I have a confession. I am proud to be a millennial.
Admittedly, there are many criticisms of my generation. Some are based in the truth--young people spend more time on their phones and don’t seem to get involved in their communities.
I see these criticisms in a different light. For some it may seem like young people spend too much time on their phones, but in reality, that time is keeping millennials present in the new way of the world. Technology is ingrained as part of our careers, connects and builds our social circles, and keeps us moving at the ever-increasing pace of the world. Smartphones are a constant companion, resource and vehicle for communication. In this same way, it can be easy to look around your community and say young people don’t want to be involved. I challenge that idea. Maybe young people are open to being involved but something is holding them back.
As an adult I regularly volunteer my time and serve on a variety of different boards. My time in these roles has helped me understand my generation desperately needs to get involved.
Over the past two decades, hours of training and many resources have been spent making me into a leader, and I am a confident and outgoing person naturally. It might surprise some to learn that I have rarely sought out leadership roles.
Whether it’s not wanting to seem too ambitious, or not feeling like we have the knowledge or experience to be a good representative, raising a hand for leadership positions is not something young people often feel comfortable doing. It typically takes someone asking and providing the important guidance that we don’t have to be an expert when we come into the position.
Serving on boards is the best way to learn about an organization and its impact. I have learned so much about how the world works and what my community is accomplishing. Each board position has increased my knowledge, made me more comfortable sharing ideas and increased my belief that I can make an impact.
Another hurdle may be time. Millennials value their time differently and want to use it wisely on their passions. Try easing them into a position by setting term-limits or making it clear that one election doesn’t equal a life sentence on a board. If a person doesn’t want to keep the same job for 20 to 30 years, they may not be excited about serving on the same board for decades.
Frequent changes in board structure will mean more fresh perspectives. When you invite a young person to the table, be prepared and excited about the ideas and questions they have. Change is inevitable, but it’s not a bad thing.
Communities of all shapes and sizes need people to get involved. We need young people to raise their hands and learn everything they can. We need established community members to seek out new people and work to make leading something that is fulfilling and meaningful. No matter how much the world changes, there will always be value in bringing a new perspective to boards and everyone can play their part in making our communities stronger.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.