Millennials catch a lot of flack. Just start to type "Millennials are..." into Google and a whole list of unflattering words will pop up. And while I've witnessed my fair share of stereotypical Millennial behavior, I'm not sure what good it does to rub a person's (or a generation's) shortcomings in his or her face - or to write yet another article on why Millennials are the worst. So, in the spirit of working toward living in peace, I'd like to suggest to you some often-overlooked positive traits of this generation.
These are generalized, but positive statements about Millennials. Like any list describing any group of people, not all of these traits are true of all Millennials, but since they're so nice, maybe you can overlook the generalization just this once...
1. Millennials are not afraid to question old ideas about the world of work.
The Baby Boomers had a very specific work ethic: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, weekends and holidays off. Millennials are asking "Why do jobs still require us to be at a certain place at a certain time and stay there all day, when technology enables many jobs to be performed from almost anywhere?"* A valid question that has some people responding, "Because I said so!"
2. Millennials are good at utilizing "hive mind."
If two heads are better than one, then certainly polling my hundreds of friends on Facebook is the best way to gather a wide range of opinions and advice on any given topic.
Millennials trust their online networks far above advertisers or brand recognition when making purchasing decisions. And when they are happy with a brand, service, or product, they are more communicative in their social networks than previous generations.*
3. Millennials are attracted to minimalism.
This one concept alone has several sub-categories:
- They are much more interested in spending money on experiences than on "stuff." This is evidenced in their desire to travel within the U.S. and abroad. Smart companies like REI with their #OptOutside campaign and organizations like the National Park Service with #FindYourPark understand and capitalize on this adventurous spirit.
- They are environmentally conscious.*
- The tiny-house concept is very appealing not only for its space-saving aspect, but also for its minimal usage of resources. (Not to mention the minimal amount of stuff you can hold in 450 sq. ft. of living space.)
- When they do make a purchase, Millennials are more likely to spend money in support of a cause. In other words, they are looking for brands that stand for more than the bottom line and will gladly pay more for such a brand.* (Think Tom's shoes and other companies who give back in some way when you make a purchase.)
4. Millennials embrace gender equality and Cultural diversity.
For all its controversy, women's rights activists - male and female alike - have opened our collective eyes to the inequalities our society held for generations past. If you start to doubt that we've made any headway, read a history book, look at other countries, and listen to the way a Millennial talks about the sexes.
The waters of cultural diversity are still not easy to navigate, but again, watch how Millennials interact with and treat people. They are often quite good at a live-and-let-live attitude as well as an honest, respectful curiosity for people who behave differently from themselves.
5. Millennials are digital natives.
They have never known a world without computers and the Internet. Information is always at their fingertips and they are accustomed to instant access to anything, any time.
This also means they are masterful at using technology to automate mundane tasks like paying bills or comparison shopping while binge-watching Netflix.
6. Millennials see health and wellness as necessary parts of daily life.
Compared to previous generations, they exercise more, eat better, and smoke less; health is not about weighing a certain amount or just not being ill. They use apps and fitness wearables to track their actual stats, share with friends, and join in virtual competitions. And one of the things they are willing to spend money on is athletic gear that will help them in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
7. Millennials are open-minded, open-hearted, empathic, passionate, & freedom-loving.
Depending on who you ask, Millennials were born somewhere around 1983-2000. That means the bulk of them are twentysomethings. Statistically, they're waiting to do a lot of "adult" things until later in life - like getting married, having kids, and buying homes. Unfortunately, their peers and mentors are reinforcing the idea that they should just coast through this "throwaway decade" and see it as a season of "downtime." But the truth is many of life's most defining moments happen by the age of 35, so the twenties are a critical period of development. Without the demands and responsibilities of a spouse, children, and home ownership, this is the prime time to discover as much as they can about themselves and give as much of their time, energy, and resources to others before other responsibilities come along.
In addition to the concepts above, Meg Jay also said in her TED Talk, "Do something that adds value to who you are today and adds investment to who you want to be next. Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do."
8. Millennials have a sense of Civic obligation and social responsibility.
If the popularity of social media accounts and websites such as Humans of New York are any indication, Millennials are motivated by a concern for the public good and humanity as a whole. And as I mentioned above on number 3, Millennials buying habits alone are a strong indicator of their belief that organizations and individuals have an obligation to act in a such a way that benefits society as a whole.
9. Millennials See failure as a new starting point.
Unlike the Baby Boomer generation, Millennials will likely have many jobs over the course of their lifetime. It is unlikely that they will find a company where they start out as the mail carrier and work their way up to a corner office, all the while accruing a handsome sum to retire on. Heck, this isn't even a reality for most Gen X-ers. Rather, getting, quitting, losing, and failing at many jobs is a more likely scenario for a Millennial. Therefore, it's a good thing that many see failure is just a new starting point.
"'I know that as hard as I work — and I work very hard — I very well may fail. And it’s liberating to know that.' The key word is 'liberating.' In the age of the start-up, of fortunes gained and lost overnight, of flawed ideas in need of continual debugging and re-tweaking, failure is the default outcome and also, at times, the ground zero of eventual triumph."*
10. Millennials came of age in a world of terror attacks and school shootings.
This one breaks my heart. When I was a kid, things were simply safer. You can call me naive or pollyanna, but you'll never convince me otherwise. Yes, people still did bad things and some were bent on harm, but it was somehow less prevalent or perhaps more obviously wrong. I feel like the lines got blurry for some and their hatred erupted in ways we cannot unsee.
Millennials are skeptics, distrustful of the messages they receive. I think this is in part because they never got a chance to be innocent and carefree. How could they be? They were born into a world where school shootings were a thing (Columbine happened in 1999). They were children in a society where terrorists had made their presence and power known (9/11 happened in 2001). They never had the luxury of being blissfully ignorant of the darkness humanity is capable of. It was always a part of their reality on a global scale.
Sure, every generation faces the evils of humanity, and those evils also break my heart. But I suppose I was more aware of it as I watch how these young people assimilate information about the latest atrocity. I hate that they take it in stride. This is not to say their character is flawed, but rather that it is simply normal for them.
11. Millennials are optimistic.
On the one hand, Millennials see the world they are inheriting as broken and limping along. On the other, there is a pervasive sentiment that "Things will be better in the future because our generation is on the case and we are awesome."
What do you think? Are you a Millennial? How do you feel about all the negative stereotyping of Millennials? Is some of it accurate? And what about my list? Do any of these ideals resonate with you?
And if you aren't a Millennial, can you see these positive traits in any of the Millennials you know?