7 Lessons Millennials Taught Me About Work

When you’re in middle age, you have no choice but to learn from the kids

Ross McCammon
Forge
Published in
5 min readSep 25, 2018

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Illustration: Grace Lee

I got laid off a couple years ago, at 41. When you get laid off and you’re 40 or older, included in your severance packet is a document that lists the ages of all your co-workers. It’s required under the — and typing this makes me slightly despondent — Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990, meant to defend the benefits of workers from age discrimination. Perusing this list feels wrong, like you’re invading your former colleagues’ privacy. Yet you can’t look away. Seeing your age and their ages, like that, in a list, in black and white, jolts you into considering where you’re at on your professional journey. And what I realized when I saw my age on the list: I was much older than I thought.

It wasn’t just that I was 41, which, let’s face it, isn’t old. It was that I was 41 and bored. And a little tired. And, at times, cantankerous. Crotchety, you might say. My professional age was more like 51. Sometimes 61. Once, in a conversation with an intern in the work kitchen about the fridge clean-out schedule, I was 89. A spry 89, but still.

Exacerbating this problem was the fact that I had spent the entire span of my thirties at one place — a prestigious men’s magazine. I thought I had stability and security and swagger. What I didn’t realize is that I had slowly started draining energy from the place where I worked instead of injecting it with my own. I was getting soft. I was getting lazy. I was getting older than my colleagues.

And then I was getting let go.

A couple months into unemployment, I got a job at another prestigious men’s magazine. There, I was even older relative to my colleagues. And I was all of a sudden having to prove myself, for the first time in a decade. To do this, I had no choice but to become one of them. And becoming one of them meant lowering my professional age.

When you’re middle-aged and suddenly find yourself surrounded by younger people, you can either ignore them (because what could they — especially Jaydn — possibly teach you?) or you can open your mind and learn from them. You can Benjamin Button your way to a renewed career. All it requires is a little humility and a lot…

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Ross McCammon
Forge
Writer for

Author, Works Well With Others: Crucial Skills in Business No One Ever Teaches You // writing about creativity, work, and human behavior, in a useful way