At this point, the millennial stereotypes have become exhausting, frustrating and are often times incorrect. Each generation has generalizations that can be made about it and most revolve around what that generation is doing wrong. One conversation that isn’t had very often is what millennials are doing right. What they have going for them and how they, as a group, are making our world better. We can look to the Bible for wisdom about this. Acts 2:17 says that each generation has their place in life—young men are to prophesy and the old men will dream dreams.
So let’s have a different conversation for a change, a conversation about the great potential this generation holds. Of course, it is impossible to make sweeping generalizations about an entire people group, but these are some observations that mark the millennials and make them stand out—in a great way.
Millennials have high expectations.
Maybe the reason millennials don’t fit into corporate culture is because change in our work dynamics has been long overdue. Millennials grew up seeing the rat race for their whole lives and have little interest in joining in, especially after witnessing the recession in 2007 and how striving for the “American Dream” can return void.
Instead, they expect better and desire purpose. Simply having a job that pays the bills is no longer enough. Millennials want to be a part of something that has significance and meaning, beyond themselves.
They’re not scared of having difficult or potentially awkward conversations.
Millennials have been brought up learning the value of communication. This is not the Mad Men-era where problems are swept under the rug for the sake of appearances. Millennials value relationships that have depth and honesty as an essential part of them. They have seen the destruction and dysfunction that comes from lack of connection, and they have swung the pendulum fully and forcefully in the other direction.
Awkward, uncomfortable conversation is accepted and even encouraged. Never before in history has being awkward been more endearing. Millennials, in many ways, are leading the charge in conversations about privilege, equality, diversity and mental health issues. They recognize the mistakes of the past and choose to sit in the discomfort in an effort to do better. Honesty, authenticity and learning are valuable to them and these values show an openness to learn, change and ultimately do better than the generations before—to move the ball further down the field, beginning where the last generation has left off.
Their tech savvy-ness is changing the world.
The creation of Uber, Facebook and thousands of other helpful websites and apps are all to the credit of millennials reimagining our world. Millennials have a grasp on technology that the previous generations can’t come close to competing with as digital natives. The tech skills and innovation are limitless—spanning across a wide range of industries from education to logistics to medical care. Millennials have given access to many people who were previously unconnected and created a new way of life that everyone benefits from.
Millennials are changing the national conversation by taking action.
Because millennials expect things outside of the status quo, conversations have to change, even at a national level. More young people are engaged in activism than any other generation has been in the past 30 years. There is a sense of togetherness, while keeping others in mind. It is not just about the almighty dollar, instead they are willing to talk about what is the best choice, not just for them personally, but for the whole. They show a sense of naïve hopefulness mixed with enough emotional maturity to shake things up and make changes that will affect everyone, for generations to come and are thus, creating their legacy.
They don’t expect perfection, just authenticity.
Perfection is suspicious to millennials. A perfectly put-together person is met with suspicion. Instead, a person who is relatively open about their weaknesses, struggles and their story is met with grace, trust and compassion. They have no interest in the veneer, they are far more interested in what is underneath.
Millennials have a healthier understanding of the relationship between money and happiness.
Many millennials grew up in homes where money didn’t mean happiness. They learned early on that money is not what will bring happiness, and they make major life decisions as a reflection of this truth. They will happily take a job that offers a better quality of life and pays a little less. Making an impact is worth taking a cut in pay if it allows them to lead the life they want to live.
There is a trend of minimalism that allows for this. It creates room for great stuff, other than things in one’s life. People no longer have to be tied to a job that is soul-crushing to pay a massive mortgage or support an unsustainable lifestyle. Instead, they make do with less and have traded in their tired, stressed and beaten-down selves in for a deep sense of freedom and joy.
Millennials are better educated about privilege and equality.
The words “privilege” and “equality” can be emotionally loaded for many. They’re relatively new in everyday conversation and recognition as a culture. Millennials have embraced these terms and understand their implications. Wherever they fall, due to the genetic lottery, they can enter into conversations that previous generations were either in denial about or were too uncomfortable to have, in an honest and constructive way. The only way we can begin to heal and understand the pain that has been experienced is if we create space and allow for it to be named which Millennials are trailblazing.