Why These 11 Noteworthy Millennials and I Are Proud to Represent 'The Worst Generation'

09/01/2015 07:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A trait in this world that has long outlived its usefulness to our survival as a species is to judge and condemn anything that is different or challenges our current beliefs and way of living. To put it more simply, we tend to have an irrational fear of anything unknown to us, which stems deep within our "crocodile" portion of our brain as author Oren Klaff references it. This necessary part of our brain drives our survival instincts and kicks in when it feels threatened. Lately, I've seen my generation (coined the "millennials") take a beating from mass media, because we bring a different mindset to the world, in turn, signaling that fear portion of the brain within other generations.

Millennial expert and author of Liquid Leadership, Brad Szollose, sheds insight onto why this generational divide has occurred. Brad states, "They say we have five generations in the workforce for the first time ever. Not true. When I started working at 16, my grandfather was also working. We've always had several generations in the workforce. But this is the first time we've had five generations with very different, and sometimes opposing behaviors and expectations."

My generation (people born between the mid-1980s to the early 2000s) has been called "the worst generation", and has been labeled with character traits such as entitled, lazy, needy, unwilling to work hard, and disrespectful. I don't know exactly which article it was, but I hit a point where I decided it was time to contribute to this often one-sided conversation, because I simply did not relate to any of these unfair biases labeling me each time I walk into a business setting. Of course I can't speak for everyone, because every generation has their degenerates, but the "millennials" I know and have met are pretty remarkable people, and I thought it was time that someone shed light on the positive qualities of my generation, instead of focusing on the negative.

I asked 11 vastly different millennials about what they do, what their work day looks like, and their advice for other millennials and other generations in today's workforce. After speaking to each of them I was not only inspired to continue forward towards my own professional goals, but I was overwhelming proud to be a part of a generation unafraid to make a positive mark in this world, in ways that make sense to them.

Check out what these 11 millennials are up to below, and your views of this generation as a whole might just change.

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Alexi Panos
Age: 31, Occupation: Inspirational Vlogger and Speaker, Co-Founder of The Bridge Method and The Bridge Experience, and Co-Founder of the nonprofit organization E.P.I.C.

What she does:
"Everything I do is about inspiring and empowering others to step into their gifts so that they can truly share them with the world. With my video series on Youtube, I synthesize big ideas and break them down into bite-sized nuggets of goodness that are entertaining and enriching at the same time. With the workshops I facilitate around the world that I've co-created (The Bridge Experience), it's all about guiding people through the journey of uncovering who they really are and what's been in their way. Along with this, the Bridge Method is a 3 month, online training program, which is an extensive, self-paced journey deep into the inner workings of oneself, and teaches you the tools to truly get the most out of life. And finally, E.P.I.C. is the nonprofit I started in 2005 with my best friend Tennille Amor, committed to bringing clean, sustainable water to those in need in the developing world, with our work primarily in Eastern Africa. I am also working on my first solo book (Out June 2016) with Simon + Schuster Publishing called "50 WAYS TO YAY!" and co-authoring a book with my fiancé Preston Smiles to be released in January of 2017."

How she does it:
"I "work" so hard, but it never feels like work, because I honestly LOVE what I do. I did it without any financial gain for years (and invested much of my own money), just out of pure passion alone. This is my calling, this is my soul's work. I'm normally up with the sun and take an hour or so to enjoy my personal morning rituals that ground me for the day. My work day includes everything from producing, writing, shooting and editing my videos, posting my blogs, memes, and videos on my social networks, creating and developing more content (TONS of writing), refining my online classes and in person workshops, handling all the marketing for everything I do, communications (social media, email, phone calls, meetings), organizing the Fellows for their volunteer trips abroad as well as coordinating on the ground activities in Tanzania, and then I make sure to learned something new everyday. I'm working well into the evening and usually shut the laptop around 9 or 10pm at night."

Why she does it:
"I have no other choice. If I turned it all in and got a "normal" 9-5 job, my soul would die a slow death. Seriously though, I do what I do because it's my soul's deepest calling. It's something that continues to challenge me day after day. Everything I do is about contribution, and I don't take off the "contribution cloak" when I hang my hat. It's a way of being that I'm committed to. And it's not just with people! I'm aware of my contribution (positive/negative) with the environment that surrounds me."

How millennial stereotyping makes her feel:
"Every generation has their amazing qualities and the qualities that aren't so great. But nothing bothers me more than gross over-generalization. If you took 25 of my closest friends (all millennials) you would be shocked at the work ethic, commitment, and deep values that coincide with what they do."

Her advice to better work with millennials:
"The old story of "go to school, get a great degree, get a secure job" isn't as prevalent as it used to be, so have patience with a generation that is in the midst of a massive global shift. Encourage creativity, celebrate new ideas, commit to transparency, and work shoulder to shoulder with your team."

Her career advice to millennials:
"Stay true to your vision. If the opportunity your soul is calling for doesn't exist, create it. The world is changing and it's calling for a new way of doing what we call "business." We need YOU, all of you. Don't sell yourself short for the myth of "security."

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Andrew O'Leary
Age: 29, Occupation: Sports Apparel Designer and Product Developer

What he does:
"I believe I am one of the fortunate individuals who loves what they do, and as a result I am passionate about the work I do. As a designer in the sports apparel industry, the majority of my projects consist of designing and developing new uniform concepts for high school, college and professional teams."

How he does it:
"To me, my work day is undefined by a set number of hours, as I have found myself to be somewhat of a perfectionist which often leads to working beyond typical business hours. My office schedule looks very much like a 9 to 5, with work consisting of researching trends and new innovations, designing and developing original concepts through iterative prototyping and other problem solving methods, and weekly meetings."

Why he does it:
"Growing up loving sports and loving art, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to design in the athletic apparel and footwear industry. My longstanding motto has always been "look good, play good." Even though looking good won't increase performance, it does help to instill confidence, and I have the opportunity to give the athlete that added confidence when they are out there competing."

How millennial stereotyping makes him feel:
"Though I tend to agree with the overall ideology regarding the work ethic and sense of entitlement by the younger generations, I don't believe it is fair to label them as such.Living in today's technological world of instant gratification, we are perceived as lazy and entitled as opposed to being products of our environment. I believe as we continue to evolve, so should the scale that we are measured on. Our successes may not translate to those of the past, but will certainly resonate with the future."

His advice to better work with millennials:
"We are still a young generation finding our way, and though I believe it is most important for the employee to find a way to better work with their employer, I do believe it is imperative for the employer to welcome insights from all employees. Creating a comfortable setting for open communication will provide added comfort in the workplace, and increases insight needed to optimize a company."

His career advice to millennials:
"If you have a dream, see it through to the end! It's a much better feeling getting up every morning to go do what you love."

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Shilpi Kumar
Age: 24, Occupation: Product Development & Strategy at Filament

What she does:
"I work for a small technology company that offers wireless networks for the industrial world. It involves bringing hardware, decentralized protocols, and the Bitcoin Blockchain to really unsexy industries. One of the most challenging (and exciting) parts of my job is concisely explaining what we do, without knowing the interest level or technical knowledge of the audience. The work I do is helping to digitize industries that have mostly been offline to date. Our networks help everyone from city planners to warehouse managers better allocate resources."

How she does it:
"I'm the only person on our team working from San Francisco, so I have a lot of flexibility to make the most of every day. I wake up, work out, and get to my co-working space before the commuter rush. I prioritize what needs to get done that day and start working on whatever is most pressing. I try to catch up on email before any meetings or video calls with my team in the afternoon. I get out of the office early evening and go to something in the community or do something active with friends before working a bit more when I get home. My goal with this role has been to work smart and get the most value out of time. I'd say I'm pretty balanced."

Why she does it:
"For one, I love the people I work with! They are genuinely amped about the technology we're working on, and I've learned so much from being around them. I've also figured out that I'm most motivated by problems where institutional incentives aren't aligned for a solution, such as human trafficking and homelessness. Right now, I'm getting exposure and experience navigating these complex systems like technology stacks, private capital, multinational corporations, and government regulation."

How millennial stereotyping makes her feel:
"I definitely sense the tension between generations in the workplace right now, but I think it's more complex than articles make of it. Tech companies and the culture of entrepreneurship has shifted the standard for what work opportunities are available. While I'm guilty of some negative stereotypes, I'm always trying to get a more balanced view on it from my parents and their friends. From what I can make of it, the tension comes down to misalignment of expectations between what young talent is looking for and what employers need from them. A lot of my peers value freedom and autonomy more than material rewards or stability."

Her advice to better work with millennials:
"Treat them like the other employees. Give them room to mess up and feedback to learn from those mistakes. Get to know them as people, not as millennials. Everyone is just figuring how they learn and what they can uniquely contribute."

Her career advice to millennials:
"Spend time on things that are fundamental or instrumental to the impact you want to have and the life you want to live. If you don't know what you want yet, that's cool too. Have fun while you're figuring it out!"

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Darrah Brustein
Age: 31, Occupation: Entrepreneur

What she does:
"I'm working on a couple different ventures. I'm continuing to build a business I started in 2009 with my twin brother: Equitable Payments, a merchant services brokerage. In 2011, I founded Network Under 40 to bring young professionals to a fun environment where they can connect without fear of being sold to or hit on. We're currently growing into new cities. Lastly, I write children's books (Finance Whiz Kids) to help teach elementary aged kids the basics of financial literacy through fun and engaging stores."

How she does it:
"I work smart and efficiently, and generally get to do things I enjoy. Most days I start around 9 a.m., balancing emails, calls, and meetings, and go until early evening, but that often flows into a networking meeting, drinks with a friend or business colleague, and oftentimes has me back on emails or writing after hours so it's challenging to calculate when I'm 'working'. I also travel a lot, so I find creative ways to get work done often not in a traditional office environment. I like the idea of integration, so this works for me."

Why she does it:
"Because I choose to. I feel fortunate to be living in a time when people (and women specifically) have so much choice and opportunity. I get to design the life I want to live, and what I want to contribute to the world, and I recognize the great fortune I have to be able to do that, and choose not to squander it. I'm a connector at heart, so all of my work serves to do that in one form or fashion."

How millennial stereotyping makes her feel:
"I find it upsetting because I don't identify with the stereotypes of millennials, and my peers also don't fit this generalization. I do think there are people who perpetuate this stereotype, like any stereotype, but I don't interact with them so it feels foreign. The good thing I see from this negative expectation is that it sets a low bar for what others expect from you so you can, in turn, dazzle them by blowing it out of the water."

Her advice to better work with millennials:
"For starters, stop calling them millennials. Have open communication with your younger employees and ask them how they want to be managed and treated. You'll likely find a lot of communication around autonomy and opportunities to learn and grow."

Her career advice to millennials:
"Let the results speak for themselves. 'Our generation' is dubbed as impatient and entitled, so do yourself a favor and debunk that myth. Have a goal, put your head down, do the work, and let the results of your work sing your praises for you. People will notice."

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Christian Mauerer
Age: 24, Occupation: Founder and Chief Love Officer of Loverope

What he does:
"I founded the company Loverope, which is a customizable bracelet, that is hand made by real people. Each bracelet is customized with your own personal saying. I did not create Loverope as a jewelry company, but instead as a movement about love and the individual story deep inside of everyone of us."

How he does it:
"My days start at 7am to do my morning routine, and then I hop into my work day which includes activities like social media content creation and monitoring for my business, stamping Loveropes, responding to emails and customer inquiries, marketing activities, some personal development and meditation, and Skype meetings with people around the world. It averages to about 12 hours of work each day."

Why he does it:
"I want help other people manifest self-love and live the life of their dreams, and I believe that everyone should have a reminder of what is truly important to them."

How millennial stereotyping makes him feel:
"The only reason why a millennial would ever be "lazy" is because he or she feels a lack of purpose. Give him or her purpose and every millennial will move mountains."

His advice to better work with millennials:
"Give them a purpose and be authentic, and human in what you do."

His career advice to millennials:
"Just do it (action beats everything). Whatever you're searching for is out there. Just keep on going, you're on the right path you wonderful soul."

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Matt Turner
Age: 33, Occupation: Business Owner

What he does:
"I run a local business called the Santa Barbara Hustlers for Peace & Prosperity. It is a community service team, social club, and collaborative enterprise whose mission is to positively impact every resident of our town by 2020. Our intention is to raise the consciousness of our community while building a model that can duplicate to any community around the world. My entire life is about service. My nickname is "Sevadeep", which means complete, self-less service. My business is completely service-based. We loved our idea of uniting our town through teamwork and service so much that we moved into his car for over a year while we launched it."

How he does it:
"You could say that I'm always working, and just as easily say that I'm never working. I don't like the word "work". I prefer the word "play". And yes, I play very hard (aka Hustle)."

Why he does it:
"I do what I do because spirit moves me to. That is what I think millennials understand that others don't. We are super-connected to our intuition and our awareness. We are energetic beings here to make an impact on the world around us. It's up to each of us to tap into our inner calling and discover our unique gifts and creative genius."

How millennial stereotyping makes him feel:
"My thoughts are that it is written by someone stuck in the "old paradigm". We have removed ourselves as best we can from the out-dated systems of economy, politics, and business that our ancestors have passed down. We are creating new ways of living, being, serving, and value-creation that the older generation simply doesn't understand. That's okay, though. We still love them."

His advice to better work with millennials:
"My advice is to give them freedom to create and bring their entire self expression to their work. If you can, they'll feel fulfilled, alive, and will be glad to work for you. If not, they'll resent you and be waiting for someone else to show up who believes in them."

His career advice to millennials:
"Always follow your passions. Do them every day. Give your unique value away in full faith that it is the path to your prosperity."

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Veronica Hoffman
Age: 26, Occupation: Community Operations Manager at Work In Progress

What she does:
"By day I help the building run as efficiently as possible. My coworkers and I tag team scheduling for meetings and rentals, assist our members with whatever they may need, give tours of the facility and educate the general public about the amenities of the coworking space. The coworking space I work at is alive with millennials breaking bread with seasoned entrepreneurs. We help individuals very early on in their entrepreneurial journey or at the early stages of being in "startup land". By night I help produce electronic music with my two roommates."

How she does it:
"Almost all of my days start at 6am. I usually wake up to emails and the first notifications of my day that way. Every morning I walk about a mile to my job, I'll make the coffee, and accomplish a couple small tasks before sitting at the front desk and getting to my emails. I spend the rest of my day doing customer service related tasks, scheduling events, and make sure our members are happy. To change it up once in a while I'll sit in on a workshop that peaks my interest. I enjoy my job and what I do doesn't feel like hard work in the least."

Why she does it:
"I enjoy living and being a part of the evolving downtown Las Vegas area right now. I am not ready to leave and this is my second coworking space I've worked at. I firmly believe in being surrounded by individuals that are smarter than I am, simply because they always have something new to teach me. I do what I do, because I believe in passion behind projects, and human interaction in general drives me forward. I enjoy connecting people just as much as I enjoy feeling a connection with an individual."

How millennial stereotyping makes her feel:
"It's clear there are efforts to understand us, just as much as there are efforts to categorize us. As a millennial I don't always resonate with some of the claims people make because I am surrounded by innovative, hard workers all of the time. If millennials were so lazy, how is innovation moving forward right now? Is working smarter, not harder, considered laziness? I feel like the labeling of laziness and entitlement is from a lack of understanding of our value system."

Her advice to better work with millennials:
"You'd be pleasantly surprise how much common ground you can find with a millennial on your staff. Rather than view us lazy or entitled, you can look at the other side of those perspectives. If you find your staff member to be lazy but they get the work done, that's a disagreement on working style, not necessarily meaning they are lazy. Rather than view us as entitled, just know that the average millennial wants to be paid their worth, unless a passion comes from volunteering."

Her career advice to millennials:
"Always remember there are multiple paths to the same destination. At the same time keep in mind you can have as many destinations as your heart desires. It's okay to want that for yourself. I was very conflicted about going to college, and not feeling a connection with my overall college experience. I dropped out of school, and kept thinking I would always live paycheck to paycheck if I didn't figure it out. I was fed a lie that I had to suffer in my 20s and 30s to enjoy a financially comfortable life in my middle-aged years. Forget that! Don't be stagnant, always learn from your peers and superiors. Find companies that will be happy to see you grow within their walls, but also happy to see you go when you're ready for the next adventure."

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David Benzaquen
Age: 31, Occupation: Founder and CEO at PlantBased Solutions

What he does:
I run my company, PlantBased Solutions, which is a mission-driven, full-service brand management and marketing agency for businesses producing plant-based goods. We work with companies in a range of industries, including food and beverage, cosmetics, personal care items, and supplements, with companies from pre-revenue startups to mature companies."

How he does it:
"As an entrepreneur and small business owner, every day is different, but they are always very long and very rewarding. I may spend a couple hours planning a market entry strategy for a new food product, review our designers' packaging concepts for another client, and be on the phone with investors to pitch a third. The benefit of working "agency-side" is the freedom to wear different hats all the time."

Why he does it:
"Every time we effectively market or sell a product that is healthier, more sustainable, or more ethically produced, we are taking away market share from businesses that do the opposite. I have spent over half of my life abstaining from the consumption of products which I believe are the source of indefensible cruelty to animals, destruction to our planet, and health crises. My business is a vehicle to celebrate and promote products that offer consumers a better option so they can make compassionate choices, without sacrifice."

How millennial stereotyping makes him feel:
"Millennials are both extremely ambitious and driven, and a little entitled. We believe in being the best version of ourselves, but also are one of the most passionate generations when it comes to social good. These may seem to run counter to each other, but it's this combination that make us take the risk to find creative solutions to the world's greatest challenges."

His advice to better work with millennials:
"Millennials have big dreams and sensitive souls. We know that we can do anything we want, but haven't necessarily developed the institutional knowledge or technical experience to do so. It's important to empower us to realize our potential, while also setting benchmarks and boundaries so we can learn what we don't know, gain real perspective from what works and doesn't works, and combine our creative visions with this new knowledge."

His career advice to millennials:
"Think of your epitaph and what you want people to remember you for. Choose the social issue that you'd most like to change in the world, and then map out how you can use your skills and interests to substantially impact this cause."

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BC Serna
Age: 27, Occupation: Filmmaker and Youth Speaker

What he does:
"I travel the world telling stories of good, inspiration, and hope through film and photography, highlighting organizations and people making a difference. I also take youth around the world to open up their minds and hearts to a greater vision for themselves, and work with at risk youth in my own community. As a youth speaker, I want young people to know about their capabilities of helping, seeing, and discovering the world outside of them."

How he does it:
"I spend half of my time traveling the world either shooting, making films, or playing with local kids, and the other half mentoring and hanging out with high school youth. There's not much down time for a social life or watching tv. I'm never not working on sometime or creating, and have been doing this since I was 19, so I haven't had time to slow down. It's only getting faster."

Why he does it:
"Once being a normal American bubble kid, I was never good at school, ignorant about the world, prioritized sports and pop culture, and had no clue what I was capable of. I figured if I could awaken, transform, and impact people's lives, anyone could. I always wished someone walked into my life when I was younger to show and teach me these things, so now I'm trying to be that person for others."

How millennial stereotyping makes him feel:
"I can see where it stems from in our culture. We definitely highlight the weaknesses and flaws, more than the incredibleness and passion millennials also possess. It's difficult to see, when I know the possibilities and potential for millennials is endless. We are one of the most unique generations in history, and must pass down something greater to the one after us."

His advice to better work with millennials:
"Listen and meet them where they are at. Ask what will help them trust and work better. Be open minded and adaptable. Also ask them what they would do if they were the CEO and how they would run things. Overall we just want to be heard."

His career advice to millennials:
"Let passion be your compass. Also, it is okay to live in seasons of your life. Never think one choice or job is going to last forever. Be open, curious, and try as many things as possible. Seek mentors and wisdom, and ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes."

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Katie Gage
Age: 29, Occupation: Director of Programming at Enstitute

What she does:
"I am currently working to build an apprenticeship program that helps startups hire entry level talent and young adults change their career trajectory by working in growing startup companies and developing marketable skills. Fundamentally, we believe there is a broken pipeline for hiring entry level talent. We search nationwide for talent that has been overlooked by the traditional model and get to know them as a whole person"

How she does it:
"My work life and personal life are really intertwined. I work with people I love, and I'm friends with people I interact with professionally. In terms of a typical day, every day is different, but, I always start the day with my morning coffee and getting centered. I take lots of meetings and calls throughout the day, and find time to process and react to each one, instead of pushing it to the next. I spend a lot of time with people to understand what motivates them, and I lead development workshops. I try to exercise gratitude at night before sleep, reliving parts of my day that were exceptional, and remember to be thankful."

Why she does it:
"I believe people have the power to do amazing things, and sometimes just lack the resources or pathway to maximize their potential. If I can help make those resources or ideas a little more accessible to even just one person every day, I feel good about my contribution to this world. I am all about building authentic and supportive communities. It really lights me up!"

How millennial stereotyping makes her feel:
"Every generation has its unique characteristics and there are entitled people in every generation. Millennials grew up in the age of technology and the on-demand economy, so we expect things to be easy. That said, I think this idea of "entitlement" could be a misunderstanding of our expectation of efficiency. I don't think it's fair to make a sweeping generalization, and at the same time, I feel it's our responsibility as a generation to show it's not true, and to respect and learn from the wisdom of other generations."

Her advice to better work with millennials:
"This is probably applicable to all generations, but open lines of communication are key. A lot of the breakdowns I see in workplaces stem from a lack of understanding or communication on expectations. It's important that everyone is on the same page about where the company is headed and there is a shared understanding of goals and priorities. Also, constant and immediate feedback is essential."

Her career advice to millennials:
"Integrity. No matter what you are working on, do it with integrity. Don't be afraid to be honest and have tough conversations. Companies and projects will come in and go out of your life, but your integrity follows you forever. Exercise curiosity! Listen more than you talk. So many doors have opened for me, because I've been curious about what people are doing and who they are. Don't be afraid to say YES! This is the time to build a life you are proud to live."

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Jared Kleinert
Age: 19, Occupation: Co-Founder of StartsWith Insights and Co-Author of 2 Billion Under 20

What he does:
"My company, StartsWith Insights, helps large organizations work better with Millennials. Why? Because we are millennials, and help people do better business with our generation. 2 Billion Under 20 brings together stories from 75 of the world's smartest and most talented millennials - including olympians, teenage entrepreneurs, singers, actors, scientists, nonprofit founders, and more in order to get young people to act on their passions in life, while helping older generations learn how millennials "tick". The book was a #1 new release in "Business Leadership" and is IBM's "Social Business Book of the Month" for August."

How he does it:
"Every day looks different. I travel a lot and average a flight every 3 or 4 days. My conversations are diverse, and I regularly speak to people from dozens of various industries, geographic locations, and ages. Whether it's developing a book proposal, doing strategy and sales for the consulting firm, recruiting new interns and potential long-term team members, or helping friends with connections, each day is a new set of challenges and to-do list items. I definitely work hard and will put in at least 2 to 4 hours of work on the weekends. We are a generation that can work whenever and wherever, so I take full advantage of that."

Why he does it:
"I have two moon missions in life: get as many people as possible to find and act on their passions in life, and unite these people in solving the world's most pressing problems."

How millennial stereotyping makes him feel:
"I completely disagree, and you could say 2 Billion Under 20 is challenging the media millennial-bashing with the collection of inspiring and advice-delivering stories we've amassed from 75 young people who show that millennials are redefining success, breaking down barriers, and changing the world."

His advice to better work with millennials:
"Working with millennials starts with insights on our generation. Learn more about why we do what we do, how we work, and what trends are representative of our actions, and implement those immediately in your marketing, hiring, and employee retention efforts."

His career advice to millennials:
"Surround yourself with world-class people, including older mentors, peer mentors, and supportive family and friends who will be positivity beacons in your life."

BONUS!

I asked millennial employer and CEO of Post Launch, Geoff Radcliffe, whose company is thriving with millennial workers to share his insights and advice on the topics with other employers. Here is what he had to say.