Save napkins: mentor a millennial

Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

You can call them Generation Y, Millennials, or any other name you choose. Whatever term you use, you’ll probably agree they haven’t been given a good reputation in the mainstream media. They’re often featured in articles with headlines like “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” or “Millennials And ‘Their Destruction of Civilization,'” and “Millennials are Killing the Napkin Industry.” (I promise I didn’t make that last one up.)

Maybe you have children or grandchildren in this demographic, born between the mid-1980s and early 2000s. Maybe you can understand why they’re viewed the way they are.

Or maybe you’re like me, and you see quite a bit of promise there.

This summer I had the chance to meet the four students who represented Baldwin EMC as part of the Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour shortly before they traveled to Montgomery, Ala. Even in the midst of the nervousness in the room, I could tell these four, who had been chosen from among many others, would not only represent Baldwin EMC well, but approach their trip in a way that would benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Additionally, this time of year, Baldwin EMC typically sees an influx of college students coming in to fill summer work-study positions. I make it a point to interact with them and hopefully leave a good impression, as they’re only here for a short period of time.

It would be easy for anyone to get caught up in headlines and hashtags and dismiss this demographic as a lost cause. But I believe each of us can find opportunities to mentor the young people in our families, workplace, churches and communities. When you do, you’ll see some of the same positive attributes that I’ve seen: a hunger for learning, an ability to be creative and a gift for working well with diverse groups of people.

Baldwin EMC as an organization has a vested interest in helping young people see the benefit of the cooperative business model. Within the next five years, 20 percent of America’s electric cooperative employees will be eligible for retirement. We are looking to the future generations to move us forward, to help us prepare for the changes and challenges that await. That’s why cultivating the next generation of employees is critical to maintaining the success of our mission and our business model. Driven by values and attracted to a strong company mission and culture more than compensation, Millennials are uniquely suited for careers at co-ops. Baldwin EMC’s dedication to our community and our focus on people, not profits, make it an ideal work environment for young individuals seeking to develop meaningful careers.

So I ask you to join me and get in the corner of the millennials in your life. You might be the exact role model someone needs, and soon find that in spite of our differences, we really are better together.

And maybe if we all work together, napkins will be ok.

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