The Positive Qualities of Millennials

lesson-9-stereotypes-1-728If you’re the Mom of a Millennial or have a boomerang kid back home, you must know they don’t all fit into a single category. Yet the media continues to describe that generation as lazy, outspoken, with a sense of entitlement. Sure, they also mention the huge student loans, poor job market, and stagnant wages. But labels make you wonder about the credibility of the source.

The financial collapse caught Baby Boomers by surprise and impacted the growth of their emerging adult children. Now, still, too many Millennials are not living on their own, getting married, buying houses or having kids, in part because of their debt. It’s been predicted that they’ll end up one of the first generations in recent memory to be worse off than their parents.

Although they can’t change the course of history, Millennials are trying to make the most of it. How do I know? I was just in Europe and talked to a random sample of 20-30 year olds. When I mentioned “Whose Couch Is It Anyway,” here’s what I found out:

A recent college graduate from NYU was staying in hostels with her dad for a week. And for the next six months she’s volunteering with physically challenged children in Burma  before going back to study for a masters’ degree in physical therapy.

A 30-something Swedish man moved his wife and baby to his parents and is saving money so they can afford to buy an apartment. Hearing about how the Swedish system helps students with tuition and families with childcare made me think there’s a lot to learn from other countries.

An entrepreneurial young man from Sicily studied business and English in London and then returned home. He has renovated the garage of his family palace as a bed and breakfast. Passionate about building infrastructure and bringing prosperity to this charming ancient village of Noto, he’s lucky to have the support of his family. If you’re in Sicily, look up Marcello.

A third year student from the Middle East was traveling in an entourage with his father, an Imam. The university-affiliated group was visiting ancient Greek ruins and meeting with anti-extremist factions to foster goodwill.

A 23-year old woman from Japan has been living with her parents again because she was working different jobs, trying to settle on the best one for her. Grateful that they supported her decisions, she knew that setting goals toward moving out was a major part of that.

Although this is a tiny cross-cultural and multi-national illustration, we can get a glimpse of the complex nature of this cohort. And it contradicts the narrow view at the beginning of this post. If we want to do better as parents or employers, we must first understand the Millennial generation. That requires time and effort but, most importantly, listening to what they have to say. Stereotypes are overly simplistic and inaccurate. Relying on them won’t help any of us.

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