Millennials (born from 1980 to 2000) have acquired a bad name.
I am not alone in shunning this category to the point of disowning it. Insisting that I’m way older than my age, I pushed back from this purportedly lazy and entitled generation.
Some realizations hit me as of late.
Fifteen years ago, we had mobile phones but could well function throughout the day without them.
We had social media, and were perfectly fine to use them sparingly. We could hold a conversation or finish one task sans the distraction of a notification.
We could comfortably look people in the eye. Our fingers found things to fidget with other than the keys on our phone screen.
We could choose a person to date without an app. Hell, we could do everything: get a car, use a map, talk to a person, order anything, answer a question, entertain ourselves, and countless other things without apps.
I travelled to Singapore, Bali, and Dubai some weeks back, and I found myself downloading an app for laundry and taxi service, an app for the city restaurants, an app for classifieds, an app for the city guide, etc.
Do I long for the past? Hardly. Here is where I confess to being a millennial when I admit that I love easing into our modern world—one that is continuously (if not urgently) evolving to make life ultra-convenient.
And so I finally come to terms with it: I am a millennial. So am I too bad?
Let me try to give millennials a better name, if I may.
We are the first and largest generation of digital natives. We’re the life hackers. We don’t wait for innovation—we demand, if not create, them.
Ever have problems with establishments taking forever to pick up the phone? We don’t think telephones anymore: we use apps, social media, and websites, and we get things done without waiting for a person to pick up a phone after 10 rings.
We respect big businesses, but relentlessly think of startups. This is undoubtedly the new millennial economy: one where we give more energy to new ideas rather than perpetuating the old.
We are disrupting the workplace. The old way of doing business is changing fast. Freelancers in the US are expected to grow to 40% in 2020. Even multinationals are shifting to having more consultants and freelancers than tenured employees. This is the rise of the Open Talent Economy where more people are abandoning stable 9-to-5 day jobs in favor of having flexibility, creating social impact, or just living life more.
“In the past, people were willing to work for a boss; today they want to work for a mentor” writes Mike Maughan, head of brand growth at global insights at Qualtrics.
“A boss just often wants a job done, not a person to mold.” Millennials know this and are deliberately more discriminating of the people we work for.
Millennials are opting for “freelance flexibility rather than full-time flexibility.” Deloitte validates this when it reported about the rising attraction of flexible time, flexible role, flexible recruitment (different types of contract), flexible location (working from home), etc.
It is in our time that unemployment is a choice inasmuch as it is a circumstance.
Happiness is everything for this once-YOLO hashtag-gers. The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 remarkably noted that millennials want to be “an active participant rather than a bystander” in the workforce. It is clear that in these times, “employers need to provide a sense of empowerment and give a higher level of purpose.”
The 2016 Deloitte survey results state that organizations taking “a more inclusive rather than authoritarian or rules-based approach are less likely to lose people.”
“Millennials appreciate working in a collaborative and consensual environment rather than one that directly links accountability and responsibility to seniority (or pay).”
Millennials are the ones pushing HR to consider variable versus fixed pay.
We want to make a serious impact in the world and see business as a force for positive change. Social responsibility is an imperative, not an option. Furthermore, we are building a bigger stage for social entrepreneurship, where our hard work contributes to making the world better for more people than it is.
The world is fast becoming more automated, and millennials are mostly unafraid. Josh Bersin writes in Forbes about “The Future of Work: It’s already here and not as scary as you think” that “An average baby boomer will be looking for a job 11.7 times in his or her career, millennials change jobs every two years or less (BLS study).”
Raise your hand if you’re guilty. (Both my hands are raised.)
Is loyalty an issue for millennial employees? Yes. My honest thought on this is that disrupting the traditional workplace is not necessarily a bad thing.
I would argue that it is right to label the millennials as entitled. But as Scott Hess writes, we will need to add empowered to that. Millennials hoard information so easily that our knowledge and relentless connectedness are powerfully reshaping the economy.
We’ve pushed milestones like marrying and home-buying at a later age—easily 7-15 years later than our parents. Rather than making big purchases, we care more for travel, wellness, and experiences.
We want “access, not ownership.” Think of the growth of Uber, AirBnB, co-working spaces, and more innovations magnifying the sharing economy. These businesses understand the largest generation of our time.
Goldman Sachs reports that millennials are transforming the hierarchy of needs. “Millennials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization, and economic disruption. That’s given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.”
Because we are “used to instant access to price comparisons, product information, peer reviews,” our kind of consumerism is changing the retail game and is drastically closing down physical retail stores in favor of Amazon, online selling sites, the secondhand economy, if not minimalism.
Institutions and businesses have no choice but to accept the millennial changes decisively transforming the world as we know it.
But while I’m in praise of the boldness we bring, I do admit to many annoying truths about my tribe.
For one, there is too much self-love, self-glorification, and self-praise as driven by social media filtered selfies, blogger poses, OOTDs, and excessive photo shoots. At this level of narcissism, there is an extreme attention about looking great that the content has turned superficial, quite hollow, and almost mindless.
This is the generation that broadcasts the mundane: from our new shoes to a dog chasing its toy.
Our generation thoughtlessly flaunts wealth. Social media is full of vacations (which we know we’ve worked hard for), objects (like bags, shoes, and watches), brands, I-hang-out-with-this-famous-person photo, etc. While materialism is a thing of many generations, it is extravagantly displayed post after post. And we seriously think nothing of them.
We can hardly sit still or read anything that is too long. We process thousands of things in our feed while living our lives. We think in captions, hashtags, tweets, and largely depend on headlines and edited photos better than the accurate and complete reading of a long piece.
The Guardian’s Kate Lyons writes that millennials seem to be spoiled whiners or “mollycoddled sub-adults” who get “psychologically knocked out over a dog dying or being told off by a boss” like our life ended at that moment. (I am so guilty of feeling shattered about my dog! #SorryNotSorry)
With our changing needs are our changing values, some a little less desirable than the old. We continue to evolve through time; there are many things from the past that we can only now romanticize about.
People born after 2000 are soon going to be driving our even newer economy and changing the world. If the Gen. X-ers and Baby Boomers are rolling their eyes at us millennials, how will we react to this next still-unnamed generation once they become the world’s main spenders and decision-makers?
We will find out.
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