Each generation has its differences and just like individuals, generations have personalities, values and beliefs. The newest generation, the Millennials, are just starting to enter the workforce. Like the activist Baby Boomers, their political views may one day shape our government, and while they seem to differ from the entrepreneurial Gen Xers, their work views may still someday change the structure of our economy.
As a body of people, a generation has power—spending power. And this generation, the Millennials, has lots of it. According to the “Generational Media Study” there are 79 million Millennials compared to only 48 million Gen Xers. This is the largest generation of young people since the baby boomers. They already spend $170 billion a year, of their own and their parents’ money. Whether you are interested in marketing to them, managing them or simply getting along with them, it is important to understand a few basic beliefs of the Next Generation.
So what does describe them? First, and most obvious, is the names attached to them: the Millennials (born/growing up during a new millennium), Generation Y (the generation after X), or the Echo Boomers (the children of the Baby Boomers). They are the first generation to have computers in the home and the classroom, to have always had cell phone, music downloads, instant messaging and hundreds of cable channels. The ease in which they use technology may be the single biggest difference between Millennials and every other generation.
They also have grown up very structured: each day brought another resume building activity with little free time for creativity or self-reliance. According to 60 Minutes, “It’s a generation in which rules seemed to have replaced rebellion, convention is winning out over individualism, and values are very traditional.”
According to the Pew Research Center, the Millennials are “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” They are also, “more ethnically and racially diverse, less religious, less likely to have served in the military and on track to becoming the most educated generation in American history.”
Almost 40 percent have a tattoo, although, tellingly, almost 70 percent of those have their tattoos hidden under their clothing.
Even though, as a group, they currently suffer from devastatingly high unemployment they are still upbeat and somehow have enough money to survive. Of course, the fact that one in eight are living back with their parents might have something to do with it. Overall, in a 2009 poll, 41 percent of Millennials said they were happy with the way things were going in the country compared to only 26 percent of those 30 and older.
Here is an overview* of some of the interesting differences between Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born 1964 to 1981) and Millennials (born 1981 to 2001).
Level of trust toward authority
Boomers are confident of self, not authority.
Gen Xers have a low level of trust toward authority.
Millennials have a high level of trust toward authority. Yet they are less trustworthy of individual people. Perhaps it’s from being born into an age of terrorism or maybe it’s their overprotective parents or the danger-obsessed media.
What do they view as the ultimate reward?
Boomers want a prestigious title and the corner office.
Gen Xers want the freedom not to have to do something.
Millennials prefer meaningful work.
How were their parents with them?
Boomers had parents who were controlling.
Gen Xers parents were distant.
And Millennials? Their parents were intruding. Or, as my Millennial-age intern tells me, they have “helicopter parents”—they’re always hovering.
What are their views toward having children?
Boomers are controlled, their children were planned.
Gen Xer’s are doubtful about the possibility of becoming parents.
Millennials are definite about parenthood. In fact, they view marriage and parenthood as more important than careers and success.
And overall family life?
Boomers were indulged as children.
Gen Xers were alienated as children.
Millennials were protected as children.
Views toward education?
Boomers want freedom of expression.
Gen Xers are pragmatic.
Millennials need the structure of accountability.
Thankfully, boomers want to attack oppression. Without those views we might not have had civil rights or protested Vietnam.
Gen Xers are apathetic and more worried about the individual.
And the Millennials, the facebookers and Tweeters? It should be no surprise that they crave community.
Last but not least, the views on the big question.
Boomers want to know, “What does it mean?”
Gen Xers need to know, “Does it work?”
Millennials are curious to know, “How do we build it?”
What do you think? Do you agree with this assessment? Disagree? Why or why not?
*”Millenials Coming to College,” by Robert DeBard from Serving the Millennial Generation: New Directions for Student Services by Michael D. Coomes (Editor), Robert DeBard (Editor).