36. Caitlin Crommett: A millennials’ approach to solving intergenerational differences

Sue Stockdale talks to Caitlin Crommett about the work she is doing to solve intergenerational differences, and in particular, her foundation DreamCatchers, which serves to fulfil the final dreams of hospice patients through chapters run by youth in high school or college.

Caitlin Crommett describes herself as a Millennial. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and a speaker on generations in the workplace. Her interest in generational connection began at age 15, when she started a foundation
called DreamCatchers. She saw a need for greater cross- generational connection- something that is rarely shared between these typically-elderly patients and young people in our society today. This sparked her passion for facilitating greater connection and communication between all generations, in the workplace and in the world.

In 2016, Caitlin published a book called “How to Attract Millennials to Your Workplace: And Actually Keep Us!”, focusing on new techniques and strategies for engaging Millennial employees and volunteers, and has been a guest writer & “generational expert” on several websites and blogs. She runs a Youtube channel called “Generation WHAT?”, where she posts weekly videos helping people and organizations solve generational issues in the workplace. Caitlin has spoken across the country spreading the DreamCatchers mission and sharing strategies for greater generational connection in the workplace, with the hopes of creating a more connected world. She has launched a comprehensive online platform to provide people with a place to improve their workplace culture & productivity through increased generational connection and understanding. She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she as serves as president of DreamCatchers Foundation while growing her speaking business internationally.  Connect with Caitlin at:

Instagram: @CaitlinCrommett @dreamcatchersfoundation
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caitlincrommett/
Linked In DreamCatchers: https://www.linkedin.com/company/40850721
Youtube: https://youtube.com/c/GenerationWhatAcademy
DreamCatchers link: www.dreamcatchers1.org
Pen Pal Initiative: https://connect.dreamcatchers1.org/
Twitter: @caitcrom

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Caitlin Crommett Transcription

Sue: [00:00:00] hello, I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to the access to inspiration podcast. The show where you can get inspiration from people who maybe aren’t like you, we hope their stories and insights enable you to transcend your day-to-day challenges and reflect on what you are capable of achieving. My guest today describes herself as a millennial Caitlin Crommett, who is an amazing young woman who started a foundation DreamCatchers. When she was 15 years old in a bid to provide greater connection between the generations. She’s also published a book, how to attract millennials to your workplace and actually keep us. And I can’t wait to speak to her. Welcome Caitlin.

Caitlin: [00:00:51] Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Sue: [00:00:54] Now, as I say, the millennial generation, it’s something that’s spoken about a lot. Isn’t it? What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the millennial generation?

Caitlin: [00:01:04] Yeah, there’s a lot out there because as you said, there was a lot of talk about millennials and I know it was a big thing a few years ago. And so slowly, I hope some of these misconceptions are being crossed out of the list, but I would say the biggest ones that really still exist to this day are this concept of millennials being really lazy. That’s kind of a big one. They don’t want to work very hard for what they get. So kind of going hand in hand with that, the sense [00:01:30] of entitlement is also a big one. People will call us snowflakes, easily offended by things. And then also the word job hoppers that we like to hop around and not really stick with one job. I think those are some of the big ones that. Especially, I’m hoping now, today are getting to be realized that they’re not actually fully true, but there’s always those stereotypes out there that perpetuate.

Sue: [00:01:54] Well, I think to pick up on one of the things you said there, Caitlin is about people not necessarily being hard workers. One of the things I didn’t mention in your intro, and I’m really interested to find out more about is that 15 years old, you founded a nonprofit foundation dream Catchers. First of all, I’m amazed to find out more about the organization, but at such a young age, what motivated you to found the nonprofit?

Caitlin: [00:02:18] My initial motivation wasn’t necessarily to start a nonprofit that kind of came later. And I never even really had the plans for that, but it was when I was in high school and I had been volunteering at a local hospice in my community and kind of fell in love with the people. If you all have any experience with hospice, do you know they are angels that work there. And I really saw that there was this lack of young people that were also involved in hospice and volunteering, and really just paying attention to these people who are at the end of their lives. And that just didn’t seem right to me. And so it really stemmed from this wanting to do more for this population of people that I felt like they were very much ignored and not really given the attention that you should get when you’re on your [00:03:00] final six months of life. That was the initial motivation behind doing something. And then what exactly I wanted to do came from actually watching a movie.

Sue: [00:03:09] Which movie was that then?

Caitlin: [00:03:10] Well, it was called Patch Adams. I don’t know if you’ve seen it with Robin Williams, but there was a scene in there where Dr. Patch was treating this older woman. And she’s like in her nineties and just not very happy or wasn’t eating and had this pretty negative attitude. And she had mentioned to him offhand, once that she always dreamed of swimming in a pool of spaghetti. And so he remembered that later on when she was not doing so well and actually did that. He filled this massive pool full of cooked spaghetti, and they went swimming in it and it’s like such an Epic. And that was kind of the motivation for doing something for these people who don’t often have that opportunity to get their dream fulfilled, to do something that they really always wanted to do.

Sue: [00:03:54] And how did you then go from having the idea after watching the movie to turning it into reality and engaging other people in being involved?

Caitlin: [00:04:03] Yeah, it was very interesting. I started doing it by myself and with the help of my family. And, and then as I started to grant some of these dreams, I would tell my friends about them and they thought it was so cool and fun. So they wanted to join in. And so I decided to just start a club at my high school. And ended up getting 20 plus people that wanted to be part of it, which kind of surprised me because I thought I was the only weird person that wanted to hang out with old people and do these things for them. [00:04:30] And then we had a couple of newspaper articles written about us and other high schools in the area, picked it up, wanted to do the same thing.

And then it kind of took off from there. And when I was in college, it was something I went around during the whole summer kind of expanding across the country. And that made us become a nationwide organization that we are too today.

Sue: [00:04:49] So how does it work then? Are you recruiting students as volunteers in different parts of the U S to engage in their local areas?

Caitlin: [00:04:56] Yes, exactly. So it basically works. We’re fully intergenerational. And a big part of our mission is that we’re fully run by youth in high school and college. And so young people and their schools can start a club just like I did, and partner with a local hospice and fulfill the end of life dreams of those patients.

And we support them along the way, get them all the materials to do so. That’s kind of a big part of it is connecting young people to older people that they don’t often get to connect because, you know, maybe we have our grandparents, but other than that, we don’t really get to interact with this generation so much older than us, and we’re not given, I don’t think enough opportunities to do so.

So that was the big part of it that I felt was very necessary for dream catchers to continue is that it’s fully run by students.

Sue: [00:05:43] So it sounds like a fantastic foundation Caitlin and that opportunity to connect those two generations together. Have you had any request yet for the pool of spaghetti from any of those hospice patients?

Caitlin: [00:05:53] No. I wish that’s always been my dream, but now we have that. We had a lot of pretty [00:06:00] intense ones, but like a hot air balloon ride and things like that, but no spaghetti pool.

Sue: [00:06:07] And was it through founding dream catchers that got you interested in this multi-generational dimension? Or was there something else?

Caitlin: [00:06:15] Yes, that was primarily what got me interested in it because I was seeing the impact that these interactions had on people, my age and younger and how it made people’s perceptions change, because I know, especially on the older adult side, They would interact with these young people. And so many people would come to me after and be like these young people renewed my faith in our future generations. I completely thought they were a bunch of losers basically until I met them and now everything has changed. And so it showed me that it can be literally one interaction that can be the turning point for someone. To think differently about another entire generation, which kind of blew my mind because it’s so powerful when you have these stereotypes and perceptions and misconceptions, that guide the way you think about a certain generation and it can be very harmful for different relationships going forward.

If you don’t work to figure out the truth behind it, or the understanding behind it. So that was a motivation and I wanted to figure out how I could help people see that more clearly and understand each other better without having to necessarily have this big interaction or experience

Sue: [00:07:25] If you are working with organizations and people of all generations. [00:07:30] What are some of the things that you help people to become aware of? Both ways. I imagine so helping the old generations understand the younger generation, and vice-versa

Caitlin: [00:07:40] Theres definitely a lot of work with organizations or companies essentially around this concept of disconnection in their workplaces, because there is a lot of that misunderstanding, like I said, which creates this counter productivity because people aren’t getting along or they don’t even want to talk to each other because they’re so frustrated by them.

And there’s this negative culture that brews because of it. So. A lot of what we discussed is really, we always start with just primary understanding of generations and really getting to know them. And I think that’s the most important thing is just understanding where they came from, why they’re like this, because generations are usually certain ways because of the world they grew up in and how it’s so different over time. And so that’s where the understanding begins. And then we move into things like communication. Where are the roadblocks, where the disconnects there, the ways that different generations like to be motivated, like to deal with conflict, those types of things that are just really. Company-wide in a lot of areas and it just takes a small understanding to get over them and to get through them.

Sue: [00:08:46] Can you give us some examples of what some of those things are?

Caitlin: [00:08:49] Yeah. Sure. So let’s see. I would say that communication, for example, a lot of times what we’ll do in retreats that I’ll run is we’ll go around [00:09:00] and people will go into groups based on their primary preferred method of communication.

And they’ll get to see like, Oh, Hey, no wonder you never returned my phone calls. You hate phone calls, you’re in the email category. And so we kind of get them to see that. And then from there. I give them methods of bridging the gap, like different platforms you can use to accommodate all those different communication preferences and then getting them to just talk through it.

Like, Hey, I won’t answer the phone after 5:00 PM. A lot of people will say, or like, I don’t text at work, certain things where it’s like, that’s where that disconnect lies and just uncovering that amongst their teams and just realizing it helps them to get past it.

Sue: [00:09:41] So in a way by people being curious about the other generation, as opposed to judgmental, it can help to break down those perceived stereotypes.

Caitlin: [00:09:53] Totally. Yeah. That’s a great way of putting it. I really wish more people would be curious versus judgemental because I’ve read some different studies that are pretty crazy, that say. Literally one simple interaction. One conversation can completely destroy any age-ism that exists between people. If that’s all it takes, you know, why aren’t we doing that?

Why aren’t we having more of those interactions just to break down those perceptions that are very often untrue and come from maybe one negative thing that happened to them or they witnessed. But it’s kind of moved into this larger problem. So [00:10:30] yeah, the curiosity is key and the willingness to learn about others versus being caught in this ‘horse blinders’ type of mentality.

Sue: [00:10:40] If you’re enjoying this episode, we’ll take a look at our back catalog, where we have featured other guests who have set up organizations, making a social impact. Including episode 31 Anne Pleun van Eijsden, who founded paper on the rocks; episode, 17 Virginia Goethals with RUN Hong Kong; Episode 14, with Emilia Lin who founded Saga. To ensure you don’t miss any of the episodes of access to inspiration. Go on over to our website, access to inspiration.org and you will see a sign up box for our newsletter at the foot of the homepage. In some of those conversations that you’ve had with people in the hospice, through your foundation, Caitlin, what are the things that are really mattering most to people at the end of their lives?

Caitlin: [00:11:27] It’s been super interesting. Cause I always thought I was starting this as a kid. I was like, Oh, I’d want to go to Hawaii or Disneyland or whatever it is. And it’s really never like that. Especially because obviously a lot of most hospice patients are elderly. So they’re this older generation and it’s really about being around people that they love.

And we’ve gotten so many dreams that are literally just like, I want a dinner with my whole family. I want a family reunion and it’s almost heartbreaking that that is not already [00:12:00] happening. That that’s not just a given, but in our society, you know, in America, especially we’re very much youth focused and we want to stay young forever and anti-aging, and once you’re old, you’re worthless kind of a thing.

And so we’re trying to change that mentality because these people have so much to offer. And in a lot of other cultures, like a lot of Asian cultures, I know do. Have the right mindset of respecting your elders and really caring for them and giving them that attention and focus because they’ve done so much, but we often forget that here in America.

And so we found that that is actually pretty eye-opening for the students to realize like, Hey, it’s not about. This big, crazy experience that I want. It’s literally about sitting down, telling my stories, wanting to connect with my family or my friends. And a lot of times what they value most is those simple conversations of like, somebody wants to hear about my life because I’ve had so many of those where I’ve just sit down for hours and talk to someone because no one else will. And that’s what really matters to them is passing that along and showing them that someone cares.

Sue: [00:13:07] I imagine that’s a really moving experience. And for those listeners that have been keeping a track of Access to inspiration for a while, it’s probably useful to say that one of our previous guests connected us Caitlin, Emilia Lin, because of course her Saga podcast service that she provides for her customers is also catering to a similar marketplace where people want to share their family stories.

Caitlin: [00:13:28] Exactly. [00:13:30] Yeah. And we’re actually partnered with them. So it’s been really cool to have our students use her platform to help share those stories and help collect those legacies. Really.

Sue: [00:13:38] So if a wonderful way of connecting modern technology with the older generation.

Caitlin: [00:13:44] Exactly. I think that’s been really cool. And we’ve seen this year during the pandemic and what’s been going on, it’s been cool to see the silver lining, which for us has been young people wanting to connect with older people. We’ve had more requests than ever before to join our chapters to get involved because people are finally seeing like, Hey, this vulnerable population, as we’ve dubbed them during this time needs us and needs our protection needs our support needs our service. And so they’ve stepped up, which has been cool to see.

Sue: [00:14:17] Wonderful. Just coming back to some of the misconceptions that we talked about right at the get go of the conversation. I was minded to reflect on Malcolm Gladwell, author of a tipping point in many other great books and podcasts. He talks about people having 10,000 hours of experience to have a degree of expertise around a particular area. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are about with the millennials generation, having an increased expectation of progressing through their career path, quickly wanting to make an impact quickly. How do you see that stacking up against what he’s saying? For example, around 10,000 hours of experience?

Caitlin: [00:14:56] Yeah. That’s a really great point. Cause I love that concept and [00:15:00] I think it is so important to if you do get that amount of time to spend, I mean, you’re going to be an expert at anything, so. I think it’s been interesting to see because this generation and the upcoming generation generation Z we’ve been raised with so much technology that makes things so quick.

And so we’ve been able to learn things very quickly and pick up on things very quickly that often times before might have taken a little bit longer. And so I think this concept of first of all, instant gratification with which I think our generations, these two youngest generations have. A problem with that because we expect that instant gratification from everything.

So we also expect that from our careers and our jobs, and it’s like, we’ve been here a month. Why are we not CEO? You know, it’s definitely, I think something that our generations need to learn to put in that time, but also I think it’s become more possible to. Learn things very quickly and pick up on things very quickly.

I think we’ve also seen a lot of young people get very, very successful, very, very early, and all of those examples of that, like these crazy founders that are multimillionaires and billionaires by the time they’re 30. And they’re like, that is the people we see and we aspire to be. And so with that in our heads, It makes it hard to want to sit around and wait till we’re 40 plus or whatever it is. And so I think that’s proving to be where a lot of disconnect lies in. A lot of workplaces is like these older people who’ve been there for so [00:16:30] long trying to bridge the fact that younger people want to be managers and supervisors quickly. And I think it’s something our generation needs to definitely learn to put in that time. But I also think that we’ve been able to adapt with technology and learn things. Quickly and make it work. So there’s just kind of that disconnect that will take some bridging for sure.

Sue: [00:16:54] You’re making me think about it would be a very interesting bit of research to actually go to those successful multimillionaires that have made their money by their thirties. Then what do they follow you? Because I suspect that over a period of time, maybe they also realize that the value is in family and connections and friendships. So whilst we all aspire often for that material success, certainly as a executive coach, the leaders that I work with who’ve achieved success in organizations sometimes are actually asking themselves, what is everything about, what is this money worth? If I don’t have friendships, I don’t have a life outside of work. So I think there’s somewhere connection between both of those things.

Caitlin: [00:17:33] I think so, too. Yeah. And it’s crazy. Cause you sometimes think about all of this wisdom like that, that I think comes with age early on in life. You’re like working hard and that’s the only thing that matters. And then later you’re like, Oh, I shouldn’t have not seen my family for five years because I was working so hard and. I think that’s a big part of connecting the generations is so that we can teach each other these things that you might not come upon yourself and try and spread that wisdom if you [00:18:00] will. Which I think is a lot of times why I really try and push mentorship programs in workplaces and just getting people to connect on a deeper level, because there’s so many lessons there that I think we could all really benefit from at a younger age.

Sue: [00:18:14] So where do you see your foundation heading and developing in the future? Caitlin. And what’s next for you?

Caitlin: [00:18:19] Well, great question. It’s always a mystery, but as far as for Dreamcatchers, my dream for dream catchers is that we ultimately are national international. I hope that every state in the U S can have a dream catchers chapter, have an opportunity. Every hospice patient has the opportunity to have their dream fulfilled and that worry is recognizable as something like Make-A-Wish.

For example, since we do a similar thing just with other side of the population, so that’s my dream for dream catchers and that we can just provide a dream for anyone who has that desire at the end of their lives. And for me that we are still figuring out I’m still. Running dream catchers and I’m speaking. And I would love ultimately to really just continue on this journey of. Creating greater generational connection nationwide, internationally. It’s always going to be important to have this understanding across generations. And I think it’s an issue that will go on for a while and I think it’ll be important to learn each new generation.

So for me, I hope to continue doing that and having dream catchers too. You really [00:19:30] connect young people early on in life. And then. Getting to be a voice in companies and organizations that need that greater connection.

Sue: [00:19:40] So it sounds like there’s a lot of opportunity out there for you as you go forward. You’ve reminded me of, I know, I think it’s in the Netherlands where they have a home, it’s a kind of retirement home for mature people and they also have a nursery connection with it. So you have that physical space or both of those generations connecting.

Caitlin: [00:19:57] Yeah, I love that. And there are also some that it’s like college students will live with older people and help take care of them for free room and board or something where it’s, you’re all connected and building this community. And I think we really need more of that because surprisingly, we’re extremely aged segregated in our countries. Right now. We put young people in school and then we have our old people in nursing homes and retirement communities. And there’s not a lot of that overlap. So I think those. Communities where you can foster that connection are so critical to starting that understanding early on and just getting past these gaps that we have.

Sue: [00:20:33] Well, I think you’re a great beacon to spread the message Caitlin. I wish you well as your journey progresses. And I hope that listeners that are interested to learn more from you to get in touch with you. Hey, might they be able to do that on social media? Yes,

Caitlin: [00:20:45] for sure. I would say Instagram, our dream catchers foundation is our handle spelled how it sounds. And then for me, my Instagram is just Caitlin Crommett. So I’m sure that’s going to be somewhere where you can see how to spell it, but those are my handles. That’s probably the [00:21:00] best way because all the other information is on there.

Sue: [00:21:03] Well, we’ll put it all in our show notes and people to get in touch with you young or old, to share their insights and experience and find out how you can help them. So, thanks for your time today, Caitlin, it’s been fantastic to speak to you.

Caitlin: [00:21:15] Yes. This has been so fun. Thank you, Sue. It’s been an absolute joy.

Sue: [00:21:20] I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Caitlin. And she gave me a few reminders about how to communicate with people who may come from a different generation to me. What did she inspire you to think about differently? Next week? I will be speaking to Sameer Dua, an expert in the field of management and leadership education. Sameer  s a founder of the Institute for generative leadership in India. And chief curator of the India business literature festival. I look forward to connecting with you again there.

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