If you’re like me, you’re sick of taking flak from “older” and “wiser” generations who look down on millennials as smartphone holding, undereducated, self-absorbed renters who are sucking the economy. Here’s the thing though. We’re actually kind of amazing. And this is why.
1. We’re curious.
We love new experiences and place them as a top priority in our lives. We’re a generation curious about new foods, new cultures, music, and scenery. We love to adventure to new cities more regularly than ever. Topdeck Travel, popular provider of group travel for 18-30 somethings, surveyed 31,000 people from 134 different countries: 88 percent of them traveled overseas between one and three times a year; 94 percent were between ages 18-30.We’re seekers, eager to learn, grow, and experience all the world has to offer.
2. We understand the weight of marriage.
We grew up with divorced parents, or watched parents separate. We watched our formally married parents date, remarry, start new families. We watched our friends be shuffled around for holidays, getting two birthdays and two Christmases. And while it was thought that would only corrupt us more, statistics show that millennials may have learned from their parents’ mistakes. Among millennials, the average age men and women marry at has not only increased, it’s skyrocketed. In the 60s, women were married by 21, men by 23. Today, we wait… awhile. Women are getting married on average around 27, and 29 for men. It gives us time to graduate, have a job, go back to school, pay off our debt (theoretically), travel, live together, and be sure this is the one human we want to wake up to every single day until we die. And because of that, divorce rates are declining. You’re welcome.
3. We believe passion is the best paycheck.
For every complaint about millennials being indecisive or shifty, there is a counter response. While fewer of us are going to work for parents or grandparents, or expecting to work for the same company for 40 years, we are passionate about our work. LinkedIn conducted a study that found that, yes it’s true we change jobs more frequently than ever before. They found that most millennials will have 4 jobs before turning 32 – that’s just 10 years out of undergrad. And maybe to the 30-plus year firm employee that makes us look restless, but it actually just proves we’re determined. CNN found that most millennials leave their jobs for a higher ranking or higher paying position. And often that means leaving our field all together. We don’t live in that safe world where a 4-year degree ensured you employment for the rest of your life. We’re trying to survive in the world where jobs can be replaced by robots, internal promotions and pay raises are uncommon, and industries is changing by the day. Even the lessons we learn our freshman year have at times become obsolete by the time we graduate. So we start our own business, companies, technologies, causes, and go to work. We have 4 roommates and we rent a house, but we’re making a difference, and we’re learning along the way. We’ve learned to embrace the uncertainty of the job market; molding the industry to fit our passions and skills, rather than the other way around.
4. We shop local.
You’ve seen the headlines: big box stores close thanks to millennials. We’re just too lazy to hit the mall, too antisocial to deal with an actual person and too worried about being unique to shop mainstream. But while we’re not rushing to black Friday the way retailers probably wish we were, we’re filling local storefronts, spending the extra $10 to eat locally-sourced ingredients, and we’re drinking the stuff brewed in our backyards. There’s a certain sense of intimacy we want from retailers. Since 2013, the craft beer scene has nearly doubled. And these aren’t college kids shotgunning watered down beer in a parking lot. These are young professionals meeting their friends at the local watering hole for happy hour. It’s neighbors walking their dogs and pushing their babies to the pub down the street to play some cornhole and enjoy the sunshine. It’s a new group of consumers willing to pay $7 for a pint of beer because they know who made it. And their kids go to preschool together.
5. We know no strangers.
Our noses are glued to our smartphones. Our time is spent scrolling through the perfected lives of others. We have an inability to disconnect. That’s what they say. But let’s flip that around and instead say we thrive on connection. We make friends, have relationships with people who live across the world. We share tips, recipes, hobbies, advice, and memories with people we’d otherwise never know. We’re not afraid of networking or asking people to put in a good word for us. We just do it on social media, instead of stuffy mixers. We collaborate, brainstorm, invest in the most creative, globally-expansive, and personal ways with people that appeared on our “explore” pages. According to the Pew Research Center, “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of teens who have made a new friend online say they have met new friends on a social media platform. Two-thirds (62%) of teens say they’ve shared their social media username with a brand-new friend as a way to stay in touch.” We truly believe there are just six degrees of separation.
6. We’re open-minded to differences, but intolerant of injustices.
We grew up on the cusp on legalizing gay marriage. Marijuana was made legal in our prime drug-seeking age. We know someone who had a sex change. Whether we agree with it or not, we’ve grown up in a world where “two parents of the same race and opposite gender” families didn’t always exist. Normalcy, for the first time, didn’t mean the same for everyone – even everyone in your social class, race, or town. And somehow, we all learned not to fight about it all the time. But we did learn how to fight for people who couldn’t. We watched our parents struggle during the economic downturn. We were in grade school when two planes crashed into the twin towers. We watched cancer rob families of their life saving’s in order to keep it from robbing them of their life. We watched our older siblings ship off to war. But when we “watched” all these things happen – we actually understood. We had 24/7 news channels blaring the good and the bad. We had chat rooms dedicated to the bullying of someone who was different. And we found our voice. And by the time we were old enough to have our opinion matter, it was well-formed and well-researched. We fall in the gray area between malleable and empathetic, where someone else’s choices don’t impact us, or our interactions with them.