I love working with Millennials. Yes, I said it.
“Huh”? you may be saying to yourself. “Does she have any idea what she’s saying? Has she finally lost it?” I assure you I haven’t. I’m a Gen Xer myself, and should therefore hate everyone and everything. But I really love working with these people and I’m pretty excited to bust a few myths this month.
So what are some of these myths? For me, they tend to fall into three buckets: personality defects, issues with technology, and parental relationships.
Myth #1: personality defects: everyone gets a trophy, entitlement, narcissism, laziness…and they’re impossible at work because they think they should have their dream job at 24 making $250k a year and working from home in their pajamas. I have two answers:
- A lot of these criticisms are just standard for younger people, and time and maturation will improve things. How many of us were very focused on ourselves, had unrealistic expectations at work, or lacked motivation when we were young? I will admit to all of those flaws!
- Personally, my experience with Millennials is that they are kind, generous, altruistic, entrepreneurial, engaged, and VERY self-aware rather than self-absorbed. They know a lot about themselves at a young age and they don’t mind sharing it, which is great for me as a financial planner. Yes, I get a nice selection of planful, thoughtful people in my practice, but I know a lot of Millennials outside of work and my observations apply there as well.
Myth #2: issues with technology: a Millennial can’t disconnect from technology. They are completely tech-focused all the time, and you can’t pry them away from their phones and game consoles for five minutes to say hello to Grandma on Thanksgiving. My answers:
- Please keep in mind that this is the first generation of people who are technology-native, meaning that they grew up with cell phones, the Internet, gaming, and so forth. Devices are second nature to them and it’s hard for other generations to imagine what that is like. For you Boomers and Xers, try to remember what it was like when you got in front of the TV as a young person. Did you want to stop and do your homework, say hello to Grandma, or go to bed? Well, I didn’t…it was Scooby Doo 24/7 for me until I graduated to Three’s Company! My love affair continues to this day (I’m looking at you, The Good Place!).
- Millennials have heard this criticism and I do think it’s a concern for many of them. They know all those screens can get in between them and real connections. More and more, I hear about Millennials setting boundaries to disengage from technology, like no-phone or no-social-media days. Oh, and how many times have I seen people of ALL generations ignoring each other and peering into their phones over a lovely dinner? This is not just a Millennial issue; I think we all struggle to stay present when we hear that text bong. We’re all working on it.
Myth #3: there is something wrong with Millennials’ relationships with their parents: they’re freeloaders, The Boomerang Generation, and their closeness to their parents is creepy. My answers:
- According to the Pew Internet Report, 32% of adults aged 18 - 34 were living with their parents in 2014 (the last time they gathered data). This is the highest percentage since about 1940, so the perception that more Millennials live with their parents is correct. The Pew analysts attribute this to the postponement of marriage and economic factors. Even as unemployment decreases and wages rise, student debt is out of control and housing costs as a percentage of income keep rising. It’s just harder to afford to live independently, so more Millennials live at home or with roommates.
- Maybe you know a Millennial who is WAY too close to their Helicopter Mom or Dad. But are we really going to criticize an entire generation for being close to their parents? What is wrong with US in that case? Xers and Boomers may not have had such close relationships with their parents, so it can certainly seem odd when observed from the outside. But is it really a bad thing to like one’s parents, enjoy spending time with them, or ask them for advice?
Overall, I would assert that Millennials aren’t that different from you or me. Generational data are just averages, anyway; we all know that individuals can be really different from the average. I don’t want people assuming I’m a snotty nihilist just because I’m an Xer, so why would I do that to someone else? Let’s give everyone a chance to show us who they are without making too many up-front assumptions.
If you’d like to see a summary of who the Millennials are or access more information about them, I recommend the Pew Research Center’s Millennial topic. And if you’d like to see a Millennial explain why Millennials are the “worst generation ever,” please watch this absolutely hilarious video.