Lately, I’ve had many people ask me how Millennials’ personalities are different from other generations’. This question always confuses me. Are these colleagues referring to actual personalities which are unique to each individual or do they mean as a collective group, what is different about them?
When I approach my colleagues with this question, they often seemed as puzzled as I am. They tell me it’s what they’ve seen in the media – the Millennials are “different”.
Well, yes and no. Just as with every generation, people at a specific age seem to have similar attributes, but not what I would call personality. Young people have always been idealistic, optimistic and actively voice their opinions. In this sense, Millennials are no different. It’s just the environment that has changed.
Millennials now have the internet and 100 different social media outlets in which to voice their opinions. But many of their opinions about the work world are not that much different than past generations. When talking about a personality of a whole group, it becomes difficult as people are affected by what happens to them. Much of the research on Millennial’s optimism, job-hopping, and wanting work to be fun is true, but was conducted years ago. Millennials who were entering the workforce in 2000 had many options. Since the economy has changed, today’s Millennials do not have the same choices as earlier Millennials. Statistics show that many of them are not making as much money as they thought they could and would.
So how does something like economy affect their outlook? It depends. It depends on which side of the economy they were on when they entered the workforce. It depends on whether they have delayed getting married and starting a family, as many have, or whether they have a family to feed. It depends on whether they can quit and move back home. It depends on their education and what skills they have.
If a Millennial has technical skills that are in demand, they may have different expectations than someone of the same generation with skills that are not as highly demanded. Generations have been affected differently by their environment, but their personality still comes down to the individual. Organizations should think about the specific group of Millennials they hire and what the needs of that particular group are. They may be different than older or younger Millennials or those with different skills.
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