It’s been a popular pastime for centuries for older people to bemoan the vagaries of the youthful generation. In fact, if you do a search for “Millennials are…,” the first results might be: 17 Reasons Millennials Are the Worst Generation, 7 Reasons Millennials Are the Worst Generation, or 8 Reasons Millennials are the Worst.
Actually, each of these articles attempts to debunk the myth that millennials are worse than any other generation. I love this line from The real reason why everyone thinks millennials are the worst:
“Millennials, those born roughly between 1980 and 2000, are infamously narcissistic, entitled, lazy, arrogant, wild, politically disengaged suckers who will fall for any weird fad. But except for that last one, which is totally true, these clichés are silly and easily debunked.”
In the popular mind, there are seemingly gazillions of ways people born between 1982 and 2004 suck. Among them are our current college students between the ages of 18 and 25.
Last week, I was treated to a workshop on “Understanding and Engaging Millennials in the Classroom,” where the prevalent stereotypes were described. What I appreciated about my hour there was that the instructor tried to upend the negative images by talking about how their traits can be seen as truly positive.
For example, millennials seem to expect things to happen quickly and have no tolerance whatsoever for delays. That means they are focusing their energies on making things more efficient. They are motivated by self-interest and are risk-averse because they are growing up in decades of uncertainty about the climate, a prevalence of natural disasters, and constant mass shootings. But the awareness of all these horrors is leading them to work to make life better for themselves and future generations. They are also annoyingly close to their parents, need constant feedback, and think they can multi-task as a way of life. But these, too, have upsides.
I’m frankly tired of hearing about how current college students aren’t measuring up. So, I am going to focus today’s post on the reasons they are pretty interesting. I got to spend time with one particularly lovely millennial last week. (AH, you know who you are.) Yes, she probably doesn’t tolerate delays, is risk-averse, stays close to her family, requires constant feedback, and is used to multi-tasking. But let’s take a look at how these millennial characteristics are meaningful, positive, and productive in their approaches to college and constructing a life.
- They have learned how to connect with people their parents’ ages, and they use those skills to forge meaningful connections with adults on campus who can serve as sounding boards as they face big decisions.
- They are used to succeeding, which means that they approach the world with a can-do attitude.
- They are risk averse, so they ask lots of great questions before leaping into something. They want their eyes wide open before committing.
- They are used to multi-tasking, so they are able to take on college work, internships, exercise, religious practices, relationships, and career development all at the same time.
- They know they are fragile – people tell them all the time that they don’t know how to fail – so many of them ask for help when they need it, which is one reason our campus counseling centers can’t keep up with the demand.
- Reality is not real so they know how to “brand” themselves to meet the demands of the marketplace, a true advantage when it comes to engaging in the world of work.
- They truly want to make the world a better place, given the current insecurity in the political, economic, and natural worlds, so they take measured steps toward making a difference.
- They want feedback often, which is truly one of the most annoying things for someone my age, but they want it so that they can gauge whether their efforts are making a difference.
So, I’m going to step off the “I hate millennials” bandwagon now and focus on how they, as products of their socio-political and cultural landscape, may be able to bring positive change to this seemingly topsy-turvy world. Join me?