The term “Millennials” is what Americans refer to as that generation of folks born between the 1980s and early 2000s.
There are plenty of experts trying to define this generation of young people and tell the rest of us how different they are from the Americans who’ve come before them.
From political parties to marketers to managers, many of us are trying to figure out these Millennials for a variety of reasons.
We want their votes. We want them to buy our products. We want them to be productive at work.
It’s no surprise that the older generations look at Millennials like they’re a bit odd. Rest assured, the feeling’s mutual.
As far as labeling Millennials goes, it’s easy and accurate to say that they’re better with technology than their predecessors, most of whom grew up without the Internet.
But beyond that, putting Millennials in a box is more difficult.
Millennials don’t trust big government or corporate America. But hasn’t that been the viewpoint of the younger generation since the 1960s?
Other Millennial stereotypes include that they’re overly optimistic about the future, value their personal lives more than their careers, and they’re more concerned about the well-being of the environment.
Marketingteacher.com says about Millennials: “They have been told over and over again that they are special, and they expect the world to treat them that way. They do not live to work, they prefer a more relaxed work environment with a lot of hand holding and accolades.”
The news stories, blogs and op-ed columns about what Millennials are and are not, what they want and don’t want, what they believe and reject are nearly infinite.
Peggy Drexler for Forbes magazine wrote that Millennials’ views are evolving, just like the views of the generations before them.
She said: “Just look at the Baby Boomers.... They started out as idealists who rejected 1950s materialism, brought down two presidencies and—depending on your line of sight—either ended or prolonged the Vietnam War. But then they turned inward, built McMansions, and decided that ‘greed is good.’”
What we can say about Millennials is that like every younger generation throughout history, they are different than their predecessors—but there are similarities too.
Let’s face it, those of us who’ve been calling the U.S. home longer than Millennials are no picture of perfection. We’ve elected our fair share of incompetents to public office —including the presidency. We’ve put work before our families on too many occasions, let our youthful optimism morph into something much less hopeful and many of us don’t trust the government or corporate America either.
And we can all hope these Millennials and their peers worldwide can succeed where the rest of us have failed at keeping war from being business as usual.
Drexler wrote: “Millennials are young, and their strengths and weaknesses have yet to be road-tested by time and life. They may well turn out to be different from the generation that spawned them, and live more balanced lives and find spiritual happiness in the difference between having what you want and wanting what you have. But we won’t know that for many more decades.”
Jack Weinberg, a free-speech movement activist and graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley, once told a TV reporter, “Never trust anyone over 30.”
That was in 1965.
Weinberg is 74 today and still working for environmental causes. Chances are he trusts himself.
One thing’s for sure and that is Millennials are young.
And our future always depends more on the leaders of tomorrow than the leaders of today.