Millennials, Marriage & Unicorns


I listened to a Simplify podcast today. The guest author, Eli Finkel is a relationship psychologist and professor at Northwestern who explains the evolution of marriage from the 1700's to 1800's to the 1950's and now. He articulated the needs of modern day marriage using Maslow's Triangle, saying that today, marriage is less about survival, emotional support and love but he believes, and his research shows, that the best marriages help us on our journey toward self actualization. I'm sure that when you think back on that boyfriend or girlfriend who impacted your life most, it's the person you experienced intense growth with - maybe during your formative years or some life changing event, because they revealed something about you to you that you couldn't see or accomplish on your own!

So, I'm listening to this podcast and thinking "Wow!! I knew that!!", like one of those magical AHA! moments. The "I knew this all along but someone so clearly crystallized my thought and articulated this feeling that now I have the warm fuzzies" kind of moment. The kind of moment that makes us listen to really good song lyrics over and over and over again.

I immediately said to myself, "Our careers have evolved in the same way!" In today's crazy career focused society, it seems like we are all chasing unicorns. We want the sexy roles in glamorous cities, where we can ball out of control but also invest and save, grow and learn but also make an impact, travel the world but have a crew where we live. Millennials are all about competing priorities when it comes to our careers and companies have not been keeping up. Much like Eli Finkel notes on Simplify, " we’ve gone from expecting basic physiological and safety need fulfillment through marriage work to these relatively deeper, more sophisticated, more complex, more idiosyncratic sorts of need a marriage job today, that would have been fully satisfying in the 1950's, now disappoints us (you can read more from the podcast here).  It's no longer just about money, we want to come to work as our whole self and have experiences that will help us get to the "best self" we ultimately want to be.

People often ask me, "What's it like working at Amazon?" I never know how to answer this question because 1) it's "peculiar" (for lack of a better word), unlike any experience I've ever had and 2) we are all looking for something different in our career, so my lens and perspective may not fit what someone else wants or needs.

What I can tell you are the things that excite me about my current "relationship". Amazon offers me autonomy and flexibility. It doesn't try to pigeon hole me into one thing or fit me in a box and I have freedom to explore and try new things - but it reserves the right to do the same, which I find frustrating at times. This experience has definitely taught me things, exposed me to things and made me believe in myself in ways I would not have if our paths didn't cross. This experience has been fulfilling because it's propelling me further in a direction I was already happily headed.

But this post isn't to say my company or job are perfect. I just think it's important to know that you'll only find really rewarding experiences and relationships when know what you are looking for. And once you know, don't compromise on those things. I had professors tell me when I was turning down a six figure income at an oil and gas company at 22, that I was making a big mistake and I would never recoup the money I missed out on - only to double my salary a few years later having the experiences I wanted to have doing work that I wanted to do.

The world is changing. What we want from our relationships, careers and life overall is evolving. Taking a non-traditional path or choosing a mash-up for your career will garner unsolicited feedback but the niche you carve out will be worthwhile if you continue to chase experiences, people and places at the top of Maslow's Triangle and pursue the things that aid in your self-actualization. Let that propel you toward your goals and don't compromise.