“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? She’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. She’s fast enough for you, old man. What’s the cargo?” – Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Harrison Ford’s Han Solo will forever be frozen in cinema’s carbonite hall of fame as one of the greatest movie characters this galaxy has ever known. With his walking carpet of a sidekick Chewbacca and his bucket-of-bolts spacecraft the Millennium Falcon, Han begrudgingly takes on the role of a Rebel Alliance hero. Although it’s tough to compare the twenty-somethings of Earth to a fictional character from Corellia, there are some similarities between Solo and this generation we call the “millennials.”
We resort to all kinds of stereotypes when we describe these millennial creatures that seem to be overrunning our workplaces. So, instead of attaching a loose, judgmental adjective to the current generation, a character comparison seems more fun. In honor of the seventh installment of Star Wars coming out at the end of this year, here are a few reasons why the millennial generation is the Han Solo of the workforce.
1. They’re Both Broke
Han Solo: “Tell Jabba that I’ve got his money.”
Greedo: “It’s too late. You should have paid him when you had the chance. Jabba put a price on your head so large, every bounty hunter will be looking for you. I’m lucky I found you first.”
Han Solo: “Yeah, but this time, I’ve got the money.”
Greedo: “If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.”
Han Solo: “I don’t have it WITH me….”
When we are first introduced to Han Solo at the Mos Eisley Cantina, we learn he is in debt to crime boss Jabba the Hutt for an intergalactic drug smuggling run gone wrong. Recent grads have the same problem: they find themselves shackled to a Jabba the Hutt upon graduation — in their case, student loans.
New graduates face higher debt ratios than ever before. Americans collectively owe over $1 trillion in student loans; only eight years ago, they owed a (comparatively measly) $461 billion. In a snail-paced recovering job market — 10 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are nearly 10 percent less likely to have a job now than they were a decade ago – seeing red can leave the majority of millennials between Jabba and a hard place.
Space cowboy Solo maneuvers his way through his money problems; just the same, Gen. Y-ers find ways to manage their student loans, using their entrepreneurial spirits, freelancing careers, and Web-based endeavors to stay afloat. More than one in three workers — 53 million Americans — are now freelancing, according to “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce,” commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk. It is projected that by 2020, 40 percent of american workers will be freelancers.
2. They’re Both Tech-Savvy
Luke Skywalker: [on first seeing the Millenium Falcon] “What a piece of junk!”
Han Solo: “She’ll make point-five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.”
Captain Solo is super proud of his clunker, the Millennium Falcon. Keeping the (proverbial) ship together through ingenuity and adaptation is exactly what millennials do, too. Quick fixes, unconventional thinking, and a bit of “MacGyver-ing” is just what kept the Falcon afloat — and that’s what keeps millennials reinventing the world around us.
Over at Borgen Magazine, Heather Klosterman writes about how millennial marketing expert and author Scott Hess challenges negative stereotypes about millennials:
“Millennials, unlike any previous generation, hold power through their use and understanding of modern technology. There is no longer a large gap between idea and product. Millennials can upload videos directly to YouTube, create a business network via social media, and easily compare business strategies with other companies.”
Millennials know how to create, use, adapt, and own technology. New apps and systems are born every day, forcing young professionals to continually and perpetually adapt at a constant rate of change.
3. They’re Both Underestimated
Princess Leia: “Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.”
Han Solo: “Who’s scruffy-looking?”
Princess Leia was quick to dismiss the brash Han as “stuck up and half-witted” at first. Just the same, millennials are often misjudged and misunderstood, called “lazy, narcissistic, and entitled” by many.
Although millennials are stereotyped negatively, the fact is that they can adapt and change as they enter the workforce. Not as tied down by money and traditional values as as previous generations, millennials have the education, values, and capacity to change the world for good. Reuters writer Laura Zuckerman quotes Martijn Lampert, research director of Motivaction International’s “The Disruptive Mindset of Millennials Around the Globe” report, as saying that “[m]illennials are unconventional thinkers[,] and they are open to change, much more so than older generations.”
Media: “Why, you stuck up, lazy, entitled, self-involved, scruffy-looking generation.”
Millennial: “The scruffy look is in.”
4. They’re Both Resilient
C-3PO: “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.”
Han Solo: “Never tell me the odds.”
Although he doesn’t fit the traditional personality type of a knight in shining armor, Han stepped up when he was needed. Our reluctant hero earned the Medal of Bravery; he adapted, learned, and fought for the Rebel Alliance. Like Solo, Gen. Y-ers will compete when called upon, too.
Millennials have to fight for jobs, promotions, and opportunities in the cutthroat work world of today. “The Disruptive Mindset of Millennials Around the Globe” states that millennials are more competitive than their older peers. According to Zuckerman’s article on the report, “nearly a third of millennials said that competing with others, as opposed to working collaboratively, ensures better results, compared to roughly a quarter of respondents from the two prior generations.”
Whether you believe they will destroy American culture or revitalize it, millennials are here to stay. Broke, underemployed, and misunderstood, millennials develop thick skins in the working world. With their tech-savvy and renegade thinking, Gen. Y-ers are equipped to take on their own “Death Star” — our recovering, yet tumultuous, economy. Millennials may not earn their own “Medals of Bravery” after putting in their 40-hour workweeks, but hey: free lunch and unlimited PTO while helping to create the next tech STRTUP sounds pretty good to me.
Now, if only every millennial guy looked like Han Solo …
(Want another Star Wars-themed article on recruiting? Check out “Intergalactic Recruiting Wars: The Empire and the Rebellion“)