Ten years ago, the first group of Millennials -depending on how you select the origin of this generational bracket- graduated college and set out to join the workforce. As newly minted post 9/11 professionals, opportunities were scarce and salaries even more meager but they had no choice but to venture out into the world and give it a whirl. Against their better judgement, they moved from sunny vacation destinations like California, or escaped the busy streets of the east coast states to make a good start for themselves in the mild yet squishy weather of the Pacific Northwest. With a The North Face jacket at hand and an ice scrapper in the trunk, just in case, they set out to meet their destiny!
Okay, I know it sounds a bit dramatic but none of us knew back in 2005 that life would get worse before it got better. If our generational experiences were made into a documentary film, the first few minutes of joy over our new paychecks would be quickly replaced by the struggles, trials and tribulations of an economic downturn and housing boom bust. The kids of the 1980s, 90s and beyond left family, friends and home behind to board a flight to a supposedly better future. The sights unseen and the lands unknown saw many of us get married, have kids, get divorced, and in some cases, remarried. We skied, snowboarded and hiked the mountain slopes of the cousins of the Rockies. Then one day we had enough of the gray weather and the gentrification efforts. There was nothing more that could make us stay and not long for our extended families. It may be too early to call it but it was, as the phrase the younger Millennials coined, an epic fail.
Striking out on our own was a very daunting and gut wrenching task that was, and continues to be, facilitated by telecommunications, smart phones and new or improved transportation technology. It took years to build a strong support and social network especially because we all had resigned ourselves to the idea of staying in the PNW. Imagine our collective surprise when people started to post that they had finally secured passage back home after nearly 10 years of trying to breakthrough! Overnight people packed their bags and left as there was no time to waste after interviewing and accepting the new roles. As the job and stock markets stabilize, the Boomers are pulling the plug and retiring in droves. The new found career moves will allow an entire generation to successfully uproot whatever poor existence they had, finally reversing the migratory arrow that brought them here.
Why move after all these years? Sadly our companies couldn’t care less if they didn’t fully engage or retain us as we are no longer the cheap labor. The lack of upwards career mobility and dwindling contractual benefits had many of my pals packing their bags and leaving way before 2016 began. I also lost many friends to the high turnover rates of the tech companies in the area.
Sidebar: Before you try to justify the turn over with studies or memes that show Millennials are unreliable or not loyal to the companies that hire him, know that these hard working peeps that left decided to do so after 10 years of service. Don’t believe the hype that the Boomers are marketing about Gen Y: we don’t quit jobs incessantly nor are we not professional and entrepreneurial. Wouldn’t you leave too if the bosses you worked with for a decade didn’t promote you? Like me, some found themselves on the outside looking in after a massive layoff round. Sometimes moving back to the home state is the only acceptable option.
The irony of it all is that our Millennial friends and colleagues are leaving the area during a technology and employment. You can’t blame them for wanting their children to grow up closer to extended family or in a more relatable environment. These people could have easily commanded 3xs their salary at Amazon or Microsoft. Heck, even at Facebook or tech startups they could have found a more fulfilling and better work life balance but they decided they had spent enough time away from the culture and nice sea breeze they had left behind. With masters and Ph D’s, certificates and licenses, they embark on a new stage of their careers and hope to continue to make magical, or rather scientific, breakthroughs.
As I watch them leave my only hope and expectation is that their best years are still ahead of them and that at some fork on the road we shall meet again. Letting go of over 20 lovely people has been tough and social media kind of helps keep us connected. At some point we will fade into each others backgrounds, closing a chapter on our once parallel paths. With all of my heart, and the warmest embrace, I thank you all for the memories, the smiles, the hugs and the support. Surely many more will soon embark on the same journey. Please help them succeed as we once helped each other.