It’s no secret that millennial women get a bad rep.
When they’re not being reprimanded for frittering their cash on avocado on toast (the real reason they’ll never be able to afford a house, of course), they’re frequently referred to as self-entitled, lazy snowflakes, and are renowned for being social-media obsessed and unable to follow the rules.
As members of a generation left no choice but to forge their careers in the midst of an eye-wateringly bad recession, where entry-level jobs were about as common as a seat on the tube during rush hour, millennial women had to get creative with building their own lives and setting themselves up for a glittering future – and the majority of those who came before them didn’t like it.
But has everyone been underestimating hard-grafting millennials the entire time?
For Ann Shoket, the answer is a resounding yes. A 44-year-old gen-Xer who launched CosmoGirl and edited Seventeen magazine, Shoket has spent the majority of her career steering millennial women – and she’s on a mission to spread her message of millennial empowerment far and wide.
A firm believer in the “game changing, pioneering, rockstar” power of millennials, Shoket has spent the last year inviting groups of women in their 20s and 30s into her apartment to debate the issues that matter most to them over frozen pizza and bottles of rosé. And after countless rounds of these “badass babe dinners”, Shoket has gleaned enough information to pen her debut book, The Big Life, in which she guides millennial women into “changing what it means to be powerful and successful in the world for everyone, forever”.
Here, Stylist sits down with the author and editor to hear why she believes millennials are the most powerful generation ever – and to learn how we can harness that power to unleash our maximum potential.
Millennials are taking back control
“If you flash back to 2007, you have a whole generation who suddenly had to deal with a crippling global recession in which the rug was pulled out from under them. The success they had been promised would come easily suddenly wasn’t a sure thing.
But rather than see their horizons get smaller, this generation was mobilised to take control of their future, to seek out the secrets of success from women in positions of power, and to bond together with groups of friends who were dedicated to helping each other succeed. When career and ambition and success are at the centre of your life, it changes the way you see everything else. It changes your relationship with your friends, your family and your partner, and with your bosses, and it puts all of those other pieces into a different perspective.
This is the revolution that we are all living through, because millennial women are shaping the future for everyone else.”
They don’t want to “have it all”
“I don’t even know what ‘have it all’ means anymore. Millennial women are not living someone else’s dusty old idea of the way things should be. They’re not interested in sitting still and waiting to get promoted. They’re not climbing some imaginary ladder to the top – they’re not even convinced that the top is where they want to be. And they don’t want to lean in. They’re like, ‘You lean into me, thanks so much’.
Above all, what’s most important to them is freedom, access and happiness. Those are the driving forces behind this generation of young women.”
Millennials are redefining the rules of working
“Millennial women want the freedom to work when they want, how they want and where they want. They want to be free from the office and endless meetings that go nowhere. They want to say, ‘I can hit a spin class in the morning and have my work done by noon, then have lunch with a friend and grind it out until 9 o’clock at night’.
That conversation is going to make it easier for all of us to craft a plan that helps us navigate how to have a big life, a big career and a big family.”
They’re supporting each other
“The biggest rule I’ve seen millennial women rewrite is that of female competitiveness. I’ve been so surprised - and heart-warmed - by how they’re replacing the old idea that there’s only room for one woman at the table, and that you have to fight tooth and nail for that spot. Millennials want collaboration and groups of colleagues and friends who come together to help each other achieve and succeed.
That old idea of networking, where you stand around with a glass of wine in one hand and a stack of business cards in the other, was so transactional. Now women everywhere are getting together over a bottle of wine and a pizza to hash out their challenges in the world.”
Millennials are letting go of the pressure of turning 30
“All these women would come to my house and tell me how many days or months or minutes they had until they turned 30. It was the deadline by which you needed the job, the career and the baby plan all sorted. That’s holding you back and stopping you from doing what you want to achieve on your own deadline.
There is also a lot of anxiety around children and ambition as if they are in competition with each other and you can’t have both. That is not the case anymore. There are phenomenal possibilities for the way life can go and the way you can craft your family and your work, together.
That is the key of letting go of the pressure of turning 30. It’s not about having all the boxes ticked. It’s about finding the pieces of your life that are going to make you happy.”
How to have a Big Life
Ann Shoket shares her ultimate life advice for millennials looking for the Big Life...
Stop trying to find your passion
Just let it go. Looking for your passion or purpose sets an impossibly high bar - it’s paralysing and you’re going to find yourself sitting on the sidelines waiting for inspiration to strike.
Decide what matters to you
Think about the things that are meaningful for you. It doesn’t have to be some huge epiphany or have some greater cause – it could be fun, adventure, giving back, honesty, stability, anything that matters to you.
Think back to the things you wanted when you were 16 years old, because those dreams shaped who you were going to become. You want to get back to that feeling of being possible, that you are a blank slate with endless possibilities ahead of you. If you can go back to that one thing, even if it seems silly now, what was the feeling you were chasing? That’s what you want to put back in your life.
Get a side hustle
We’ve moved beyond the idea that your job can be everything. Great if it is, but if it’s not, you need to get a side hustle.
If you’re not in charge in your job, then your side hustle should put you in charge of something. If your job feels like it doesn’t have any great meaning for you, get a side hustle where you feel like you’re giving back in a way that feels impactful.
It’s not about making extra money - your side hustle is what pays you in self-respect. You want it to set your brain on fire with your own possibility. It makes you feel taller and stronger and more confident and better in bed. That is the key to a good side hustle.
Let go of the things that you should do, and give yourself permission and freedom to do what you want to do. That is the big life.
This is not someone else’s life or someone else’s idea of what it should look like. This is not your all-perfect, Instagrammy high five, carefully curated feed, this is your life. The stakes are high. Your happiness is on the line.
And there has never been a greater opportunity for you to craft the world that you want to live in. Millennials are powerful – women are powerful. You have to let go of all the ideas that are cluttering your thinking. Feel your power. Own your power. Craft the life that you want on your own terms.
Ann Shoket’s The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be, is available for £19.07 from amazon.co.uk
Images: HBO / Comedy Central / Channel 4 / Rex Features