Ah Millennials, those lovable, self-absorbed, social media obsessed, selfie taking rascals. We hear over and over again that Millennials are self obsessed, lazy, entitled and unreliable. But is this really the case, or is it just that each generation thinks that the next one that comes along is not as good, or not doing things right? Can you really stereotype an entire generation of young people?
Every generation thinks that the one that came before was worse than them, and that the one that came after is too. By comparison to the generation before them, Millennials have access to an awful lot more technology, resources and information. The rise of social media has meant that information and connections come much easier to the current generation. That being said, the ease of access to these things does not necessarily mean that Millennials are inherently lazy.
We have an aging population of Baby Boomers and Generation Xer’s who missed out on what it means to work in such a technologically advanced age. Working from home is common place now, jobs like being a ‘social media influencer’ exist, and people can become YouTube stars from the comfort of their own bedrooms. This doesn’t mean that they are not working, just working differently. Most Millennials you meet will tell you that they have an array of different interests, hobbies and even jobs. A finger in every pie so to speak. Just because they are not holding down 9-5 jobs does not mean that they are not working hard.
The way we make money and the way we interact and make new connections has changed exponentially over the last 15 years. For Baby Boomers, coming into retirement age this is an incomprehensible idea. The fact that someone could make money by sitting in their room playing video games is lost on them. Unfortunately, human nature is such that often times the automatic response to things that we do not understand is either fear or ridicule.
A Cultural Shift
Both Baby Boomers and Generation Xer’s had a strong work ethic drummed into them from an early age, but a very specific and rigid one: go to school, go to college, start your career. They then also had similar life expectations hoisted upon them: get married, buy a house, have children, hope you don’t die of heart disease by 40. Now however, we are seeing the parents of younger children, (and have seen the parents of Millennials), encourage their children to stray from that set path. Parents are encouraging their children to do things like take a year out from college to travel or explore other avenues other than school, college and marriage. Parents are finally accepting that we are not all cut from the same cloth. What the parent wants for the child is not always going to be what the child ends up wanting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Individuality is being celebrated more and more these days. When Millennials were just children, parents had begun to reprioritise what mattered, allowing a certain amount of importance to be allocated to social interaction and events. This has taught this generation that it is OK to be different and it is also OK to live in the moment and worry less. This does not mean that previous generations were doing things wrong, it just means that this generation is doing things differently. It will be news to some, but despite what you may have heard, different does not necessarily mean wrong. The only thing wrong with Millennials is that they caused a huge cultural and societal shift that not everyone was ready for.
Dedicated, Creative, Non-Conformists
The freedom that was afforded to them during their upbringing has resulted in a serious dedication to what ever they end up committing themselves to. This potentially creates a hugely innovative young workforce. It has been proven that forced societal constructs eventually crumble under their own weight. The Millennial work ethos has caused conformity in the workplace to be significantly minimized. We are seeing less and less offices who force staff to wear full suits, tattoos and piercings are widely accepted in the workplace etc. This has also allowed for many individuals to feel enabled or empowered enough to follow their dreams. They feel this way regardless of background, education or social status. They are creating a more tolerant, inclusive and accessible world, and everyone looks set to benefit from it. They may appear lazy and self absorbed to the untrained eye, but their stubbornness to accomplish their goals can be quite powerful.
A Generation Of Innovators
However easy it may be to tarnish an entire generation with the one brush simply because we do not understand the way they do things, it is more honest to accept them for who they are. Millennials are a generation who started off with very little when it came to prospective employment. Most of them came of age in the middle of a global economic crisis that was caused, incidentally, by the Baby Boomer generation. They had to change things. Things simply couldn’t stay the same, they weren’t working anymore. Millennials have turned the tide for themselves and found new and creative ways to turn a buck. Really, the shape of our future has changed and the relevance and importance of civil convention has all but gone away.
Maybe it is time to take a leaf out of their book and stop trying to categorize and label everything, but also accept this brave new world that is burgeoning upon us. We need to work in tandem with the younger generation, not against them, if we are to see true societal and cultural growth.