Not long ago, I made every attempt to dodge the label of “Millennial.” This moniker is often used to describe one of America’s youngest generations as entitled and apathetic. Beyond its unflattering attributes, the most difficult part of being lumped in with Millennials was accepting my own perceptions about my peers. I wasn’t into kickball; I didn’t care much about pop culture; and most of all, I didn’t identify with the idea that so many of us were stuck “looking for ourselves.” There are far too many articles about recent college graduates in Manhattan with false expectations struggling to find work as journalists and pseudo-entrepreneurs.
While I opted out of young professional groups, I often raised my hand to work with people whose age group resembled my parents. I simply felt more at home with people in their forties, fifties, and sixties. I’ve been called an “old soul,” and one former colleague even joked how I likely stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
While I still don’t identify with many of the values assigned to Millennials — whether perceived by the attitudes of my elders or created by the actions of my peers — I find myself gravitating toward the distinct challenges of my generation. We face a new economy with a significantly different reality than the one of our predecessors. Due to rising tuition costs many of us leave college and university with massive debt only to meet a job market with little room for upward mobility, let alone entry-level career opportunities. I know far too many stories of Millennials working as permanent contract workers or freelancers, “a.k.a, perma-lance.”
In a few years it is likely that America’s crowded workforce will include up to five generations. And pressures are rising due to a global economy more interconnected than ever, yet distinctly divided by a widening gap between rich and poor. With these limitations, it’s no wonder why many Millennials live with their parents, delay marriage, and put off purchasing their first home. With potentially less capital, less equity, and less stability, how are Millennials positioned to take on these challenges?
When advertising agency Euro RSCG Worldwide conducted a global study of Millennials in 2011, the data suggested a bullish “can-do” attitude amid uncertainty. According to survey respondents, 84 percent of Millennials believe they have a “a duty to change the world.” And 82 percent believe they possess the power to instill such change. It’s within this sense of empowerment and purpose that I learned not only to accept the challenges of the new millennium, but to embrace the fundamental identity that comes with it.