Society paints a poignant picture of the Millennial culture. Hordes of young adults with their faces planted firmly in their electronic devices, wandering aimlessly in the street with their triple upside-down caramel macchiato in hand, searching for their next available Wi-Fi. The generation is stereotyped by hashtags, man buns, vibrant colors and fanny packs migrating towards the next music concert in the high desert after they’re done moving back in with their folks.
But is this the outlier, or the norm of the millennial generation?
Perhaps these iconic symbols are attributed to them not because of their accuracy, but because of their ostentatious nature. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the less flashy Gen Y’s are graduating from college, climbing the corporate ladder, and making a difference in the world. Millennials or Generation Y, are individuals born from the early 1980s to around the year 2000. They have been branded with the stigma of being lazy, unmotivated or expecting the world to be handed to them without having to lift a finger.
Millennial are 80 million (US) strong, surpassing the Baby Boomers as the biggest generation in American history… And just like Gen X and the Baby Boomers, a generation should not be defined by the behaviors of a portion of their numbers. Mark Zuckerberg, you may have heard of him? He co-founded the largest social media company in history when he was a sophomore in College. He’s now living in Silicon Valley and is worth just shy of 60 billion dollars.
Mark was unimpressed with the current social media platforms. He was impatient and wanted something bigger, something more clean, simplistic and beautiful. Something that would elegantly connect the world at a click of a button, and thus Facebook was born.
This trait of impatience is a common denominator among many millennials; the drive to want something more, and to get it faster. Unfortunately, (and I can relate), the impatience is usually coupled with a lack of direction. So, the energy and eagerness to succeed and better oneself is spooled up with no outlet. This spawned the occurrence and popularity of the “quarter life crisis.”
It’s easy to misinterpret this eagerness as entitlement…
After years of working in the coffee and food service industry, I entered the corporate environment at 21. The stigma of the Gen Y’s was just gaining strength at that point, as the “damn millennials” were graduating from college and were landing jobs in the real world. Even though a few employees called in with the “vodka flu” now and then, the IT department was run by a 21-year-old who never missed work, and never finished college. He was self-taught and self-motivated to succeed and better the company.
Years after the small software company, and entering my 30s, I joined an Aeronautical company that encourages and recruits high school and college interns. The upcoming years will see a major shift in the average age of the workforce, with a large percentage of the workforce aging out into retirement, and the increased importance of backfilling positions with talent that can pick up on things quickly.
The interns I worked with were excited and eager to jump in and learn, effortlessly innovating tools and solutions the regular employees hadn’t thought of, to make work more efficient. But, the second the interns run out of things to do, they turn to YouTube or their phones as a distraction, having never been guided to stay active and ask for more. The lack of direction is a learning opportunity, not a reason for flash judgment.
Reinforcing the importance of time management and responsibility to young adults will help establish the credibility of the workforce of the future.
One of my co-workers and friends at work is in his early 20’s. He started as an intern at the company, worked his way into a full-time engineering position, created a new system that is being incorporated into various sectors of the organization, and in his free time he organizes the group’s social program and encourages team engagement. Yeah, I am definitely beginning to see it now, “damn millennials”. Of course, there is a percentage of the millennial generation that is far less motivated to excel than the few I’ve mentioned. Perhaps this is due to upbringing, not being properly challenged, or simply a personality trait. It would probably be a shock to realize that someday money and an occupation will be needed to provide for yourself.
In a recent study by Forbes, it was concluded that Millennials make around 20% less money than their parents did at the same stage in life. This means that the “American Dream” is less attainable for Generation Y than any previous generation in history. Millennials have greater difficulty purchasing real estate and are often times burdened with student debt that they will be paying off for the majority of their lives. These financial hardships should be taken into consideration when observing the behaviors of the generation.
The age of “YouTube” stars have also shifted the work expectations of the generation. If someone can get rich with cat videos or unwrapping boxes and showing off what’s inside, why should anyone have to work a minimum wage job anymore? With all the conflict and tension in the world these days, the mission should be a simple one: Work together.
Let’s work to reshape the perception of the millennial and their worth ethic.
No matter your upbringing or generation, working together with your peers of all ages will enable us to teach as well as learn, motivate and guide our peers and employees, as well as offers the opportunity to mentor your employees and coworkers. Put in a hard day’s work, but at the end of the day, don’t stop dreaming. Millennials, Baby boomers and whatever the follow-on generations are termed should continue to shoot YouTube videos, write your bestselling novel (even if only your parents buy it), and record the next hit song. Although not a millennial, Steve Jobs helped inspire the generation and offered the sound advice that people of all ages can get behind: Dream bigger.