For a while now, it seems as though the millennial generation has been the butt of many jokes, even among social commenters who fall into the millennial category. You’ve likely heard a few of these jokes yourself; that they are entitled or want a gold star just for participating.
However, I’ve yet to actually meet in person someone from the millennial generation who lives up to the stereotypes that surround them. To put this in perspective, I’ve recently graduated from college, where I was surrounded by millennials that had ample opportunity to live up to the stereotypes in question. The fact that the school I attended was a two-year trade school may have been a factor, but it remains that I didn’t meet there even one millennial that lived up to the stereotypes. I know that I’m speaking from my own experience, but I think the sample size was way more than sufficient to say that the stereotypes about millennials were highly over-exaggerated.
I think it’s about time to make some honest observations concerning millennials.
For one thing, the very designation of “millennial” is arbitrary, and not very well-defined. From what I can tell, a person is considered to be a millennial if they’ve been born from sometime in the early 1980’s to early 1990’s. The precise timing is not agreed upon, but that’s the general idea. However, the idea that a person who is born before a precise point in time would have different values than a person who was born after that point in time would ignore the fact that a society’s trends concerning values tends to shift gradually, often in response to slow changes in culture and other conditions, such as economy.
Even though the use of the term “millennial” is vague and can apply to a potentially wide group of people, I’ll continue to use this term in this analysis, as it can still be helpful in making observations concerning generalities.
When millennials are criticized, it’s often by baby-boomers that grew up in different economic conditions, and seem to have the expectation that if an approach similar to what worked for them once-upon-a-time were to be applied today, it would consistently yield identical results. Such a position would be entirely ignorant of the changing conditions of the economic climate, and is in stark denial of the challenges that millennials have to deal with.
For one thing, you’ve probably heard it said that “a college education doesn’t count for as much as it used to.” What baby boomers assume this to mean is that there isn’t much point to pursuing a college education. After all, they were able to get their careers started without the aid of a college degree. But what this really means is that those who choose to forgo a college education stand less of a chance.
Consider how much stricter the educational requirements are to start a successful career. My grandfather was able to get his life together, and he didn’t even need a high school education to do it. My father didn’t obtain a college degree, but he didn’t need one. A person today who is getting started usually requires a college education to get things going, and they’re expected to have one. What’s more, a college degree is no guarantee of success.
If anyone has spent a significant amount of time searching for a job lately, the following might just be a lot to take in. At one point, finding a job was easy. If a person really wanted a job, all they had to do was walk down into town to a few businesses and ask for work. It wasn’t unrealistic for a person to be hired by the end of the day. A person may be expected to present some personal information, but usually not much. A person might have to fill out a job application, but it was okay for them to not be filled out completely if you didn’t have all the information, and mistakes could be easily overlooked.
This was a few decades ago, but this was a pretty accurate description of the conditions that your parents and grandparents had to find work in.
Now, compare it to today. Nowadays, if you walked into a store and asked for an application, you’d get laughed at, because nearly every employer has you apply online. They’ll seldom have a paper application to give you, and if they did, your application might end up in a filing cabinet labelled “Only if the federal government makes us”. They expect you to apply online, and they’ll think you’re weird if you insist on writing on trees.
If you have a felony conviction, it’s pretty much an automatic bar to employment. I know that the applications say otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that the application is telling you the truth. You’re expected to tell the truth on the application, but that doesn’t mean the application will do the same for you. And if you trying leaving a felony conviction off your application, the company is likely to perform a background check, so they’d find out about it and reject your application. This is a one-strike-and-you’re-out system.
Not only that, you’re expected to have a resume. The resume is to be well-formatted and filled with buzz-words that are designed to catch the attention of the automatic filters when submitted electronically. Never heard of those filters? Then most of your online resume submissions were likely never even viewed by human eyes. Online resume submissions can be expected to pass through filters that seek out buzzwords and education credentials to ensure that the people applying for a position are actually qualified, and not just wishful thinkers who pad out their attempts at career changes with “hard working” and “willing to learn”.
I know that they do this from experience. I learned assembly programming in college, which means that I can program in assembly-level language for microcontrollers. Most employers in the field of electronics seem impressed by this. However, after adding this to my resume and uploading it to a couple job search websites, I started to get invited to interviews for the position of “Assembly Worker” at factories. This certainly isn’t the same thing as assembly programming, and I decided to let the recruiters know. I ended up in an email exchange between two recruiters for the same company, and was CCed an email that contained a copy of my resume. The occurrences of the word “assembly” in the resume were highlighted, indicating that they were a hit in their automated searches.
They didn’t read my resume to determine what I could actually do. The only reason they even saw my resume is because of a buzz word that made it through their filter. The sobering truth is, it’s getting to the point that resumes need to be deliberately optimized to game the system to give the applicant the best chance of landing a job.
And if the resume is actually seen by a human being, you’ve only cleared the first hurdle. One general manager at a store I used to work at was fond of telling his employees that there were over 200 applications for every available position.
All this for what? A position that pays either minimum wage or maybe a few dollars above it. That’s America today.
When you consider this, it’s easy to see why so many millennials seem gung-ho about a socialist revolution. They’d be wrong about it, but at least it’s understandable why they feel that way. Your grandfather may be happy to proclaim the benefits of capitalism, but that’s because capitalism actually worked for him, and benefited him well. If you’ve ever wondered why older people value hard work so heavily, it’s because they were brought up in a time when hard work had far move obvious and immediate benefits. In fact, in their day, if a person was able to get any full-time job, they had stability and were considered to be pretty well-off.
This contrasts pretty heavily with today, where two guys working full time might be able to hold down a rented apartment.
Speaking of housing, it’s assumed that millennials aren’t interested in buying houses. This isn’t because they don’t want houses, it’s because houses are pretty difficult for them to attain.
The millennials reading this might be shocked, but at one point, it was reasonable for a person to be able to buy a home. It wasn’t just “maybe a few people could do it”, but “reasonable for most”. And I don’t mean renting it, I actually mean buying it. As in, you own the home, and the land around it.
What changed is the housing market. People bought up properties with the intention of reselling them for a profit. While it’s not hard to blame them for doing this, the process repeated enough times that the prices for homes have gotten very high, well outside the finances of most millennials. Finances are what determines whether someone can buy a home, and we’ve already examined what a horrendous dumpster-fire the American job market is. In summary, the means are reduced, coming by them is more difficult, and homes are more expensive.
This is the kind of environment that millennials have come into. While they may be loathe to admit it, their parents have some blame to take. The parents of millennials have largely accepted fad parenting that is, for some reason, afraid to either discipline or instill realistic expectations in their children.
Many millennials have had parents that have told them that they can be anything that they want to be. Not only that, the frequent coddling and failure to discipline has set these children up to be poorly prepared for the real world. Worse yet, they quickly become depressed and disillusioned when they fail to live up to their parents lofty expectations. It certainly doesn’t help that they’re being incessantly mocked by various pundits and media outlets for failing to gain a foothold in a world with little in the way of opportunities.
The parents of millennials got while the getting was much easier, and seem to believe that their successes are easily repeatable, enabling them to be highly judgemental when the next generation doesn’t perform just as well, overlooking that conditions are much worse.
The responsibility for the upbringing of a child falls squarely on the child’s parents. This is an axiom that has held up throughout history, as it does today. Yet, baby boomers and their parents grew up in the world of rapidly-advancing convenience, and as a result have developed the mentality that many of life’s inconveniences will be alleviated. Tragically, they seemed to have included child-rearing as being among those inconveniences that they’ve left for others to tend to.
As too many people see it, the upbringing of a child can be left to the education system. The education system, on the other hand, saw the upbringing of children as the responsibility of their parents. For a while. Increasingly, the education system has taken the stance that if they’re going to be left to teach children values, the values being taught were going to be their own. This became increasingly tragic as the education system steadily became co-opted by those with left-wing viewpoints, who view traditional values as being “old-fashioned” and tending towards obsolescence.
Eventually, the millennial generation ended up being experimented on by being fed a slurry of ridiculous ideas that are pretty much insane. At the risk of facing academic consequences, students felt an obligation to either comply or keep their mouths shut. To the credit of millennials, more and more of them seem to be coming to recognize these ideas for the madness that they are.
While it’s sad that millennials have developed the way that they have, it’s more surprising still that they’re being relentlessly mocked for developing in the manner that they were brought up, and for failing when the odds are stacked against them. It’s great that many of them are starting to come to, picking up the tatters of their lives and getting things together.
What’s more, there seems to be high hopes for what’s called “gen Z”, the also-poorly-defined generational group that comes after millennials. This largely has to do with the fact that gen Z is apparently more values-oriented than their predecessors, seeing what’s wrong with their approach and deciding to avoid the same mistakes. It’s not necessarily a “values as a counter-culture” deal, either. Gen Z really seems to have an interest in doing better than those before them. In a sense, gen Z also has the odds stacked against them, as they’re actively resisting an establishment that teaches that sexual perversion and gender confusion are normal. But this makes their perseverance all the more commendable.
If we were to take an honest look at millennials, we’d see them as being the victims of a culture that was cultivated by their predecessors. The best thing that they can do is what many of them are coming around to, and that’s to realize that they’ve been led in the wrong direction, recognize that the values that they’ve been ridiculed for were not their own to begin with, and determine to do better going forward.
And if baby boomers start to get too arrogant, just remind them that they were the generation that gave us hippies.