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Mining the mind of a millennial

Do millennials think differently than baby boomers? I decided to ask a recent college grad, who is living with us for a few days. A desire for the freedom to move about, wanting to be fulfilled at work, and the right to be “just a little bit weird” are just a few of the insights she shared with me.

IMG_1781Do millennials think differently than baby boomers?

I decided to ask Miranda, a recent college grad, who is living with us for a few days.

She piqued my curiosity when she critiqued an article her father (my cousin) wrote for the Huffington Post. To a blogger, getting into the Huff Post is a big accomplishment, and my cousin’s article was solid, serious, opinionated and convincing.

But Miranda had another viewpoint: “Millennials won’t read it.”

Really? Tell me more! (OK, his article was not exactly skim-able.)

Miranda, who is super articulate, doesn’t represent all millennials. But, she has a lot to say:

We don’t have a cause.

My generation is defined by a lack of a cause, like the Vietnam War, that touched everybody. There are a lot of problems in the world today – but less cohesion around them.

We want freedom to break out of forms.

We feel a lot freer to do things – less tied to some formula about how we should live our lives – because the job market doesn’t support that formula anymore.

We are willing to take risks.

Many members of my generation are willing to take big risks. We’re lucky because we can move from career to career – and move around.

My Dad wants me to start climbing the ladder, so I can build a set of accomplishments on paper, and build my career.

But, there are lots of people building up similar pieces of paper. Having a nice set of accomplishments on paper won’t make you stand out. I’d rather take some risks – I think they’ll work better anyway.

We want freedom to try things.

I look at people who are doing random things and making life work. Even in high school, my friends took time off from school to go on adventures – and they ended up in good colleges even though they didn’t follow the rules for getting in.

We don’t need to follow the rules.

In fact, not following the rules is our new rule, because the old ones don’t work anymore.



We see success differently.

For most of my friends, the traditional ideas about what success looks like – landing a consulting job, getting a good apartment and settling down – looks boring.

We don’t want that kind of success.

We want the freedom to move about.

I anticipate changing jobs. I might take a job that looks less prestigious but will leave me open to developing my interests outside of work. Even a blue collar job might give me freedom to grow and educate myself in my free time – despite the fact that people might think I wasn’t using my education.

I don’t want a job where I’ll feel used up and brain dead getting off work. Of course, it might be different if my job engaged me so much that I felt like I was learning, growing and fulfilled.

We’re less willing to compromise on jobs.

I think my generation is less willing to compromise on jobs. We don’t just accept the idea that jobs are something you have to do just so you can buy a house and have a family.

We expect to like our jobs – not just not hate them – and we want to be fulfilled by some aspect of our work.

We need employers to understand that the workplace matters.

Everyone wants to work at Google because they’ve made their offices into a playground. My generation wants to work with people they like, in a place that they like, doing work that they like.

They’re willing to move around until they get that. I have a friend who has moved four times in 12 months to different jobs and different cities.

We don’t need stability yet – or at least some of us don’t.

I’m not ready to set roots that are too deep because this is the time of my life when I have very few responsibilities and I want to make use of that.

We often talk in terms of making one year commitments – working in a lab for a year, doing a project for a year….then moving on.

We use technology –  it can lead to shorter attention spans – but give us great access to information.

Everyone is so concerned about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) because those subjects lead to tangible results – as if history and philosophy don’t produce results because the results aren’t so tangible.

With technology it’s easy to be distracted. People end up with shorter attention spans. If you have a philosophy problem, you can’t come up with an answer in 45 seconds, but, with technology, people get distracted before they’ve taken time to really think. People want tangible answers fast.

On the other hand, with technology, I can spend hours following Wikipedia from subject to subject. There’s so much information online, and so many ways to learn.

We think –  or I do – that there’s more to life than just tangible results.

I’m not religious – but I believe that there’s more to life than what exists in the purely tangible world. There’s meaning in life, being happy and healthy, creating good relationships, and having empathy and real human interactions. These are things I want to focus on.

We dream.

I don’t see myself settling down. Maybe I’ll be a homeowner, but I don’t see myself going to an office everyday.

I want a more flexible schedule where I can interact in a more vibrant way than a lot of jobs allow and also get to be a little weirder.

I’ve had a dream that maybe I’ll be a college professor in New Zealand while simultaneously operating a Bed and Breakfast sheep farm.IMG_1782

We want freedom to be a little weird.

I think we want to be unique. Our generation follows the idea that people don’t want to look like or be like everyone else. Oh sure, there are trends and all that – but look at the popularity of tattoos – people want to look like themselves in whatever they’re doing – and retain a sense of individuality and be allowed to be a little bit weird.

As I listened to Miranda I remembered the dreams of my early twenties. I love her sense of freedom and possibility, and commitment to make the world better in her own unique way.

The millennials, raised on technology in a fast changing global environment, may be different from members of my generation.

But, then again, don’t we all want the freedom to be just a little bit weird??? I do!

2 Responses

  1. I am on the cusp of being Gen X and/or Millennial. I can identify with some characteristics of both. In this blog I identified the most with the following:

    We’re less willing to compromise on jobs.
    We need employers to understand that the workplace matters.
    We see success differently.

    Work is an important, necessary aspect of life, but it better be something I want to be part of if at all possible. We spend a lot of our lives working and interacting with those at work. I want that to support the rest of my goals in life and feel free to hold true to my values.

  2. That was an enjoyable read. I am very happy you asked her.

    Did I miss the link to the Huffington Post article? = I’m rather fond of bellowing text with solid facts and an opinion of how to see those facts. I tend to learn more about what does and does not work from them the Ge’ez ers. Rather than be lulled into the comfortable of….. well its a good thing to figure it out for yourself.

    Take it easy on the Tattoos. Some strain of thought seems to be spreading. I like piercings though. They can be removed.

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