Millennials are often thought of in an unflattering light. Regrettably, this generational segment has been at the receiving end of generalizations—the unproductive, the narcissist and the self-entitled. These descriptions, if not sweeping, maybe downright naïve. We would argue that if there is a portrayal that best fit Millennials, it is their refusal to accept labels. Refusal to conform to any kind of stereotype has enabled this generation to break a lot of barriers. And this is just one of the many things that the Millennials are doing right.
Who are the Millennials?
The Millennials are the next definitive generational group after Generation X. Experts and demographers have yet to arrive at a consensus as to what year a generation starts and ends. However, Pew Research sets the cutoff point for the Millennials as those who were born from 1981 to 1996. The title “Millennial” was first used in 2000 by authors Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book titled Millennials Rising. Besides the signature label, this generation was also referred to as the Gen Y, Echo Boomers, Peter Pan Generation and the Me Generation.
There are currently 83 million Millennials in the US whose age range falls between 22 to 37 years old. According to the Pew Research Center, they became the largest generation in the labor force in 2016. Their number has become so significant that more than one-in-three American workers are a millennial. Moreover, by 2025, they are projected to make up 75% of the workforce.
The coming of age of Millennials coincided with the major developments in internet and digital technology. Along with the Gen Xers, the Millennials were the first group to grow up with computers at home. Their concept of connectedness and belongingness appears to be highly dependent on these technologies.
Preparing the Millennials
The older generation’s doubt towards the Millennials is a relatively natural reaction. The boomers harbored the same skepticism towards the Gen Xers thirty or so years ago. However, compared to the earlier generational groups, they enjoy better resources and incentives. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, the Millennials have the highest percentage rate of completing at least a bachelor’s degree between the ages of 18 to 33. This data is also consistent with another study of young workers in the US. Four in ten between 25 to 29 years old had at least a bachelor’s degree. GenX follows at 32%, the Boomers with 26% and the Silents (people born between 1925 to 1945) with just 16%. This has earned the Millennials the title “the most educated generation.”
Known as the better-informed generation, more than six in ten Millennials state that they keep track of news via the television. Fifty-nine percent do their own research on news stories and events.
The Millennials have easier access to technology and are found to be heavy users of social media compared to other generations. About 80% of 18 to 29-year old’s utilize social media. Primarily, Millennials use social media to connect with family members and friends. However, they learned to harness the power of this tool for businesses and entrepreneurship. 65% of small-business owners under 30 use social media for customer service and to keep in touch with the consumer. 53% percent of young small-business owners use social media for prospecting new customers. It is easy to concur that the Millennials are using social media to their advantage.
Millennials are on the Right Track
This generation will continue to blaze new trails and reach greater heights by harnessing their youthful energy and maximizing their resources. Here are some of the things that the Millennials are currently doing right:
1) In Business and Corporate World
Past generations dreamed of becoming doctors, astronauts, and lawyers. The Millennials are set on charting their own course. A survey conducted by Bentley University revealed that only 13% of the respondents aspire to climb the corporate ladder. This is in contrast with the two-thirds of the respondents stating that their goal is to start their own business. With this mindset, it sets them apart from the other generations as the most entrepreneurial.
Millennials are also known to be an innovative and radical generation. This is the generation that upturned a lot of conventions. They challenged traditional business models and introduced new ones. They brought us the sharing economy, the gig economy and redefined the future of work.
2) Societal and Cultural Shifts
What do the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and Me Too social movements have in common? They are inspired and supported by Millennials. Creating societal impact and supporting causes for the greater good are essential to this generation. In a study conducted by Achieve, titled The 2017 Millennial Impact Report, their engagement in social causes seems to intensify. In this same study, they were found to be responsive to social causes and issues even if it doesn’t have a direct benefit to them. This stems from a more tolerant, less prejudicial and more liberal attitude.
3) Their Impact on Politics
The Millennials were the strongest supporters of Barack Obama in 2008 with a ratio of 2-in-3 voters (66%). Moreover, during this election, the voter participation of the younger group was seen as the highest since 18- to 20-year-olds gained the right to vote in 1972. These numbers were in stark contrast to the 2016 elections exit polls. Based on 24,558 respondents, only 36% of voters within the same age group voted for Trump. Moreover, voter turnout was seen as its lowest for the last 20 years at 55.4%. Indeed, the Millennials and their strong 83 million population can show how effective they are in initiating political impact and change through their collective efforts.
4) Family and Relationships
Being comfortable around technology, Millennials find it easier to maintain their lines of communication. They are most effective at harnessing technology; bringing family and friends together through the use of digital technology and social media. For a millennial who also harbors an insatiable wanderlust, calling mom back home while backpacking across Asia is easy.
Additionally, Millennials are seen to marry much later in life than the previous generations. They proceed with more caution and care when it comes to serious, lifelong relationships. These couples spend more time to get to know their partners before tying the knot. Experts say that millennial couples delay marriage in order to establish a stronger foundation and avoid divorce.
This generation continues to fascinate experts and scholars. This group has been studied and scrutinized because of their key characteristics and the social impact that they make. However, it is worth mentioning that generations are shaped by a confluence of factors. Technological advances, life experiences and influences of the previous generation all contribute to a generation’s defining characteristics. Indeed, the traits that distinguish the Millennials from the other generational groups are beyond their control. But the responsibility to harness the strengths of the Millennials for the society’s greater good, rests upon those who came before them.