Millennials: How and Why We're Different


What does the future hold for Millennials? That’s all anyone seems to be talking about. Just last week, Tracy Moore of Jezebel told us not to worry about anything. In her comforting column that both chastised and patronized us, she let us know that everything was going to be absolutely fine. The Daily Beast's Megan McArdle isn’t so sure about that. On March 27, she wrote about our dismal job prospects and how our college degrees would be laid to waste. Every article about Millennials seems to address the wrong question or examine the issue from the wrong angle. Millennials are not going to follow the same path as the generations that came before us. Contrary to popular thought, we're actually fine with that. 

Someone, somewhere, determined that the barometer for success in life was decided by when a person moved out of their parents house. Study after study mentions this, with almost all of them leading you to believe that living with our parents is bad for everyone. Millennials may be at home for economic purposes but it does not mean they possess bleak outlooks for the future. Seventy-eight percent were happy living at home and 77 percent were optimistic about the future. It’s not so bad on our parents either, 72 percent of who said that the arrangement had a positive impact on their own personal finances. 

The 2010 New York Times article, “What is it About 20-Somethings”, labelled us failures, boomerang kids, developmentally in limbo. The article claims that we move around too much, never put roots down, we are putting off marriage, and we don’t have stable jobs. The author presents all of these assertions pejoratively, they are different from what they did so they must be bad right? That’s not how I see it though. 

For the Millennials I know, moving around was inspired by a variety of factors. They were motivated by jobs, relationships, or a desire to acquire more knowledge. What if our lack of desire to put down roots isn't caused by a lack of motivation but rather because technology enables us to be more mobile? Millennials have embraced technology more than any other generation. We are able to stay in touch with our friends and loved ones who may be thousands of miles away in ways we just weren’t able to before. Millennials not putting down roots has less to do with our generation and more to do with globalization. We do not feel compelled to stay in one place thanks in part to the democratization of travel. 

A Time Magazine article warned of our low car ownership rates, as if this is a good indicator of our economic stability. The article applauds Millennials for reducing debt while at the same time making that seem like a bad thing. It's not. We just prefer public and alternate forms of transportation. We don’t have a care because we can’t afford it, we don’t have a care because it’s just not important to us.

The real hub-bub of all the Millennial chatter comes down to whether we will be able to obtain a job that employs our skill set. The Daily Beast article focuses on whether our B.A. soon stand for Barista? It’s indisputable that some Millennials are worried about their future job prospects. Paying thousands of dollars for a degree only to come out of college and make coffee is not the job prospect anyone wants. The issue with articles like the Beast’s and Jezebel’s is that they disproportionally focus on Millennials. These problems are clearly not just affecting twenty-somethings. The depressed economy is a worry for most Americans, especially those with low-skilled jobs. What you won’t see these articles talking about is that Millennials are especially equipped with the tools to fix this. 

I’m an optimistic type, much like the majority of other Millennials. We are kind of a paradox, we are both optimistic and realistic. The Great Recession taught us the importance of schadenfreude from an early age. So despite our apparent obsession with ourselves, we know that certain things (time, our youth) are fleeting. We also know that we won’t have the same career paths of our parents. We will not be able to remain at the same job for our entire lives. That’s why Millennials aren’t interested in working for companies the way they want us to. We refuse to give jobs all of our time, does that mean we are narcissistic pricks? Perhaps. But that doesn't make the companies right either. 

Many of the companies Millennials find themselves employed by today are stuck in the past. Cubicles with desktop computers and conference calls on telephones, no thanks. Do companies really believe that Millennials are the only people who don't want to work this way? Isn't it far more likely that no one actually wants to work like this? Successful companies, like Google, seem to get it. That's why so many Millennials want to work there. We want jobs, we just want to be able to determine the way to do that job that works the best for us. Millennials can't be the only people who desire this. Companies would do well to realize that this would be a better thing for them economically, but instead they label us too self-involved to employ. 

We are a generation of entrepreneurs. We won't spend our lives at a job waiting for the business culture to change. We would much rather just go out and create something new. So people are correct when they say that Millennials don’t want to wait for anything. We don’t. We grew up in a world that rapidly changed before our eyes, why would we expect anything less from the world now? We are the progressive generation, what change we do not see, we will create.