Generation Y has been quite consistently present in the media in the recent years. There are a lot of conceptions and misconceptions of who this generation is, what their values are and what can we expect from them when they become full grown adults. This article intends to tackle and deconstruct many buzzwords and thoughts surrounding the Millennials in order to come to the very core of this generation.
Millennials were born between the early 1980s and 2000s and are following the Generation X, which was born in the 1960s and 70s and the Baby Boom Generation born after the WWII. The generational gaps are often big and significant therefore, clashes often arise.
The Baby Boomers are mostly connected to the revaluation of traditional values, general wealth and consequently consumerism. This generation was at it’s peak very active and hard working, had many prospects and believed that the world will become better with time. In terms of the workplace they strongly believed in hard work, dedication and loyalty.
Later on came the Generation X, which was in the 70s and 80s categorized by their preceding generation as lazy and materialistic, but is now described as active, highly educated, balanced and family oriented. This generation is signified by the “work hard, play hard” mentality. They question authority to a bigger extend that their preceding generation and hence, they tend to fight against dictatorship and abuse and value human rights, tolerance and diversity.
With time, the Generation X started having children with a quite enthusiastic parenting style and are now also known as Cheerleading parents to the Millennials. This means that they are strong supporters of what their child does and they enjoy giving them many compliments on the way. These children now span from early teenagers to early 30-somethings and are soon-to-be world leaders. However, they are often described as lazy and entitled which in theory gives small hope for the future of our society, but are the criticisms really justified?
The social and collective understanding of this generation was well described by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, who coined the term “emerging adulthood”. The latter has its roots in the social creation of adolescence at the turn of the 20th century. With it developed a deeper understanding of teenagers, their bodily changes and challenges they are faced with, giving children more time to grow psychologically. Nowadays, with the emerging adulthood, this developing period has been extended to people in their 20s. However, this period is for now, nothing more than a social construct, as it is not universal and is usually not applicable to young people who do not go to University. There are still many who skip this decade-long explorative stage, get a job and find a partner in their 20s, as was common in the preceding generations.
Robin Marantz Henig, a writer for the New York Times, researched the percentage of people reaching the 5 most important milestones that a person in their 20 is expected to reach. These milestones include completing school, leaving home, being financially independent, getting married and having a child. Henig found that in the 1960 65% of men and 77% of women have reached all of the milestones in their 20s. This number decreased to a 33% of men and about 50% of women reaching the milestones in 2000. In another perspective this means that a typical 25 year old in the 1970s has achieved about the same as an average 30 year old in 2001.
Some say that the concept of emerging adulthood is only an excuse for youth to stay longer with their parents without having to grow up, however this is a big simplification of the current phenomenon.
The USA National Institute of Mental Health discovered that the brain actually grows until the age of 25, meaning that youth today is, probably for the first time in human history, given enough time to develop accordingly with their brain.
Furthermore, technology and societies have been subjected to substantial change during the past decades. The technological improvements in the field of reproduction have managed to prolong women’s fertility, meaning many women decide to have a child after 30, when a steady income in a respectable job is guaranteed. This has caused an increase in gender equality, which defies the traditional “boy meets girl” narrative where the two partners create a nuclear family and the women become absent from the work place. In fact, with the general acceptance of birth control and pre-sex cohabitation, a new marriage model has evolved, where love, equality and mutual respect is crucial. Both partners wish to have aspiring careers with financial security, causing also more equal responsibilities in domestic work. Hence, people take more time in the search for the “right one” and therefore go through more partners than before. This does not, however, bring instability, as one might think, but rather the opposite. In fact, divorce rates have been declining for more than thirty years now, with only 17% of American marriages entered in the 1990s and 2000s ending in divorce.
Moreover, the Millennials are, thanks the emerging adulthood concept and cheerleading parents, enabled and encouraged to spend time discovering themselves and the world surrounding them. Millennials are moving out of their parents house relatively late, but are not seen as a nuisance, but as friends and most parents state that they enjoy having their child around and are happy to give their child time to develop (especially because many parents believe that they were rushed or that they did it too soon).
Millennials are happy with receiving advice from their parents and probably even happier when receiving money. Parents of the Millennials are giving their child as much as 10% of their income. This is not only causing their children to live a comfortable life, but also social classes are becoming more entrenched and less fluid. Nevertheless, this will probably change within a decade, when most of the Millennials will enter the workforce and will have to rely on their own finances.
In the workplace Millennials are often described as entitled, spoiled with poor work ethic and little respect for authority. But this is often a misconception, as the biggest problem lies in the lack of intergenerational dialog. When Millennials are seen as lazy and not cooperative, it is important to keep in mind that their style of work is very different. They are great at multitasking, finding shortcuts and diverse ways of approaching the subject. They might be able to improve the work style just by knowing what the latest technology offers. It is not that they do not have respect for authority, they are just used to raising questions, challenging the status quo and need a certain degree of autonomy in their work. Their work ethics is not poor, they do, however, believe in working smarter, not harder. They are known for working well in groups, having strong independent minds and responding well to constructive criticism.
Millennials tend to be less loyal than the preceding generation, but what else can be expected in an economy which has let them down as they were ready to enter the workforce. Most of the Millennials left universities overeducated, under-qualified and often with large student debt. The rates of youth unemployment has increased substantially with the recession and most Millennials have to deal with having little income, doing short time jobs and struggling for independence. On the other hand, this makes them very fluid, open minded and diverse in their abilities, as the average Millennial switches between 7 jobs in their 20s.
Creative Artists Agency Intelligence Group researched values Millennials tend to have workwise and found that more than a half of them wants to make the world a better place. There is no need for a strict separation of work from one’s personal life which was common only a few years ago. The very language spoken in the workplace is being subjected to change. The majority of Millennials wish to have a flexible work schedule which integrates well into their lives, as they believe in finding work that is rewarding and inspiring.
In this concern, Millennials are very used to hearing “follow your passion” when on the road to self-actualization, a phrase that is nothing more than just that when it’s not applied to realistic goals. When we start to explore what this phrase means in different contexts and what it consists from, we can start gaining a deeper understanding of the matter.
Scott Dinsmore, a career change strategist, conducted a research using a sample of entrepreneurs and employers from 158 countries in order to find out if people following their passion are truly more satisfied in the workplace. He found that only 20% of people actually enjoy what they do and identified three factors, crucial for finding your way to success. One has to identify his or her unique strengths, values and experiences. This means finding what you are really good at and what you have to offer to others and then pursuing that passion, while deriving from your values and past experiences. The former is important in order to stay true to what you believe in and the latter offers a good overview of your life’s teaching moments, which can be invaluable gains. Remember, most entrepreneurs fail many times before getting their big break.
In addition, it is important to realize that not every passion is supposed to be work, some are, perhaps unfortunately, meant to stay hobbies. In this regard, try pursuing something that is in the service of your community, as it is the relationship between them and you that determines the feeling you have about the world around you. Be innovative and different, but also be inclusive and accepting of others.
This mentality is something that is already quite present in the minds of Generation Y. Their top values include being helpful and valued members of the society and being a good spouse or partner. Hence, the most important values for Millennials are all non-monetary goals, which could be attributed to difficult economic times and youth orienting themselves towards things within their control.
Most importantly, Millennials have a lot to teach other generations, as they are masters at multitasking and knowing how to do more with less. This generation is all about inclusiveness and sharing, as more and more people tend to share everything from cars to apartments. They are also so called “digital nomads”, as they are able to do work with as little as having their phone with them. This means they can be efficient practically anywhere in the world, given that the place has Wi-Fi.
The realization that every generation in their 20s was once called lazy and entitled is crucial for non-bias understanding of the Millennials. They are mostly still growing up, meaning their style of socialization and work is bound to change as they will get more work and life experiences. They have, however, been called masters of change, as they are the generation who blurred the lines of learning, working and simply having fun. They are able to stay in touch at all times and can achieve great things with almost nothing.
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