Are you impatient, competitive, and always connected?
Millennials are everywhere. Whenever people talk about progress or innovation, their name is always mentioned. They are the center of all society’s our hopes for the future, and at the same time, the focus of many criticisms. Guido Stein, a professor at the IESE Business School of the University of Navarra, is something of an expert on the topic, with articles and books about them in both Spanish and English.
Millennials are people born after 1980 and before the year 2000. It’s a generation that, according to Stein, has lights and shadows, and is “worthy of respect and admiration in many ways,” although it needs “to mature and be given a push in many regards.” Stein writes that “no generation has ever had it so easy and so hard at the same time” because they are “immersed in a shifting fog created by the generation that preceded them, the materialism and selfishness of the world around them, and the uncertainty that’s part of the air they breathe.”
According to him, some of the most common traits of millennials are:
— They give in to prevailing social habits. The members of the millennial generation are more similar to each other than previous generations, due to the homogeneity of the information and values they have received through the media. This is also the consequence of globalization. Despite this, they “do not make concessions when it comes to what they believe is important.”
— They are very attached to their grandparents. Because their parents (often belonging Generation X) are intensely focused on work, many millennials have spent more time with their grandparents than with their parents, and have assimilated some of their values; ”for instance, the idea that there are some things more important than work or success”—although, Stein says, “it looks like family isn’t going to be one of their priorities.”
— The media are their guide. Their education has been largely based on messages from television, the Internet, and social networks. Their idea of authority is different from the previous generation. Millennials trust other millennials. Along these lines, according to Professor Candice Kelsey, whom Stein cites in his book, there are four messages that these young people absorb on social networks and apply in their lives:
“1. I must be entertained at all times.
2. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
3. Success means being a consumer.
4. Happiness is a glamorous adult.”
— They are always connected. Never have the members of a generation been more connected to each other, thanks to social networking. Nonetheless, according to Stein, they are likely to have very superficial relationship with many people and know very few very well, since the time needed to consolidate a relationship with one person is often dedicated to meeting more people.
— They project an image of who they want to be, not necessarily who they are: millennials can curate the image that they present on social networks. Conversely, they are also being constantly analyzed by their peers, which, according to Stein, can provoke insecurity and anxiety. Their goal is to be recognized, and even to have fans. “Millennials may come across as more self-centered and narcissistic than previous generations,” Stein writes.
—They are impatient: millennials have been raised in a culture of immediacy. They are expert multitaskers, comfortable doing various tasks at the same time, on various digital platforms. This can have a negative impact on their concentration.
— They are open-minded: Given the great number and ease of interactions and relationships with many people, this generation accepts differences and changes much more easily than previous generations.
— They are not counter-cultural or rebellious: For millennials there is no one way of looking at life; rather, they “float in multiple subcultures.” In this sense, they don’t recognize strong traditional leaders. Their models are social media “influencers.”
— They seek meaning in what they do; not satisfied with just making money, they “need to feel that what they do is worthwhile.” They are motivated by causes, and by “being part of something important that positively affects their environment.”
It is a generation of “lifehackers,” Stein says: people who constantly tweak their daily lives in order to be more productive, more motivated, and happier.
Ultimately, every generation has its strengths and weaknesses, and while we can make generalizations about them, we should never judge any individual based purely on a stereotype of people born in the same decade. Rather, we must learn to understand that we and those we deal with are partly the product of a given cultural context—the place, time, and family in which we were educated—but no one is a slave to their upbringing. We can and must use our free will to leverage our strengths, while striving to overcome our personal and generational weaknesses. Intergenerational relationships are vital to this end; whether we are baby boomers, Generation X, or millennials—or anything in between, before, or after—we can learn from each other and enrich each other with our different perspectives, skills, mistakes, and experiences. Together, we can built a better future.