial mom, that this whole work-life balance thing is bullshit. Every day looks different. Some days you crush it, others you don't. And yeah, that's probably the reality, as you suggest. But wouldn't it be nice if it wasn't like that, if actually we could try to work together with companies and government and society, as managers and leaders to actually not make it bullshit and make it actually part of life and normal? That's the thing that I would love to see. So let me ask you, I reached out to you initially telling you a bit about what our mission is. We're all about micro teams and people sharing roles to try and get to full-time balance in work and in life. But we're a startup and we don't have an established credibility. We're doing research and we're publishing this podcast along the way. But what was it about what we are doing that actually made you interested? And you're like, you know what, I'll talk to them.
Christine Michelle Carter: Yeah, I think job sharing and Roleshare is a fantastic form of flexible working that admittedly I didn't even know about before we connected and I thought it was just absolutely fascinating. I think for me, I found it so interesting because I think it would allow those millennial moms who want to become mompreneurs, a flexible schedule to pursue passion at work. And then for those who have returned to the workforce or for those looking to advance their careers, it provides them with the opportunity to learn new skills and make an impact within the organization.
Sophie Smallwood: So there's the whole learning aspect and then, as you suggest, if someone is an entrepreneur, it also gives you a certain kind of career security while still having some freedom to explore those passions that are part of your, I know it's a bit of a cliche statement, but your authentic self.
Christine Michelle Carter: Right. Exactly.
Sophie Smallwood: What is your vision of workforce diversity and leadership in say the next five years? And what do you think it will take to get there?
Christine Michelle Carter: Everybody knocks millennials as the 'ME' generation, but I think of us as the 'I'm not going for that' generation. So we're aware of how workplaces were when our parents were in our same positions, in entry and middle management roles. And we're not going for that. With Generation Z though, I think that they expect nothing but some of the heavy lifting that we had to do for them. And I don't say that in the sense that Gen X says 'we did all the work', I don't mean to say it like that, but we took the punches and jokes and dealt with the hostile, excluding work environment so that in order to attract talent like Generation Z, companies had to adopt flexible working. They had to adapt job sharing and campus work environments to stay competitive. I think as more millennials settle into management and executive roles, diversity within leadership will increase, and once again put on our 'I'm not going for that' hats and make ethical, sustainable business decisions first and focus on profits. What I think it will take to get there is that it'll take advocates and sponsors from Generation X and baby boomers to put us in leadership positions within organizations.
Sophie Smallwood: Right. That's a really good point, because I think one of the obstacles to change is legacy thinking. There is legacy organizations that are forward-thinking, but there is actually New Age organizations that are legacy thinking. I think legacy thinking is the challenge. It's not being willing to change, and do you think that millennials are at risk of becoming the next generation to uphold the legacy thinking, or do you think that they will challenge legacy thinking?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think we'll challenge it and a bit. Certainly I feel like even legacy thinking changes generationally or as you go through different life events. We've gone through a recession, so we are a little bit more cautious about our money, we're a little bit more strategic, so that legacy lives within us, but we are more open to ideas and inherently we're visionaries. So we will continue to have that practice, too. I'm hopeful for us that we don't settle into, I guess I should say, negative kind of legacy thinking.
Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely. So what do you think is the millennial view of diversity and what does it mean to them? And how do you think they would define diversity?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think we see it as a spectrum rather than diversity is a gender, diversity is a color. I don't think it's a checklist for us, and I love Generation Z because they take that notion even further. They are even more accepting of diversity than us. I think that we believe in diversity of thought and understand that in business, diversity of thought leads to business growth, and I think that that's just because we've been in the workforce longer.
Sophie Smallwood: Now, you and I, we both have a marketing background, so we know millennials versus Generation Z, but perhaps some people don't know the difference. How would you define the difference between them?
Christine Michelle Carter: Sure. So millennials ended at 2000, so Generation Z is 2000 through 2010. They're actually a short cohort, and then if you and I have kids, so our kids are generation alpha and I've written about that for Forbes before. So that's anything from 2010 on basically. So I guess you could actually say 1998 to 2009 would be Generation Z and 2010 on is Generation Alpha.
Sophie Smallwood: I'm going to have to read up on your article to make sure that my two-year-old is optimized for Generation Alpha. So when it comes to diversity, where do you think it has fallen short for millennials and where do you think it's worked?
Christine Michelle Carter: So I think it's fallen short for us because we're not as practical as Generation Z. Generation Z mirrors Generation X, so we have trouble understanding why diversity isn't commonplace within some traditional industries and in some traditional organizations. Sometimes the legal services or the financial services industries. It's not common sense to us because it's such an inherent belief for us, we get so emotional about it. But I think it's also because of our deep-rooted passion for diversity that keeps us from giving up on the notion. We're hopeful and it's like what Helen Keller said about optimism. It's the faith that leads to achievement. So that hope is what keeps us going when we go into these traditional industries and traditional organizations and can't believe that diversity isn't so commonplace.
Sophie Smallwood: Interesting. I read a study recently, ManpowerGroup published it, and it's called Millennial Careers 2020 Vision. In the study, they reinforce the millennial work ethic, contrary to the false perception that they're the lazy generation. I take offense to that. I work hard. I'm the oldest of millennials out there, born in 1980 and very proud. But I don't think it's a fair assumption at all and a generalization. I think maybe it's more that we have expectations and we ask and we want to pursue our passions, perhaps that's part of it. They also introduced this notion of the career ultramarathon that's really ahead of the millennial generation and probably ahead of the Gen Z and the Alphas as well. So I thought it would be interesting to get your point of view on the questions that they asked those millennials as part of their survey and again, this is a fantastic survey. Anyone who wants to read it, it's called Millennial Careers 2020 Vision, and it was published by the Manpower Group. One of the questions that they asked was how confident are millennials about their career path and trajectory?
Christine Michelle Carter: I wouldn't be surprised if we were upbeat and hopeful about our careers, just based off of the insights that I read in the articles that I write about millennials. I know that we're very confident about our careers. That's just who we are. And so we entered the workforce during a global recession. We're very confident in our educational backgrounds and our technical skills to push through.
Sophie Smallwood: And what about millennial moms? The same question for them.
Christine Michelle Carter: Moms. It's interesting because they're confident in their careers, but understand the importance of skills development, and I see this with my Mompreneur and Me, events across the country. They're the first free national mommy and me professional development events, and though millennial moms say motherhood is an important part of their identity. Nearly half say their career is their identity outside of motherhood. So what we try to do is help them be confident in their careers and further their careers by helping them develop professional skills at our events.
Sophie Smallwood: You mentioned skills development. How big of a priority do you think this will be and is for millennials?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think that it's a huge priority as we look to roles that are going to not only further our career, but help us to have a purpose. We're trying to develop skills that will allow us to be fulfilled, I guess personally and professionally is the best way to say it. So that's why I think we hold skills development in such high regard and we hold it in high regard within organizations, definitely because we may not want to stay at an organization for more than three years, but we want to move up. It may not be with the same employer, but while we're there learning new job skills that are in demand in the market that will help us move up the ranks with another employer is super important to us.
Sophie Smallwood: How long on average, would you imagine millennials would have to work? We talked a bit about the career ultramarathon.
Christine Michelle Carter: Yes. So I think that we are very OK with the idea that we're going to be working for the rest of our lives, definitely past sixty five. I think that we understand our passion for purpose within our career means our career is going to have to, like think of a park and how there's always a curved path in the park because it's got to go through trees and whatnot like that's a Millennial's career. We're not even in a building to take the stairs, or to take the elevator, we understand that there's no way we're even in the building until the elevator of success fell on some park with our futuristic and optimistic selves. We know that we're going to be working a long time, but I think that we're willing to trade that short success for the ability to do what we love.
Sophie Smallwood: Totally, and I think doing what you love is key, leveraging your strengths as well, though, to have to work many, many, many, many years past sixty five. It's almost like, OK, great. But how do you sustain that? Because though we are passionate about our careers, we're passionate about our whole selves, everything that encompasses who we are and that includes also who we are outside of work. And so what are some of the strategies companies and governments need to consider to sustain a momentum for these generations and as part of this sort of mass career ultramarathon?
Christine Michelle Carter: This is why I like the idea of flexible work and role sharing because it does allow the millennial to sustain momentum and mass career ultramarathons. I think it allows us to take periodic breaks in the career to focus on their passion to travel or to recharge. I think for my wheelhouse, it would allow moms who are interested in becoming mompreneurs at one point in the marathon a more flexible schedule to pursue passion at work. And for those who have returned to the workforce or for those looking to advance their careers, it would give them the opportunity to learn new skills and make an impact within the organization.
Sophie Smallwood: What does job security mean to millennials and what does it look like?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think the job security to them is again, not necessarily staying with the same employer until they're 65, but learning new skills within that role that will be competitive in market and allow them to move up the corporate ladder.
Sophie Smallwood: So what would it take for companies to actually hold on to millennial talent for a long time?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think it would require them to have roles and I imagine us to be the future two of roles, but roles that are built on frequent feedback, pulse checks, allowing businesses to pivot and adapt more quickly. I think that would keep millennials more engaged with the organization. I don't think that 'Googlefying' your office, and I wrote about this back in 2014, is the way to make millennials stay at an organization. I don't think it helps to attract talent. If the role that we're in only is solving for a short-term solution, then we're not staying. And if we're stuck at the same annual salary for over three years, we're not staying, which goes back to my point of the fact that we crave new challenges, love to be able to help a business pivot and adapt to new challenges. And we like roles that match a myriad of projects to our professional skills.
Sophie Smallwood: Right, and it's sort of like this idea of recognition as well. So both from a pay perspective, but also from a shared communication perspective, making sure that you get the praise that you're recognized for the work that you do and that you have meaningful work. I completely agree. Just that's something for me that is very important. This notion of the authentic self everyone talks about being your authentic self is that important to millennials. Do we want companies to accept and support who we are outside of work?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think we do, and I think about my role that I'm in right now, and I feel like I can bring my authentic self to work. I do work for a consumer products goods market leader. I'm a global strategist at the company and knock on wood, I don't think my job or my company is going anywhere and my job allows me to be my authentic self because I'm comfortable in it and I'm satisfied with it. It allows flexible work in the traditional sense and actually in the role sharing sense that we discussed in a way, and my appetite for new challenges and portfolio style jobs is satisfied. I have the freedom to continue my writing, which is my most authentic self. I can still speak at conferences and I can help other mothers. So to me it's a beautiful thing because it's career security, it's freedom, and it's allowing me to bring my authentic self.
Sophie Smallwood: How would you compare or imagine the benefits or the challenges of, say, two people sharing a role versus someone who is working part time in a role on their own?
Christine Michelle Carter: Gosh, that's a tough question. I'm putting my employer head on because I think that I wouldn't even address the idea of letting an employee role share unless they were at a certain level within the organization. So maybe not an entry-level, part-time professional, because to your point, their goals are a little bit different. They might not be as invested with the organization versus somebody who's mid-level or executive level, who would like to build on their skills within different departments so that they can truly oversee a larger part of the organization. I think some of the challenges would be trying to move somebody within to a role sharing position where they're not even committed to the organization.
Sophie Smallwood: That's really interesting, right? Because I also think that the easy entry for anyone who's looking for flexible work is, OK you already have a relationship with the company, you've been there, you have some established credibility. But it's funny because there's a lot of publications out there that say if you want to work flexibly and you're looking for a new role, it's important to discuss that upfront in the interview process. Sometimes I can see that and sometimes I wonder whether or not that's actually good advice. I don't know. I always like to just suggest to my friends, if you do want to work flexibly and remote work is enough for you, then just do it from the very beginning. Go for the role and like from the get-go, take Fridays and work from home on Fridays and you sort of establish your way of working by doing it.
Christine Michelle Carter: True. It's always better to do it and ask for forgiveness later, right?
Sophie Smallwood: Exactly. Of the fortune, one hundred top companies, about 40 percent of them today offer shared roles specifically as a flexible work option, but only about one to two percent take that arrangement on. Do you have any thoughts on why that might be?
Christine Michelle Carter: I think there's always a little bit of disconnect between external communication or communication that comes from leadership versus management within middle management, basically. So leadership can say one thing and they can tout and boast about it externally into the media but if somebody is working for a manager who doesn't see the value in role sharing or isn't an advocate for it, then the chances of that employee adopting it are very slim. So I wouldn't be surprised if it was a disconnect between the folks who are coming up with the concept and improving the concept and the folks who actually have to execute it.
Sophie Smallwood: So if you had to say, I'll believe it when Company X does this, what would the company need to do in order for you to actually believe that they are really doing what they preach?
Christine Michelle Carter: They would have to have some type of a formal procedure that they were touting that had shown to be successful with role sharing. And they would have to show me business results. I don't know if it's productivity increased or cost savings or business growth, but it would have to be something that's measurable. Right, because that's what's important at the end of the day.
Sophie Smallwood: And that was Christine Michelle Carter, writer, speaker, consultant, millennial influencer. As we welcome more diverse millennial leaders within organizations, I hope we will see a growing number of companies widely actioning the things they say are part of their ethos and mission, transitioning from the authentic self to the authentic company, perhaps. I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. Thanks for listening and join us for the next episode of Talk with Roleshare.