Recently, while crunching on some avocado toast for breakfast, I started to think about the stigma that surrounds being a millennial. This generation is often criticized for its way of living, told to lay off the costly avocado toast if they want to buy a house anytime soon.
Are millennials truly deserving of this bad reputation and animosity from other generations? I don’t think so.
Millennials, who will make up three-fourths of the workforce by 2025, want to make an impact. They are committed to breaking free of the safe cubicle that generations before them have been so comfortable sitting in. This is not because they are flaky or impulsive. Rather, millennials choose the unconventional because they are ready to take more risks than their parents did. Making a difference is more important to millennials than playing it safe.
Furthermore, millennials’ lives aren’t actually as different from their predecessors’ as they may seem on the surface. For instance, a recent study from Pew Research found that millennials’ average job tenure is comparable to Gen. X’s. A similar study found that 79 percent of millennial males ages 21 to 36 hold steady jobs, compared to 82 percent of baby boomers when they were in the same age bracket — a small difference of 3 percent.
Millennials aren’t shying away from the altar, either. While millennials aren’t getting married as early as boomers did, almost two-thirds of millennials would like to be married someday. They’re simply waiting until their finances are stable and they’ve found the right person.
While millennials’ lives and careers only differ slightly from previous generations, they do prioritize travel and experiences more than their parents did. While boomers might consider this way of living irresponsible or lazy, millennials see these adventures as necessary experiences along the path to enlightenment.
Battling the Stereotype
Jimmy is a millennial IT consultant who once offered to invest his own funds in my company, Jobbatical, if we were to hire him — because he believed that deeply in the company’s mission. I mention Jimmy now because he understands the struggle millennials must mount against stereotypes.
“I am 35, single, and live a pretty unconventional life, at least by Indian standards,” Jimmy mentioned in an email he once sent me. “After my father passed away, I was mainly focused on traveling and discovering the world, learning about myself in the process.”
During this time in his life, Jimmy was asked constantly why he chose to travel instead of settling down. Jimmy felt, like many millennials, that he needed to accomplish something. Whether the goal is personal or professional, millennials are not keen to wait for the “right time.” For millennials, the right time is always now.
Millennials and baby boomers may do some things differently, but that doesn’t mean either generation is “wrong.” Moreover, the two generations share much in common, especially when it comes to workplace values. For example, one recent survey found that 89 percent of workers across generations — including boomers and millennials — value the chance to build strong leadership skills at work. Furthermore, millennials, Gen. X-ers, and boomers all agree on what skills are most important to leadership success: the ability to build relationships, the ability to work well with others, and great communication skills.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with all types of people from multiple generations. After working closely with many millennials, I can honestly say there is so much more to this generation than we give them credit for. Instead of focusing on differences, workers of all generations would benefit greatly by building on what they have in common.
I do believe that millennials can have their avocado toast and eat it, too.
Karoli Hindriks is the CEO and founder of Jobbatical.