For a long time now, baby boomers have lived with some broad generalizations about what makes millennials tick. The story goes that they are social-media obsessed, impatient and narcissistic people who lack the stick-to-itiveness to cross a finish line. They want to have fun, travel and rain on our parade because they know better.
After working on a project that allowed me to probe the experiences and aspirations of 29 millennials, I now challenge these views. As with all generalizations, we can always find some case that supports the story, but the overall take is misguided. Just like my children’s view of me — yes, I like a clean house, my work completed, and a happy volunteer for the dog walk, but no, that is not the only thing I think about. The baby-boomer view on millennials is incomplete.
“At My Pace: Twenty Somethings Finding Their Way”is a result of this project where men and women in their 20s wrote candid pieces that revealed their comings of age and the lessons they have absorbed along the way. I also administered a survey so that I could profile the group’s attitudes and preferences. I am going to knock down just a few of our stereotypes:
Misguided Stereotype #1: I just want to have fun
In story after story, contributors share a longing to improve the world. Purposeful living drives them — whether it is teaching in underserved communities, using a law degree to advocate for immigration and sex worker rights, or using yoga and meditation as a way to heal. This group was not as focused on “me” as we typically think. Even contributors who were doing more mainstream work were searching for ways to extend its effect. My survey findings support purpose as far more important than fun.
Misguided Stereotype #2: They lack stick-to-itiveness
It is true that these contributors have done a fair bit of wandering, but often it is because they are in search of the path that will combine meaning with an ability to support themselves. Finding paying work that matches their interests is the most commonly identified challenge, and they wander to see how close they can get. Many 20-somethings still need to pay back student loans, so some pragmatism drives them. Bottom line: They can be restless wanderers but not because they lack the ability to make…