I was recently out to dinner and I overheard some women speaking about the current youthful generation that has been dubbed the Millennials. I believe one of the woman worked at the nearby college and she was presumably basing everything off of her first-hand knowledge working amongst this group. We’ve all heard these tirades before, perhaps we’ve participated in them or lead them ourselves. It seems that the term Millennial is not often spoken about glowingly, and the term is typically accompanied by an eye roll or two.
The popular opinion of a Millennial in conversation will revolve around words like lazy, self-absorbed and unambitious.
Their reputation implies that they don’t move out of their parents houses because they don’t want to grow up and be adults; they are too busy feeding their addiction to social media to look up and focus on a family and career; they’re so used to getting participation trophies none of them can handle criticism.
I’ve done it too. I have judged young adults when I see them with their faces in their phones or them post too much on social media, sometimes wondering, is nothing sacred with these millennials! But here’s the funny thing, I am a millennial. This generation is estimated to be anyone born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. I was born in 1982 so I fit this mold. I think of myself as a hard worker, I have a family I’m focused on and I have a love-hate relationship with social media. So what’s going on here? It made me want to take a deeper look. What are the characteristics of this generation and is the reputation accurate or do we just enjoy lashing out at the youth.
As I stated before, millennials are anyone born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. Most of them, like myself, were born to baby boomers and are the generation to come after generation X-ers. They were raised during a boom in digital technological development in our world, a time when the internet can give you any bit of information in a matter of seconds and you can carry that exposure in the palm of your hand wherever you go. There are differences between being an older millennial and a younger millennial in how much technology you were exposed to at a young age. I’m on the older side, so I can speak the fact that the internet hit me when I was about 15 years old in a big way, and I witnessed how quickly things can change. The younger side of this generation would have never known the other side and were brought up knowing all of this and it was as normal to browse through YouTube as it is to ride a bike when you’re a kid.
Millennials were majorly impacted by the recession, especially around 2007-2008, when a lot of them are just starting to enter the workforce or are struggling to afford college.
46% of women and 36% of men in the workforce have bachelor’s degrees, this is up about 10% for woman and 7% for men from generation X-ers. The reputation of millennials not moving out of their parents’ house is true, they live with their parents far longer than the generations before them. But there are couple reasons aside from laziness that attribute to these decisions.
One is that they are more likely to solely focus on their education, so if they’re attending college they will live at home while doing that and even live at home after getting post-grad work in order to save up money. They will earn about 205 less than their parents but still save about the same as them for retirement. They also like to travel more so they may be spending money on things they enjoy doing. What they aren’t doing as much of is saving for a family. Millennials are not focused on settling down early and are doing so later in life. They did a survey at The Wharton School of Business asking women if they planned on having children in the future. In 1992, 78% said they wanted kids. They asked again in 2012 and only 42% of women said they wanted kids. Similar results were found when asking the men.
When it comes to jobs baby boomers value a solid work ethic, job stability and compensation for the work they put in. Generation X-ers value an improved work-life balance, along with stability and the ability to individually advance their career. Millennials value work-life balance, stability and integrity in their work. Baby boomers were very work-centric, while family is important and the reason to work, they tended to focus on being at their job and advancing and solidifying that position. The generations that followed still want to work and to keep a steady job, but they don’t want their life to revolve around their job, they want a private life. Generation X-ers started moving in this direction.
Millennials are taking it a little further, they place more value on their life outside of work and desire a way to both work and be there for your family.
They are seeking out jobs that also value this and provide flexibility. They don’t want to put in less work, they just feel that they don’t want to sacrifice their life for a job.
Not only do they want flexibility in their job, but they want to have jobs that make a difference. Millennials are known to take 60% pay cuts in order to switch their career to something that aligns more with their passion or values. I have seen this happen with many of my friends. They will be working the typical 9-5 job in a big city and they will leave to travel half-way across the country to take a job that makes half the money but focuses on something they really care about. In one instance it was a job in environmental protection, in another it was a job that provided a lot of opportunity to travel, both made a lot less than they did in their 9-5 city jobs.
Millennials are more community minded than previous generations. They care more about the environment than ever before and they also donate to causes they care about, either with time or money, more than other age groups. 84% make annual donations and 70% will volunteer their time. The average millennial donates $500 a year to charity. Volunteers in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps is at an all-time high, as are jobs involved in public service.
Millennials do tend to live at home longer than other generations. They may have been slighted by the economy and they’re taking their time to save up money to move out. Student loans have more than doubled in less than 20 years leaving them in debt before getting any work at all. While they do want to get jobs and have stability, they are more adamant about holding out for a job that fits their values and will likely not settle until they find it.
They also aren’t in rush to get there because they’re not in a hurry to make a family if at all. The think of their youth as the time to explore not the time to settle. They want to know who they are before they partner up for the long haul and they don’t think they need to separate what they care about and what they do for a living.
I not only see another side to millennials after looking at this, but I see my side. This is all very true of the people I see around me.
We do live at home longer, we don’t get married until later and we will pursue what makes us feel good about ourselves over a paycheck.
And yes, most of us who went to college are still paying for it into our 30s. And knowing debt in the tens of thousands of dollars would make any young adult hesitant to make larger purchases when you have that hanging over your head.
We can still hassle each other, nobody’s going to take that away from you. I will still bust my father’s chops every time he struggles to put on a show off the DVR and I will still give the side eye every time I see my nephew post something questionable on Facebook. But overall, I feel a bit more hopeful. It is nice to see that although without ample finances this generation is thinking of their neighbors. Perhaps being connected to everyone on social media is not creating a breeding ground for online trolls, but rather producing a community of friends like we had hoped for in the beginning. And I can’t be angry at someone who chooses to go down a career path that is less profitable and more fulfilling. After all, it’s what we were taught growing up, “do what makes you happy.”
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