By Jessica Garrett
Jewish Community Services
We’ve all heard it. From teachers or journalists, politicians or parents: the “Millennials” are lazy. We lack direction, we’re unfocused. We’re spoiled and can’t detach from the teat of society. We are over-educated, under-achieving, couch potatoes. We’re too obsessed with social networking to really DO anything.
Is this perception true? If not, how do we reverse the perception, and if so, how do we reverse ourselves? First we must acknowledge that the assumption isn’t totally out of left field. As a generation we do spend more time on phones and computers than any other, and many of us are unemployed or underemployed.
That said, there are many encouraging trends for people born between 1980 and 2000. Constant connection to the internet means constant connection to the world. For example, Twitter is more than just a way for celebs to connect with each other. It’s aided in major protests all over the world by keeping people connected. Social networks have allowed a platform for debate, and a forum for questions between politicians and voters. And who are those asking the questions? That group is largely made up of people under 35.
We are also using these tools to market ourselves. Millennials have an innate understanding of the forward momentum of technology, and are often ahead of the curve. Musicians, writers, researchers, fundraisers and entrepreneurs all have ways to broadcast their message and their brand for free.
It’s also true that we buy things. A lot of things. From iPads to skinny jeans, Millennials have an incredible buying power. This is a sticky wicket, because we also live with our parents longer than any generation before us, so where is all of this money coming from? Shouldn’t it be going toward paying our student loans, or putting down a security deposit on an apartment?
You’d be hard pressed to find someone to say no, but it’s also true that buying power has the word “power” in it for a reason. We’re trend-setters, meaning that we have the power to advocate for socially, ethically and fiscally responsible items. When the popular crowd makes a good-hearted decision, the trend will spread – as it has with the popularity of hybrid cars, ethically made goods and organic food.
As a generation, we tend to fall on the educated side. This can be tough because the demand for certain types of education rise and fall with the state of the economy and innovation trends (think tech, financial and automotive industries – each with specified training and their own ups and downs in the last 15 years).
But we sometimes forget that school offers more than just a degree or a course of study. Our experiences, in and out of a university setting, shape who we are and can be used to give us a leg up. Social skills, public speaking, time management and a host of other skills are all part of higher education, and can help you create the best career for yourself.
Millennials are blessed with another characteristic: energy. Boundless energy is our best friend and our most powerful ammunition in the desire to move the world forward. We can use our connections, our social media skills, our degrees, our savings to create the world we’ve envisioned for ourselves, but none of those things will get us very far without the fervor of youthful energy.
Much of the world is in the hands of Millennials and it’s a trend that won’t end for decades, so we’d better get used to it. We’re often handed greeting cards, posters, or refrigerator magnets urging us to heed Gandhi’s words and “Be the change we want to see in the world,” so let’s do just that. Even if we’re using Kickstarter to get there.
Check out ifiknew.org for more blogs and information of interest to young adults.