Each generation is different from the last. Culture and events that take place during our lifetimes mold and shape our identities. You have probably heard the term “Generation X” used rather disparagingly about the “youth today”, but this term is obsolete when it comes to today’s young people. They are a different breed and prefer not to be called Generation Y because it connects them with a generation they don’t necessarily identify with. Meet the Millennials.

Like their name suggests, Millennials were born or coming of age right around the turn of the 21st century. They grew up with the Internet, and can rarely be seen without their cell phone. Millennials are self-confident, peer-oriented, and well-educated.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, leading experts in generational theory, published their highly influential work “Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069” in 1991. In this provocative book, Strauss and Howe argue that generations appear in cycles and that each generation has defining characteristics that are influenced by the events, leaders, and prevailing culture of the time period. Millennials are defined as those born after 1981 and before 2001.

While Generation X is associated with cynicism, disunity, and individualism, Millennials are positive and community-oriented. Millennials are technologically savvy and use the Internet more than any other age group. They are close with their parents and tend to be more socially liberal. They are ethnically diverse, charitable, and suffer high rates of unemployment in today’s economy.

In the workplace, the Millennials are just beginning to strut their stuff. Although they are team players by nature, Millennials often come off as entitled. They require regular feedback and offer their opinions without restraint. Millennials want to enjoy their work but also maintain a healthy home life. They multi-task effortlessly and are very comfortable with the Internet, social media, online networking, text messaging, blogging, and more.

Since the publication of this book, Strauss and Howe have gone on to highlight the rise of the Millennials, comparing them to the G.I. Generation. Also known as the Greatest Generation, members of this generation came of age during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. The G.I. Generation is known for being productive and selfless.

Millennials, Strauss and Howe argue, have some of the same hallmarks of the Greatest Generation. Millennials are more likely to volunteer and give to charity than generations before them. They are optimistic and civic-minded. Like the G.I. Generation, Millennials are coming of age in a very turbulent and confusing time. The average Millennial’s identity has been shaped by the meteoric rise of the Internet, the war on terror, rapidly increasing globalization, and now a global financial crisis.

In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke about his own generation. It could easily be applied to today’s Millennials:

“There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation has a rendezvous with destiny.”

John Bradley Jackson
Entrepreneur, Professor, Author
Deja New Marketing
© Copyright 2011

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