If you would have told me three weeks ago that I was a millennial, I would have laughed at you and given you a swift “LIES!” in my best Tamar Braxton impression.
Let's face it, I am the married mother of a rambunctious three-year old who is basically trying to hold it together until either Oprah or Beyonce realizes they need me to be their personal assistant. I clean up poop and/or pee on a consistent basis. I wear braids and extensions out of sheer convenience, not out of a sense of fashion or personal style (chile, who is trying to get up on a daily basis and do hair for an hour? Not this girl). I take my kid to soccer practice and watch him and other tiny humans who have no idea how to play the game, clumsily run around the soccer field until someone makes them take a water break. I have a super-regular Office Space inspired nine-to-five. In my mind, that is NOT a millennial. Millennials are sleek, well-dressed twenty-somethings who job-hop every year, drink a lot and use Google to answer all their major life questions. They live at home with their parents or in tiny, well-furnished apartments in the city. They don't have kids. They also don't have worries.
So, between cooking dinner and trying to keep my kid from jumping off the bannister, I was editing an article the other day about millennials and their impact on philanthropy in the digital age when I had to pause and take a double take at the first sentence. It stated “Millennials – loosely defined as those between the ages of 18-37...” Eighteen and thirty-seven? “Who is she calling a millennial.?” I asked out loud, black-girl neck roll included. Ever the dedicated fact-checker, I did a quick Google search (yeah, I know what I said about that) and found a few articles which talked about the age for millennials. The thing is, none of the demographers actually agree on the age range. Pew Research, a nonpartisan fact tank (and the organization that makes it their business to know all the statistics about literally everything) describes millennials as people who were between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015. Technically, that means I am millennial. since I didn't turn 35 until November 2015. Other demographers and organizations put the start date during the late seventies. Still, others note the start as “sometime during the early eighties.” Most demographers say that millennials are those whose birth years fall in the years of 1980-2000. Either way, the definitions I found on the web made me millennial-ish at the very least.
But what does it mean? Now that I realize I fall into this category, I've got questions about whether I want to play in this sandbox or nah. Who are millennials at their core? What differentiates them from every other generation? I read a ton of articles and pitted those descriptions against me and some of my friends. Here are a few things that resonated with me:
We Are Here for The Technology!
All of it. In all shapes and sizes. We have not met a new technology we didn't like. If it will make something happen faster or more efficiently, we are down for it. If it is going to make our lives easier, sign us up. And, if it is going to entertain us? Well, give us a double! We are the most technologically advanced generation the world has ever seen. We can have information in a fraction of a second. We can learn virtually anything for free. We carry small, powerful computers around with us all day long and we stay connected. Even our televisions are smart. We connect with one another across continents. We can write books with our voice. We have vacuum cleaners that run for hours with the push of a button. Our cars can drive themselves. This technology has made us both impatient and badass and we know it.
Netflix Over Everything
As Quad from Married to Medicine says, “We are very busy.” We often do not have time to sit down at 8pm eastern standard time/7pm Central to watch a television show week after week. We have things to do. Empires to build. Celebrities to follow. But we might have a random, free Saturday to binge watch House of Cards. Some super-smart person decided to capitalize on that and gave us all the gift of Netflix. Now, I can watch whatever I want, whenever I want and cable companies can not make me do otherwise. And so, Netflix gained another loyal customer and AT&T lost valuable marketshare. (Or it could just be me....)
We Are Not Here For the Status Quo...
If you're trying to make us fit your mold or play by your rules, we have no problem getting ghost. And if you try to make it too hard for us to be successful, we'll leave your sandbox and go build our own. Millennials are known for giving zero effs about antiquated ideas like “paying dues”, “going along to get along” or “playing our position.” A Gallup poll from May 2016, shows that over 55% of millennials polled were considered “not engaged” or not putting energy or passion into their jobs. The polls surmised that millennials are indifferent about work and show up just to put in their hours. If I had to guess, I'd say that's because millennials have realized that corporations are not invested in their progress and millennials, in turn, aren't all that invested in Corporate America.
But, it's not just Corporate America. In every industry, we've seen millennials circumvent traditional routes to success. Want to have your own sketch comedy show or talk show? No need to shop your show. Just record it and put it on Youtube. Want to get your music out to the masses? Record it in your home studio (which you can learn how to build for free on the internet) and upload it to iTunes and your personal website. Maybe you're an author looking to get your content out there. Write a book, self-publish and upload to Amazon. Millennials are not going to be held back by your rules and processes. We came to slay!
We Like Wine
We drink a lot of wine. Far more than previous generations. We don't really care how old it is or who made it. We care that it tastes good and keeps the party going.
Don't Bother Trying To Hide Big Issues...
Two words: Viral video.
No longer is it possible to hide big issues from us.
We are posting, tweeting and Snapchatting about everything. Some of 2016's biggest conversations came out of consistent and continually social media sharing. Remember Alton Sterling? Philando Castille? Those videos went viral and sparked national and international discussion on police brutality in the black community. Remember the pipeline protests? Those videos got people all over the nation talking about the rights of Native Americans. How about the Women's March? Women all over the world stood in solidarity with American women to protest injustices that affect us all. You can no longer tell us that something doesn't exist when we have viral video to prove that it does. Politicians can't hide or give us vague speeches about nonexistent progress. We are skeptical and we are not here for your political bull. We are in the know, we have proof of the problems and we will not go quietly into the night.
We Get Knowledge
Not only are we leading the generations in traditional education, we're getting knowledge in more unconventional ways. I've got a couple of degrees, but I realized that in order to stay relevant, I needed to delve into the world or programming. Recently, I went to a coding bootcamp to learn how to code. My mother, a baby boomer, couldn't exactly understand why I'd want to pursue this since it doesn't have anything to do with my current job. When I tried to explain what coding is and how it works, she smiled politely and wished me well, but I could tell she didn't really get it. Education makes us more valuable and it means we don't have to be tied to one industry. Millennials know that in order to be competitive, we have to be versatile. Not only are we getting our education in colleges, we're also heading to bootcamps and certification courses at a higher rate than any of our predecessors. We're also getting loads of training online using websites like Udemy and Coursera. That knowledge translates into more money at a younger age. And that is the name of the game for millennials.
Needless to say, I've proudly (and now, knowingly) joined the ranks of the 75.9 million millennials in the United States. While, I still have some traditional views, my values and behaviors seem to align closely with those of my fellow technologically-savvy, educated Generation-Yer's. As I continued to read, I realized that I could probably write about 10 more millennial-type descriptors which also describe me and my group of friends. But I'll stop here. Because it's a random Saturday and Netflix is calling my name.
Until next time....