January 29, 2013
Today’s social commentators love to write about Millennials, the generation that is currently between 18 and 30 years of age.
Usually, it’s not good. Columns with headlines like “Six quotes that prove Millennials are terrible employees” abound, proclaiming that young adults today are entitled, lazy, unable to form real relationships and narcissistic to the point of delusion.
As a member of that generation, I beg to differ. And I think more of us should speak up and help our parents’ and grandparents’ generation understand our take on the world.
According to conventional wisdom, Millennials are so wrapped up in themselves they couldn’t care less about the world around them. But a major 2012 study called the Millennial Impact Report found that despite far higher unemployment numbers than the general population, 75 percent of Millennials had donated money to charity in the past year, 71 percent said they had helped raise money for a nonprofit and 63 percent volunteered their time.
Not only did those young adults give, but they gave thoughtfully, seeking out causes they felt passionate about. Nine out of 10 Millennials in the survey said they always research an organization and read its mission statement before writing a check, and most of them followed up their donation with a Facebook post urging their friends to read up on the cause.
Of course, there is some truth to some of the insults lobbed at my generation. But in many cases it’s a question of semantics. Where the Greatest Generation sees narcissism, I see a healthy self confidence and optimism that is helping us not give up despite an economy that has not been kind to us and — experts predict — our careers may never fully recover from.
Besides, after a healthy dose of rejection letters, student loan debt and needing to move back in with our parents after college, the majority of us are hardly living with delusions of grandeur. The recession has undone much of what the everyone-gets-a-trophy culture taught us as children, back when the adults in our lives thought high self esteem was cute rather than something to be mocked.
Sure, there are plenty of Millennials who write hourly updates about their life on Facebook and overshare about their personal drama. But plenty don’t, and as someone who is Facebook friends with people from every generation, I find that excessive posting tends to be much more a function of personality than age.
There are plenty of good things to say about my generation.
We are the most educated generation in history, and having Google at our fingertips makes it easy to expand our knowledge every day. Growing up with constantly-changing technology has taught us to adapt quickly and embrace change. We focus on the positive in ourselves, each other and the world around us.
Our generation’s diversity has bred in us a strong belief that our friends of a different race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and immigration status deserve true respect and fairness, not just superficial political correctness.
We care more about fulfillment in our jobs than a big paycheck. We place a high value on our time and are therefore less likely to waste it doing things just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” We are unusually entrepreneurial and collaborative.
All of that can be an asset to our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, but only if they can start appreciating that there is a difference between “wrong” and “different.”