The millenials

Now that the baby boom generation is approaching retirement age and its successor, the Generation Xers, are moving to centre stage, it is appropriate to consider the next, coming generation – the millenials, those coming of age around the year 2000. They are on the verge of “taking over the world,” our communities, government, businesses, indeed every aspect of modern life. What are they like? Generalizations are just that, flawed but worth examining.

The millenials obviously have passed the horizon of maturity and are entering the workforce. Their profile differs radically from the Generation Xers and, of course, in many ways they are a world apart from all preceding age groups.

Unlike earlier eras young people are much less conscientious about their jobs. When they were interviewed by prospective employers, they were asking many questions; they wanted fulfillment. Their work would not be the key element in their life, as lifestyle would be significantly more important. They change jobs frequently while trying out various things, and consequently their personal resumes look chaotic. Many career paths are looked at and then discarded at alarming rates. Other avenues for satisfaction are of greater consequence. Thus, businesses in Canada must realize that and take steps to recruit or cater to new employees. It is not surprising then that some companies provide exercise facilities, game rooms, places for meditation, and allow time off for unspecified, personal reasons.

Millenials generally are tolerant: they are much more accepting than their parents of diversity in sexual orientation and different racial groups, possibly even eccentrics, “geeks” who are bookish and not involved in sports.

Millenials do not read as much as others in previous eras, and get their news, usually not from newspapers, but from the internet and television. Print media must adjust to that.

Nowadays religious worship is taking on many forms; established churches must confront that. For instance, millenials are becoming increasingly reluctant to conform to the requirements of a celibate clergy, so there is a developing shortage of priests. All this upheaval may be a recurring phenomenon.

Millenials are extremely aware of environmental concerns and critical of those who ignore them. They are very knowledgeable about technology and can teach their parents all the mysteries of computers, or for example, about Facebook, My Space, iPhones, and many similar things. Often then, millenials may claim to have, say 50 friends via Facebook, with whom they keep in touch by e-mail, never by writing letters. Without doubt, friendship is not what it used to be.

While previous age groups all seemed to want to be on their own and eventually get married, currently an astonishing number of those in their 20s live at home with their parents and/or have common-law relationships. It is difficult to know if promiscuity is more prevalent, but clearly it is more widely accepted.

The grand spiral of human development has its major cycles and what is “new” today may be a reversion to earlier attitudes and conduct. Perhaps there will be a return to the behaviour of previous generations. History shows that is quite possible.



Bruce Whitestone