So, You're a Millennial...

If you’re part of the Millennial generation (people born between 1980 and the early 2000s), you’re likely familiar with the mixed feelings older generations seem to have about the young adult population. Some say we are too dependent on technology and worry about our ability to become fully functioning adults. Others suggest that Millennials will struggle to find jobs and bear the burden of crippling student loan debts. At first glance, the future doesn’t seem too bright for us, and older generations’ fears reflect that.

But what are Millennials really like? How many of the judgments placed on our generation are true? Will we ever find jobs? To answer these questions, I turned to the wise, highly-respected, all-knowing friend that Millennials like myself came to know and love during our youth: Google. Before I even pressed enter to begin my search, Google told me what some of the most common perceptions of my generation were.

Are Millennials Screwed?

Of these, my personal favorite is “screwed.” Figuring out what I want to do and how I’ll ever find a job with my lack of experience once I graduate from college in two years feels impossible sometimes. I imagine the commencement speaker at my graduation will be in a position similar to that of Effie Trinket, sending the Class of 2018 out into the real world with Effie’s seemingly pleasant but seriously disconcerting phrase:

So maybe we are “screwed” to some extent; however, don’t give up hope for Millennials just yet. While we will have to adjust to a more competitive job market and pay off sizable student loans, we have some characteristics that may help us meet these challenges.

Are Millennials More Liberal?

Generally speaking, yes, we are more liberal than previous generations. A Pew Research Report finds that 41% of Millennials consider themselves mostly or consistently liberal, as opposed to 15% who consider themselves conservative. The remaining 44% identify as “ideologically mixed.” Around half of us align ourselves more with the Democratic party, and those who lean towards the Republican party are considered less conservative than other generations. The Pew study found that after surveying people from multiple generations, Millennials were the most likely to think that “homosexuality should be accepted by society,” “immigrants strengthen our country,” “business corporations make too much profit,” and “stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.” Clearly, we are a more tolerant generation, which could partly be due to the fact that we are the most diverse generation so far. Non-white individuals make up 43% of Millennials as opposed to 28% of Baby Boomers and 39% of Generation X. A fun tidbit: this trend is continuing, and in a few years it is estimated that white people will no longer be the majority.

Are Millennials Selfish?

While we frequently post about our lives on social media and appear to be more self-absorbed, I wouldn’t call Millennials selfish. Several different studies have discovered some pretty interesting facts about Millennials. Fareed Zakaria cites UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute’s continued research on incoming college freshmen. Over time, they have found that “the percentage of freshmen who identify ‘becoming well off financially’ as a personal objective has steadied,” with fewer Millennials regarding this as a major life goal. Consequently, Zakaria notes, “other life objectives that have risen in importance to students are ‘becoming a community leader,’ ‘helping others who are in difficulty,’ and, interestingly, ‘making a theoretical contribution to science’—none of which are signs of selfishness.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If you still aren’t convinced, Zakaria also refers to a Nielsen report that shows our generation’s feelings about volunteering and giving back to society. According to Nielsen, Millennials care mostly about causes related to education, poverty, and the environment. Additionally, “in 2011, 75% [of Millennials] made a donation to a charity, 71% raised money for one, and 57% volunteered—‘more than any other generation.’” We consider NGOs and nonprofits valuable to society, and we demonstrate this by actively participating in volunteering and fundraising efforts for the causes we care about. Does that really make us selfish?

Are Millennials Lazy?

Yes and no. From the perspective of previous generations, Millennials are lazy because we have a different type of work ethic, and we don’t think of work in the same way. However, in this Lifehack article, Dianna Labrien suggests these critiques are not completely accurate. For one thing, Labrien says we “work to live, not live to work.” We don’t enjoy working for companies we aren’t passionate about, and we don’t want a career to be our sole purpose in life. Millennials seem less motivated to work because well, we are. Unless we feel like what we do makes a difference or relates to a particular goal or cause we care about, we aren’t interested. Furthermore, we prefer to find the most efficient way to do work, rather than adhere to traditions and seemingly pointless workplace rules. Employers can expect Millennials to complete tasks quickly and effectively, provided you give us a bit of creative freedom regarding how we tackle them.

In reality, Millennials have both positive and negative characteristics, just like every generation that preceded us. Our traits are simply different from those of our parents and grandparents, which should be expected given the major societal changes that have occurred during our lifetimes. Despite this, I would argue that the good things about my generation outweigh the bad. Millennials may watch too much Netflix and spend more time texting people than engaging with them face-to-face, but we also care about the world we live in and truly want to enjoy life to the fullest. When the unfair critiques and snap judgments made by the media, politicians, or even your parents frustrate or enrage you, seek out sources that remind you about the positive qualities of Millennials, such as this article. And remember, people from previous generations didn’t always have their lives together either.

Image Credit: Student Doctor Forum, Giphy