In many cases, the millennial generation has been forced to grow up way too fast, thanks to the ever-evolving social media phenomenon. What used to be back and forth AIM messages at 2AM while your parents were sleeping has quickly morphed into full-fledged profiles aiming to show the world detailed versions of exactly who you are—or in many cases, who you aspire to be.
As a whole, millennials are characterized as self-absorbent, especially when it comes to online presence. However, there are two specific types of social media obsessions worth distinguishing between: Aimlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed for 4+ hours a day, gaining no knowledge from wasted time is one thing, but using social platforms to meticulously plan out a future career is another case entirely—one I strongly believe we shouldn't discourage in the design world.
Case in point: Aspiring sneaker designer Nigel Langley Jr landed a job at adidas' new Brooklyn-based Creator Farm at just 17 years old, making him the youngest sneaker designer currently in the industry. That's no easy task, considering most sneaker designers go through years of schooling before even landing an interview.
Enter a caption (optional)
Scrolling through Langley's Instagram feed makes sneaker enthusiasts like myself drool, but what sets the young designer apart is his work behind the scenes. Langley spent time reaching out to designers he admired through Instagram's Direct Message feature. Thanks to these efforts, Langley was able to get in contact with (controversial) adidas VP, Marc Dolce. Langley's initial message in 2015 eventually warranted sound advice from Dolce, encouraging the young designer to pursue his dreams by way of footwear specific education:
Dolce's grammar needs some serious work, but what a lovely message!
Langley also took Dolce up on his offer too meet after a course the VP was teaching at Pratt Institute, and the rest was history. Now 18 years old, Langley works at adidas' Brooklyn Creative Farm while simultaneously attending Parsons School of Design.
As designers potentially seeking fresh talent for their firms, it's important to remember there is an abundance of young designers out there paving the way for themselves through personal social channels in a positive way. While self-absorbed tendencies are a negative trait of the millennial generation, at least the majority of us understand how to market ourselves online.
So, if you're an employer looking for talent from younger generations, it may be time to exit your LinkedIn tab and focus your attention on image-based social platforms like Instagram. Weed through the aimless social media zombies, reach out to kids actually exhibiting potential, and maybe you'll find the next Nigel Langley Jr of your industry.
And if you're a millennial designer reading this, keep doin' your thing—productively, that is.
Designers, we're curious to hear your thoughts on the millennial generation in the design workplace and ways that you go about searching for new talent—please share your experiences with us in the comments section.
Emily is a freelance writer based in NYC with an interest in all things design, specifically the design process. When she's not writing about design, Emily can either be found taking care of her 31 houseplants, going on "nature" walks in her neighborhood or studying Japanese. Before going freelance, Emily was an Editor at Core77.