Optimists. Technologists. Health Experts. Ethicals. They are not obsessed by wealth. They have grown up with 9/11, a worldwide recession but nevertheless they think that it's better being a community and establishing creative start-ups than shopping. Forget the baby-boomers the “Millennials” whose birth years are from 1982 through the early 2000s will change the world.
No doubt it has always been difficult for generations to accept labels and generalizations. But some in the post-X generation say their puzzlement over their collective identity is more pronounced because their formative experiences have been so splintered. Reared on rapid-fire Internet connections and cheap airline tickets and pressured to obtain multiple academic degrees, many of these young adults grew up with an array of options their parents or older siblings did not have.
They're young, smart, brash. They may wear flip-flops to the office or listen to iPods at their desk. They want to work, but they don't want work to be their life.
The millennial generation has had much to endure – a poor job market, high housing prices and a generally sour political atmosphere. But perhaps the final indignity has been the tendency for the Millennials to be spoken for by older generations, notably, well-placed boomers, who often seem to impose their own ideological fantasies, without actually finding out what the younger cohort really wants. The reality in this case, turns out far different than what is bespoken by others.
Millennials expect change as they have grown up with the rise of the Internet and mobile age, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Apartheid. They are not afraid to question authority. They are flexible and entrepreneurial, but at the same time they can be impatient and too focused on technology over face-to-face interaction.
Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially networked world. They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention. As the most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials tend to be tolerant of difference. Having rose under the mantra "follow your dreams" and being told they were special, they tend to be confident. While largely a positive trait, the millennial generation’s confidence has been argued to spill over into the realms of entitlement and narcissism. They are often seen as slightly more optimistic about the future than other generations -- despite the fact that they are the first generation since the Silent Generation that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents.
The contrasting view: Jackie Rotman explains why everything you think you know about Millennials is wrong:
Having grown up being bombarded by advertising, Millennials tend to be skeptical about promotional material of any kind. Whether buying products and services or considering employment, Millennials are more likely to listen to their friends than to be affected by marketing or public relations material. This characteristic makes both conventional marketing and employee recruitment practices often ineffective for Millennials.
Millennials grew up with computers, the Internet and the graphical user interface. This familiarity makes them adept at understanding interfaces and visual languages. They tend to adjust readily to new programs, operating systems and devices and to perform computer-based tasks more quickly than older generations.
Millennials are generally comfortable with the idea of a public Internet life. Privacy, in the millennial eye, is mostly a concern of functional settings limiting who sees their online shares. This comfort with social media means they are good at self-promotion and fostering connections through online media.
Millennials are also concerned about social justice and will not support institutions that they see as in conflict with social and economic equality. As such, Millennials are exerting their influence on the world around them, as all prior generations have done. Millennials grew up in glass houses. They are comfortable with transparency. They believe leadership should be the same. When asked what they look for in their leaders, they look for openness, inclusion, and diversity. One of the ways to do this, of course, is through social media. This is why internal blogs and wikis and various corporate social networks are so widely used by younger people, and often not by boomers. If you want to attract and retain young people, you and your top leaders must be more open and transparent. Millennials grew up in a world where gender, race, sexual orientation, and age were widely diverse. They expect and will lead in an inclusive way.
The legacy the Millennials is building is largely going to depend on how we handle the crisis that characterizes this generation. Already we have a lot of big issues to deal with. But just as it was for the G.I.’s and the Generation of 1776, it is our destiny to become a great generation. The legacies left by these two incredible generations will be hard to top, but we have the same opportunity that they had: to use this crisis as a means to change our nation, and the world in a very powerful and positive way.
So let’s get to work Millennials. Let’s take advantage of this incredible opportunity to move forward in a positive and prosperous direction. Times are tough, but they are also ripe for change, and we must be that change. After all, wouldn’t you like to be a member of the generation that saved the country–and the world?