Let’s not Pigeonhole Millennials

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 10.47.56 AMDid you know that, according to the older generation, kids today have a sense of entitlement and are clueless about how to communicate without social media? A pigeonhole is an overly restrictive category, which fails to reflect the actual complexities. And pigeonholing is exactly what we’re doing to the eight million Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000.

According to the media, Gen Y has created a new developmental stage between adolescence and adulthood called adultolescense. More of them are living with a parent than a partner, in part because they’re facing one of the worst job markets in decades. Many are unemployed and need jobs to pay down college costs and other debt. Unfortunately unemployment remains in the double digits and the economic challenges are not over.

New data from Pew Research Center indicates that only 1 in 4 Millennials in their 20s has married, compared to one third of Gen X and half of the Baby Boomers at that age. But that static also reflects tough economic circumstances. Although they’re the best educated in US history, they also have the most student loan debt. Another factor is that many have lived through their parents’ divorces and in blended families. So it makes sense that they want to feel secure and certain before committing to marriage. Don’t you think that indicates a mature, cautious and responsible attitude?

They are not as much a lost generation as a generation in flux who have to think about success as more than just material prosperity. With a spirit of giving back, well over half contribute to charitable causes and do volunteer work. And they’re less focused on financial success and more interested in a meaningful career.

Social psychologists define meaning as the degree to which we feel our life has purpose, value and impact. We all suffer times of fear and self-doubt. But we can feel connected by focusing on making a positive difference. Millennials are thinking ahead and setting themselves up for the kind of life they want.

Try to change your perspective on the ‘Me Me Generation.’ Why not see them as late bloomers not as lazy and immature? Don’t just blame them for challenging the status quo or not measuring up to your standards. See that they’re feeling vulnerable as they explore their options. Perhaps they simply want you to listen to their opinions and believe that they’re doing the best they can.

Let’s stop labeling Millennials and provide the support they need. Many have put a high priority on being frugal and saving money. A lot have scaled back and live together, even communally, to save on rent. They’re making sacrifices because they feel their goals are achievable. Best of all, they have high hopes for a bright future.




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