What Is Millennial Generation: Busting Common Stereotypes Of Gen Y

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Millennials, sometimes called Generation Y, have been subject to so much bad press in the news. Some of the complaints leveled at them include being narcissistic, living with little ambition, and even being a bit delusional. But are these stereotypes true? 

In this article, we’ll bust some popular myths about Millennials and explain what it means to be part of this generation!

Why Are They Called Millennials?

Millennials got their name because most of them entered adulthood at the turn of the third millennium. The term “Millennials” came from Strauss & Howe, authors of the Fourth Turning generational theory. 

As of 2019, the Pew Research center estimated that Millennials are the largest generational cohort in America with a population of 72.1 million, more than a quarter of the entire population. They succeeded the post-World War II generation, known as Baby Boomers, as the largest generation in the country. 

Millennials are also called Generation Y, first coined in an Advertising Age article in 1993. However, that article referred to teenagers born from 1974 to 1980. Ad Age later moved Generation Y’s starting year to 1982. They also conceded that “Millennial” is a better name than “Generation Y”, citing that Gen Y was used as a placeholder name until people learned more about the generation. 

Another popular name for this generation is “Echo Boomer”. This name came about because plenty of Millennials are the children of baby boomers, or perhaps it’s inspired by the birth rate bump during the 80s and 90s. 

The name “Me Me Me Generation”, coined by Time Magazine, is also a name that’s often used derisively. It usually refers to the millennial’s perceived narcissism and self-centeredness.

When Were Millennials Born?

Some people tend to lump Millennials and their succeeding cohort, Generation Z or Post-Millennials, into one group. However, these two are separate generations with their own unique traits, so it’s important to know where Millennial birth years begin and end. 

Measuring the birth year of generational cohorts is never an exact science. That’s why different organizations use different age groups:

  • The Pew Research Center, Gallup, and the American Psychological Association define Millennials as people born between 1981 and 1996. However, the Pew Research Center is also open to recalibrating these birth years because sociological research needs time to reach a consensus.
  • Psychologist Jean Twenge, the author of the book Generation Me, defined Millennials as the generation born from 1980 to 1994. 
  • The United States Census Bureau placed 1996 as the end date for Millennial birth years but never defined an official start date, nor did they officially recognize the generation. 

Going by the age range used by Pew Research Center and Gallup, the oldest Millennials will turn 40 and the youngest Millennials will be 25 in 2021. Most Millennials are children born from Baby Boomers and Generation X. In turn, Millennials gave birth to late Generation Z and Generation Alpha babies. 

In generational theory, there are people known as “cuspers”. They’re born in the transitional period between generations and tend to share traits of both the old generation and the new generation. 

People born between the Generation X and Millennial age range are sometimes known as Xennials (merging “Generation X” and “Millennials”) and the Oregon Trail Generation, referring to a series of educational games popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Meanwhile, children born in the cusp between the Millennial and Generation Z age range are called “Zennials”, merging the two generation names.

Common Millennial Traits

Generalizing an entire generation is impossible. However, since most Millennials grew up witnessing similar world events, many of them have several traits in common. Here are some traits commonly found in Millennials: 

Accepting Of Change

Between the late 80s and the turn of the millennium, the world saw so many changes – especially in technology. Many Millennials spent their childhoods with one landline phone in the house but grew up to see everyone in the household owning smartphones. 

This is just one example of how much things have changed in the lifetime of Generation Y. Most of them embrace these changes, adopting new technology and quickly becoming proficient in them.

Curious And Inquisitive

Most of this generation is dedicated to finding the best way to do something. They often seek out training seminars or other lessons to improve themselves both at home and in the workplace. Some of them even make a point of learning new skills every so often to keep their brains sharp.

Values Teamwork And Connections

Despite having a bad rap for being selfish, Millennials love working in a group. They enjoy hearing alternate viewpoints and collaborating with others to find the best solution for their issues. Their definition of collaboration isn’t just face-to-face. In the age where people communicate online, the Millennial Generation can even make a living working for someone halfway across the world.

Many of them also don’t just view their team in the office as simply coworkers. Millennials often end up building personal friendships out of work with their colleagues.

Recognizes The Importance Of Feedback

It may be an accurate stereotype that Millennials love being praised – many of them grew up with constant praise from their parents. However, this also means that they crave and value feedback of any kind. They need to feel like what they’re doing is important and that they’re on the right track. 

While it may sound needy, this can be valuable in the workplace. In addition to positive feedback and recognition, they also value constructive criticism and often seek mentorship or guidance from more senior coworkers.

Tech-Savvy

Millennials are the first generation to be digital natives. They grew up with the Internet and are well-versed in computers and mobile devices. Being immersed in the World Wide Web for years gives most of them almost natural proficiency. Whether it’s looking up important information for work or connecting with friends and family thousands of miles away, they’ll find a way to do it.

Prefers Access To Ownership

Millennials place ease of access as one of the most important factors when purchasing goods or services. On the small scale, this means they’re more likely to spend money on subscription services like Netflix instead of buying physical copies of their favorite movies.

This mindset also extends to larger decisions in life. Thanks in no small part to rising home prices, Millennials are more likely to rent homes rather than buy a house.

Willing To Delay “Adulthood”

The Millennial Generation is sometimes called the Peter Pan Generation because they “refuse” to grow up. In this sense, growing up means going through the culturally accepted rites of passage like getting married, having kids, and buying a home. Unlike the preceding generation, Millennials tend to view people as adults based on their abilities and characteristics, rather than traditional markers of maturity like age or marital status. 

It’s theorized that the high cost of housing and higher education leads to this phenomenon. Unlike earlier generations, young women tend to pursue higher education first before considering marriage. Some people also theorize that since Millennials saw many early marriages end in divorce, they are deciding to delay it to get everything right the first time.

Breaking Millennial Stereotypes

There are always unfounded negative stereotypes attached to young people by prior generations. However, the stereotypes of Millennials tend to be more publicized thanks to the nature of today’s media. Here, we attempt to break some stereotypes and bust some myths related to Generation Y.

All Millennials Are Young

The word “Millennial” typically conjures an image of a single man or woman in their early twenties stuck on the couch waiting for the next season of their favorite show. However, not all Millennials fit this description. 

While many are still in their early twenties, the generation started in 1981. Despite the popular stereotype, many Millennials are in their forties, working stable jobs or running small businesses to take care of their family. Nowadays, the common stereotype of Millennials may be better suited to describe their younger counterparts, Generation Z.

They Killed Many Industries

The common belief that the Millennial Generation has killed many industries that thrived many generations ago isn’t entirely false. Consumer trends have shifted since a large portion of this generation grew up during the 2008 Great Recession. As a result, most Millennials don’t have the disposable income to make frivolous expenses.

Some of the industries that Millennials are “killing” mostly cater to older people like the Baby Boomers and often cost a lot of money, like golf and diamonds. Some other industries are simply outdated as the demand fell out of fashion, like greeting cards.

While it’s true that reduced interest of the next generation has impacted many industries’ bottom line, it’s unlikely that they’re killing them on purpose. Millennials simply can’t afford their products or have no interest in the first place.

Millennials Aren’t Loyal To Their Jobs

The Millennial Generation has a notorious reputation for job-hopping, unlike Baby Boomers that usually stay in the same job for years. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job tenures of 20-something Americans today and the 1980s are roughly similar. This means that workers in the past weren’t completely selfless and dedicated to their companies. Job-hopping is just what young workers have been doing for many generations. 

There is some truth to this stereotype. Millennials are more concerned about opportunities to get promoted and better work-life balance compared to other generations. Most of them won’t stay in a single place for their entire careers, especially if they’re not rewarded accordingly or are saddled with unrealistic expectations.

Historical Landmarks Of Generation Y

World events tend to shape the worldviews of an entire generation. Like many previous generations, Millennials have witnessed many events that changed their lives. Here is a slice of history from the viewpoint of Millennials.

9/11 Attacks

There’s no doubt that the 9/11 attacks were burned into all the different generations that witnessed it. However, it was likely the first major world event that Millennials saw firsthand. The attacks and the seismic shift of culture afterward may have represented the first major change in their lives.

Many Millennials at the time felt the increased focus on home life and family time, as well as the increased drive in patriotism. Those who lost family and friends in the attacks may have also developed an increased sense of paranoia and anxiety.

The Obama Presidency

Barack Obama’s tenure as the 44th president is revolutionary in many ways, especially for Millennials. In the closing years of his second term, almost half of Millennials surveyed believed Obama made progress in solving the country’s problems. 

This can be attributed to how he addressed issues close to Millennials. They admired his efforts in solving the issue with immigration as well as foundational support for LGBTQ+ rights. More importantly, his presidency was a major political and cultural milestone in the fight for equality, especially considering the country’s history of racism.

Economic Recessions

The great economic recession that happened between 2007 and 2009 had a profound impact on Millennials entering early adulthood at the time. Many of them were in college or fresh graduates when the recession hit, forcing them to lose their jobs or shift careers. 

Older Millennials now have experienced two recessions in their lifetime. The coronavirus pandemic in the past year has also forced them to adapt because some of them may have lost their jobs and put their future earnings in question.

Closing Thoughts

Despite being a frequent target for bad press, Millennials can be just as hardworking and driven as previous generations. In fact, many Millennials seek out mentorship and guidance from older generations to better themselves for the future.

If you’ve ever been curious how your Millennial youth looks compared to your Gen X or Baby Boomer parents, you can look through your family’s old photos. However, those photos might need to be restored first. Contact Image Restoration Center for fast and affordable photo restorations!

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