By Jessica Garrett, Health Educator
It’s all over the news. The generation born between 1980 and 2000, known as “Millennials,” is coming of age — and pretty much ruining everything. They’re entitled, lazy, over-educated, and under-achieving. They’re unfocused. They’re depressed. They live with their parents well past college, and then they ask for money.
Are these assumptions about Millennials true? What are the realities for this generation? Statistics don’t lie; Millennials are having a hard time. They’re living with family longer, in deeper debt, and less employed than any generation in recent history. Is this because of society, parents, or the economy, or is it just their own undoing? I’d say it’s a little of everything. We could analyze or debate what got them to this place, but is there a way to help them overcome these setbacks?
If you are a parent struggling with your own Millennial, you might begin by just acknowledging how stressful this is for both you and your young adult child. If he or she isn’t showing initiative, it may be due more to hopelessness. Millennials were told how special they are throughout childhood and adolescence, only to be treated as fairly worthless in a tight and competitive job market after they finish college. So many just keep going back to school, earning more degrees and going further into debt. A generation taught to “follow their dreams” is now left with the unfortunate reality that in a recession, society may not be begging for more dancers, pastry chefs, or Classics professors. Or perhaps they went the practical route, only to find out that physicians, bankers, and attorneys are encountering the same problems in today’s world: too many graduates, not enough jobs.
It’s not all bad, though! Millennials have a leg up in many ways, and their setbacks can be the direct link to what will make them persevere. How? For every disheartening statistic, there is an advantage, and Millennials are starting to wise up to their own power. There are many encouraging trends.
Millennials connect us to the world. As a generation Millennials do spend more time on phones and computers than any other. Constant connection to the internet means constant connection to the world. Twitter is booming as a means of social networking, and it has aided in major protests all over the world by keeping people connected. Social networks have allowed a platform for debate and a forum for dialogue between politicians and voters, and people under 35 are deeply involved.
Millennials are the future (and present) of the economy. From iPads to skinny jeans, Millennials have incredible buying power. Where is all of this money coming from? Shouldn’t it be going toward paying down student loans, or putting down a security deposit on an apartment? It’s also true that buying power has the word “power” in it for a reason. Millennials are trend-setters, which is good for the economy, but also can be good for our beautiful planet. They have the power (and often use it) to advocate for socially, ethically, and fiscally responsible causes. When the popular crowd makes a good-hearted decision, the trend will spread, as it has with hybrid cars, ethically made goods, and organic food.
Millennials are educated. This is a two-sided coin because the demand for certain types of education rises and falls with the state of the economy and innovation trends (think tech, financial, and automotive industries). But school offers more than a degree or a course of study. Experiences, in and out of a university setting, shape who we are and can be used to give us a leg up. Social skills, public speaking, time management and others are all part of higher education, and can help create a career tailor-made to fit a certain talent.
Millennials have energy. Boundless energy is the most powerful ammunition in the desire to move the world forward. Just like prior generations, Millennials can use their connections, social media skills, degrees, and savings to create the world we’ve envisioned for ourselves, but it’s the fervor of youthful energy that creates social progress.
We should keep encouraging our Millennials to follow their dreams. But now we must also remind them that those dreams should probably include paying bills and living on their own. Much of the world is in their hands and it’s a trend that won’t end for decades, so we’d all better get used to it. Millennials may be draining the resources of the Earth, but they may also save it.
By Jessica Garrett, Health Educator, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
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