Special assistant to the president. Chief of staff. Senior administration official. Visualize the people in an Administration or on Capitol Hill who have these jobs. If you did not immediately summon to mind a millennial, it is time to adjust your thinking.
Political millennial power brokers are already decision-makers, and we will be for the foreseeable future.
President Donald Trump had millennials in critical senior staff roles throughout his entire time in office. It is a near certainty President-Elect Joe Biden will appoint millennials to even more critical posts in his first term. The dynamic carries over to Capitol Hill. In the 116th Congress, 62 percent of House leadership and committee staffers and 42 percent of House chiefs of staff were 37 years old or younger. A whopping 86 percent of legislative directors in the House were millennials. It is 100 percent clear that millennials now advise our nation’s elected leaders every day on every legislative and regulatory issue.
The Biden transition is up and running. The Trump administration is winding down. The composition of Congress is changing. These dynamics will lead to massive job movement in the months ahead on the Hill, in the administration and in the private sector. When the dust settles, it would be a safe bet that millennials will hold more senior-level positions across the federal government than ever before.
Millennials are natural power brokers because we know America’s future will be defined by what we do. Crises and consequences have shaped our lives without our say. We are the last generation to have existed in an America before 9/11 – our first crisis. For younger millennials, it was their first real memory. For many of us, it defined our formative years and our earliest views of the world. The next crisis was the 2008 financial meltdown. Millennials faced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression as we entered the job market for the first time. Millennials could not control any outcomes in the aftermath of these crises, but we were shaped enormously by their effects.
It has been a game of catch-up with previous generations ever since. It’s a game we would have a tough time winning if we did not take agency. Now, with mounting crises all around us – COVID-19, economic fallout, social and racial inequity – millennials are stepping up to confront our circumstances and influence the outcomes impacting our futures.
We have more access to information and consume it across more channels than any generation has ever had before. We work collaboratively to get things done. We are outward-looking and exercising power by leveraging our interconnected networks and spheres of influence. Millennial power brokers are defining politics and government much like we have in other sectors. We are not waiting for an invitation to a seat at the table. From tech to finance to media and yes, politics and government, we are pulling up a chair and making decisions.
Anyone developing plans to advance legislative and regulatory priorities should consider that reality carefully. There should already have a millennial power-broker strategy in place. If there is not, now is not the time to delay. Influencing them may present new challenges, and while traditional lobbying remains necessary, it may prove insufficient.
Millennials are poised to accumulate more political, legislative and regulatory power than ever before. Folks should look around their organizations. Is there a millennial power broker on the team? If so, empower them. If not, act quickly to address that need. Millennial power brokers are on the move.
Adam Weiss is a founding partner at FIO360 – a public affairs firm – and has advised associations, labor unions, political candidates, political party committees, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies.
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