Millennials are thirty now, please alert the media (no, seriously)
We’re the stone cold killers of napkins, Applebee’s, diamonds and fabric softener. We’re the “me generation.” We’re the PC generation. As a millennial, I can tell you that from my own informal poll, my peers find the writing about millennials to be 100% annoying.
Recently, I saw a headline that said, “Should we elect more Millennials to Congress?” The answer is yes. The oldest millennial is 37 years old, which makes them eligible to run for office. We have families and full-fledged careers now. So why does everyone talk about us like we’re 21?
Millennials came of age in a world that was changing rapidly. We saw 9/11 and Columbine happen while we were young. We grew up with the Internet; we were the first digital natives. Our innovations have shifted commerce, lifestyles, communications and possibility. Zuckerberg arguably changed the way we interact with one another, for better or for worse. Whitney Wolfe Herd changed the way we date with Tinder and Bumble. Blue Apron was founded by Matt Salzberg, and it has changed the way we cook, grocery shop and eat.
Something that has always bothered me about the way we’re portrayed is the dissonance between being the “me” generation and being the “PC” generation in the same breath. By all accounts, we’re more civic-minded than other generations. Asking people not to use slurs or racist, sexist or homophobic language might seem too “politically correct” to a generation accustomed to using them, but removing their use from our everyday language is restoring humanity to those groups of people. Sorry to the chronically close-minded, but you just can’t use those words anymore. I know you loved them, but seriously, find some new ones. And stop telling rape jokes, please. They aren’t funny.
Something else we get accused of is not wanting to work hard. So many political cartoons of a twenty-something in a crib, so little time. I’m honestly unsure where this notion comes from, because I do not know anyone who doesn’t work. Studies show we highly value work-life balance, in contrast to the Boomer generation that some call the “original workaholics.”[i] But I don’t think asking for a more balanced work-life balance makes us lazy. By not working 70 hours a week, we have time to develop skills outside of work, like making bread from scratch, volunteering or learning to sew. These aren’t career-focused skills, but they are useful. This isn’t to say that I’ve never worked late, because sometimes a project or client just needs the work done. In most industries, we’re also making the same amount as our parents’ generation while the cost of living has increased. So really, we’re making less.[ii]
As a group, we’re definitely more left-leaning than our parents. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 65% of us disapprove of Trump’s job performance[iii]. We are the only generation in which a majority (57%) holds consistently liberal (25%) or mostly liberal (32%) positions.[iv] We could spend hours speculating why this is and never reach a solid conclusion. But like I said before, we’ve seen a lot. Ours has not been an easy ride, contrary to popular belief. I remember my uncle getting deployed the soon after Christmas in the year following 9/11. We got him a new fishing rod. It was a hopeful gesture in a bleak Christmas. He made it back to us, but he wasn’t the same. How many other millennials experienced this? Did it shape them too?
We’re a generation of people who want big things, and we’re starting to get them. My wish is that instead of writing us off a hopelessly romantic youths or “snowflakes,” we start to get the recognition we deserve. When we’re addressed as a monolith labeled as entitled, it makes it harder to truly communicate across generations. Approach us and talk about us as people, not a stereotype. Take a look at what we’ve already accomplished. A wise rule of communications is to not put anybody in a box. That closes rather than opens channels of understanding.
Millennials are real people now, solving real problems. They’re directors at non-profits, established lawyers and creative directors. We have a more active hand in shaping the world to one we want to live in, but we need the older generations to trust us when we say “we’ve got this.” Oh, and look out for Gen Z. They’re coming up fast and they’re a force to be reckoned with.
[i] Myers, Karen K. and Sadaghiani, Kamyab. "Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials’ Organizational Relationships and Performance." Journal of Business and Psychology (2010): 225-238. Online document.
[ii] Young Invincibles. "Financial Health of Young America: Measuring Generational Declines Between Baby Boomers and Millennials." 2017. Online document.