Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Most people reading my blog are probably Millennials. I am on the verge of being Gen Z (I was born in 1994) but am quite glad I’m not. Honestly, for a long time, I was very confused about what ‘being a Millennial’ actually meant. There's the saying: ‘Oh, that’s such a Millennial thing.’ And I get it, stuff that came up while Millennials were growing up or stuff Millennials ‘invented.’ But still, there’s so much to being a Millennial and I have always kinda viewed it as a negative thing - until I did my research and realized, being a Millennial isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s actually kinda cool!
In this post, I want to cover myths and facts about Millennials, first-hand examples, a lot of my own life experiences, and tips on how to make life as a Millennial easier.
What is a Millennial?
Glad you asked. Remember the ‘Silent Generation,’ the ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation X’? We’re up next, the Millennials, the latest generation to be criticized. The term covers people who reach adulthood (21 years of age) in the 21st century. Meaning, kids born between 1981 and 1996. Another name for this group of people is Generation Y.
This generation has been described in many different ways over the years. Most commonly used are words like lazy, narcissistic and entitled. We are called the ‘Me Me Me Generation.’ Looked at as a group of people who only think about ourselves, merely care about materialistic things and don’t care for other people. Self-centered and anti-social (except for on social media) is what Millennials are in the head of a lot of people.
But is it really true? I used to believe what they say about Millenials was just how it is and think, well, maybe I’m just different because I do care about others, I know that materialistic things don’t last and there’s a higher purpose in life. I do interact with other people and am not just living through social media.
So I started doing some research (a lot of it!) and asked my Millennial friends and followers a few simple questions. By doing that, I realized that I’m not that different at all and that Millennials are maybe not even that bad of a generation as they are made out to be.
The way Gen Y grew up is quite different than the previous generations. Of course, that would produce a whole new breed of people and workers, right?
Most Millennials still grew up playing outside, getting muddy and coming home with bloody knees and got to know technology later on (other than Gen Z, who were introduced to technology on their first day home from the hospital).
I grew up in a lovely neighborhood in a tiny Swiss town right by the lake. Summer nights consisted of playing Cops and Robbers until the sun went down. Then, around 9 pm (not on a school night of course! But in the summer break), you could hear one mom after the other calling their kids' names from their kitchen window (calling their names, yes, not texting them), and we knew it was time to go home and to bed. Not to go home and play games on my iPad. When my Dad got our first computer (when I was around 10), it was the coolest thing. I was allowed to play around in paint and even had snakes, and Pac Man downloaded! But access to the internet was not a thing, not even something I thought about, I probably didn’t even know what it was. I had Word on my computer though, that's when my love for the written word was born.
I was introduced to my first cellphone at the age of 12. It wasn’t really a cellphone, I’d instead describe it as a hammer, a full-on tool for self-defense or a home improvement project. It was massive! And, let me tell you, that thing was heavy too! It was a pre-paid phone (I had to pay it myself from my weekly allowance), and texts back then cost about $0.20, so I was cautious of whom I texted and how often. That is, after the first week of having my phone and texting my middle-school crush all the way through the winter break twenty times a day (yea I know, that’s nothing today) and then running out of money halfway through!
The first time I remember using the internet was when I created a Netlog profile (a Swiss version of MySpace) and downloaded MSN. I started interacting with my friends and strangers alike. I realized how easy it was to communicate online - but also, how awkward it was to then see the same people at school and not say a word to each other.
This is something, Millennials are being criticized for a lot, their inability to communicate offline. In the real world, so to speak. And yes, the digital age definitely has shaped Millennials. Think about it, the first iPhone was launched in 2007, so right around when the oldest Millennials were around 27 years of age and the youngest were around 11 years old. Of course, it has shaped us. And honestly, people today are more likely to move out of the town they grew up and move further away than ever. Across the country and often also out of the country. Isn’t it natural to want to stay in touch with your friends via social media and text?
But I think it’s important to find a happy medium. When I first moved to the U.S., I didn’t have anyone for the first few months, and all I was hanging on to were my friends from Switzerland or London, where I previously lived. And let me tell you, that is far from a happy medium. You do need ‘human contact’ and friends that are around you. So do me a favor, do put your phone down and hang out with the people that are in the same place as you. Oh and, put your phone away when you are with them! That goes back to the whole mindfulness thing I referred to in my last post. It’s so important, not just for your relationships but also for your mental health.
Generous or Narcissistic?
One of the biggest ongoing debates is: Is Gen Y narcissistic or are they actually more generous and caring than generations before them?
Well, I believe both.
Gen Y even admits that they think they are more narcissistic than the generations before them (but they don’t like it!) and they are right. Research shows that Millennials are actually only a little bit more narcissistic than generations before them. One thing that might explain this is; everything is personalized today. Have you ever noticed? You can get your personalized haircare, skincare, makeup subscription, food subscription, tea subscription, snack subscription… Anything you can think of, I bet you there is a personalized version out there. And to tell you the truth, I’m an absolute sucker for it. You take a quiz about your habits, or your hair or your skin or whatever it is you are personalizing (and let’s be real, who doesn’t like to take a quiz that’s all about you?). Then they make the product specifically for you (sometimes even have a coach get in touch with you - whaaat?) and send you the finished product. Often with your name or your chosen color scheme. So yes, Gen Y may be more self-centered as the world makes it easy to make it ‘all about us.’
But then let’s look at some other facts here: Millennials are actually more generous than generations before them. They want to make a difference in the world.
In 2013 the charitable habits of Americans were analyzed by the nonprofit fundraising consultant Blackbaud. They found that 75% of Millennials made a financial gift to a nonprofit and also, that they did more volunteer work in the last five years than any other generation.
Further, Bentley University’s preparedness study found that 88% of the surveyed Millennials agree that, “It’s a priority for me to work for a company that is socially responsible and ethical.”
Ponder upon that now, will you?
Money money money
Remember 2008? The Financial crisis happened then, exactly. It was right around the time when a lot of Millennials came fresh out of college, ready to start their first great, high-paying job. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as a lot of companies were not in a position to hire. Over 35% of Millennials are overqualified for the job they perform. Due to high student loan debt, they were not able to ‘wait around’ for a job that meets their qualifications, so they often just took the first job that paid well enough to keep their head above water.
Millennials are the generation with the highest education. Around 45% of Millennials have a college degree, compared to 23% of baby boomers and approximately 34% of Gen X’ers.
But the high paying jobs that were there for Gen X aren’t really around anymore. Millennials earn less than Gen X did and on top of that they have high student loan debt and pay more rent.
When I look at my parents, and what they earned (with the same degree of education at that time, mind you), they made WAY more than I did at the same point in my life. And they paid less rent… Doesn’t seem fair.
For Gen Y, a high paying job doesn’t equal a fulfilled life anymore though. They are more likely to take a lower paying job but get the work-life-balance they desire. That’s the big thing in this generation. To live a fulfilled life. What that means in number is, Millennials would rather make $40,000 at a job they love than $100,000 at a job they hate. They also think that how much money you make isn’t the best indicator of success.
There are more online entrepreneurs out there than ever because it combines the tech-savvy trait of Millennials with the “I want to be different, live my best life and do what I love.”
Oh. My. Gosh. I used to be the biggest procrastinator out there. Along with all my friends, I learned, when I asked them to give me a few examples of what they put off. Here are a few of my friends’ responses and I’m sure most of you can relate well:
Laundry. Waiting until the basked absolutely overspills, and you have secretly taken your favorite pants out of the dirty laundry twice and worn them again until you finally get around to do a load.
Putting away clothes after doing laundry. Remember being all proud to finally get around to doing the laundry? Well, now you have to fold them and put them away. "They lay around my house forever."
Paying bills. "I hate opening mail or even getting the mail. But bills lay around until very last minute... or after the first warning."
Dishes. "UGH. Dishes… I do them when I don’t have any plates and bowls left and am really hungry (unless of course there are plastic plates...)
Donating clothes. Good idea. Execution, not so much.
Vote. Enough said.
Any kind of life admin. This is my favorite as it just sums it all up. "I will do it eventually, but it’s always a mental battle."
These are the typical things a lot of Millennials don’t get around to do. Or another example: A lot of us buy stuff at a clothing store to try it on at home. It doesn’t fit but are we going to return it? Probably not. So we lose hundreds of dollars because we are too lazy to go back to that store and stand in line at customer service.
My big thing is the post office. Oh, how I hate it. Mailing packages for Christmas? They will probably get to you in February when I finally tackled the 3-minute car trip to the post office down the street. I see the package every day, and I’d think about it every day, feeling guilty about it laying around but I’d still put it off day after day. And do you want to know the saddest thing about this whole ordeal? When I finally bring my package to the post office, I am SO proud. I did it! I dropped it off, it’s like a little flame in my heart. An unjustified fire of wrongful pride.
Something in our car has been broken ever since my husband hit a Racoon a year ago. We have to change the tires every four months because something keeps rubbing on them, exposing the belt (okay, this was a bad explanation, I don’t know much about cars, but you know what I mean right?). Point is, instead of fixing the damn car we just change the tire every few months even though it’s a considerable inconvenience and probably has cost us more money than if we would have just gotten if fixed.
Why do Millennials procrastinate like that? Good question. Here’s the answer: We are not enthusiastic about it.
In our world, everything has to be fun! We have to love life and do what fulfills us. These tasks primarily benefit us but not in a way that helps us grow or progress in our career or somehow lead to a fulfilled life. They are necessary tasks, of course, but they don’t do anything to help us get to where we want to be in life. And that is why. It’s not necessarily laziness, we are still working hard in all other areas of our lives, right? It’s just stuff that doesn’t benefit us, so we put it off, again and again.
Matt Fuller (HuffPost reporter) tweeted: “So this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a bunch of Millennials who don’t know how to mail things.”
When I think back to when I was a kid, my Mom would never procrastinate anything. Ever. She has always been and still is the most reliable person I know. When she says she’s sending me a package, she is doing so the same day, and if it’s late, it is the post office who messed up, definitely not my Mom. She doesn’t like to do chores, but she does them anyway because they are part of being an adult. Or part of ‘adulting’ as the Millennial would say.
Honestly, I got a lot better at it (we’re actually getting the car fixed tomorrow - yep, got an appointment and all-, and I’m planning a trip to the post office to send my friend a birthday card, making sure it arrives in time). I don’t know how it happened, I think I just got tired of having little things like that hanging over my head. Also, I read ‘Girl, wash your face’ by Rachel Hollis and the chapter about keeping promises to yourself has genuinely changed me as a person, no joke.
I love planners and always plan the week ahead. And before reading Rachel Hollis’ book, I’d have everything nicely planned out but would barely ever stick to it. After learning that it is just as important to keep a promise to ourselves as it is to keep a promise to a friend, I stopped doing that. I started to plan my week more realistically and stick to the things I promised myself to do. I highly recommend ‘Girl, wash your face’!
#workworkworkworkwork and the Burnout Generation
Let’s add another name to Gen Y: The Burnout Generation.
Did you know that Millennial Burnout is a thing? Critics hate the term ‘Millennial Burnout’ - they think we’re just lazy. But this is my blog so I will use the term Millennial Burnout.
We try to do it all at once, literally. Thanks to technology, it’s almost a crime not to be available at all times. Read receipts have ruined relationships more than once, and it’s easy to be on social media 24 hours a day, as someone will always post something new, right? We always have to be available online and for work and then there are so many things to do outside of work as well, things you don’t want to miss out on.
Have your parents ever said: “Don’t do it all at once, you’ll burn out?” Probably. Did you shrug it off and laugh? Probably.
I know I came close to burnout in 2016 when I lived in London, UK. I had just gotten accepted at the University of London to study Psychology. At the same time, I wasn’t happy with my job at the hotel and was recruited by a publishing house. So I started University and my new job in sales (which I have never done before) in the same week.
My job was full-time, eight am to five pm (as I thought then). And Uni classes started at 6 pm and went on to 10 pm three nights a week.
Let me tell you a little bit more about that new job.
I worked for a fantastic company, a publishing house. The largest inflight magazine publisher in the world. I was a media sales executive, which means I was selling advertising space to companies. Sounds cool, right? It was! The company offered extensive training on cold calling sales and how to succeed as a salesperson. They had ping pong tables, a dartboard, wireless headsets so you could walk around while pitching, even go outside and sit in the sun. Balls and fidget toys. A 15-minute exercise session before work every day. The commission was insane, and people got to go on trips all. The. Time. As incentives when they did well. And I’m not talking trips to the countryside. No, trips to Thailand, Miami, Las Vegas, Iceland and the Great Wall of China.
We had to source our own leads, meaning, researching and finding the companies you were going to pitch that day. You had to come prepared of course, as your job is to sell and when you don’t have anyone to sell to… well, what’s the point?
I was also very involved in my church, serving every Sunday and attending weekly social groups. I loved it!
My social life was the best it's ever been. I hung out with the most fabulous people, did the coolest thing in this vast, buzzing city. There was always something to do. Tired of London, tired of life, right?
This is what my days and weeks looked like: I got up at 5am every morning and made my way to work, as I was more focused to research and find leads for the day when I was at work. The office was always open, so that wasn’t a problem. I was at work for two hours until the day began and the other employees came in. After work, I rushed off to University, sat in classes until 10 pm and was home around 11 pm. At home, I did some more lead sourcing and started on my Uni homework. I would go to bed around midnight and get back up at 5am.
The days I didn’t have to go to school, I made sure I had plans to hang out with my friends, as I didn’t want to give up my social life.
The weekend came. I spend all day Saturday doing my homework and reading for Uni. Studying psychology turned out to be a love-hate relationship. I loved certain classes but hated - and I mean absolutely despised - others. I didn’t get them, and as I didn’t have time to hang out with people from Uni after class (as I had to go home and work), I didn’t really have a study buddy that could have helped me.
Sundays were spend prepping meals for the week (I had a HelloFresh subscription, which saved my life a little) and lead sourcing. It took me all day, as I wanted to be prepared for the week. Try and find 100 companies for every day of the week that no one has pitched before and that look like they can afford a $10’000 ad…
Sunday afternoons around 4 pm we met for a church briefing and then church and serving went on until around 8 pm, followed by dinner with a group of people. My job was to connect new people that had come to our massive church for the first time to others, so they’d make friends and feel welcome. I loved it, I really did. But I was tired. I was exhausted. I had worked all day and knew I had to get up at 5 am again tomorrow and do it all over again next week.
I downloaded the work email app on my phone and was constantly checking it - possibly a lead replied and wants to buy an ad? It couldn’t wait until the morning! My brain was always working, and at the end of my days, I actually fell into my bed with a groan, every single night. I kid you not. I felt like I lived a thousand days in one and my mind was worn out. I had never experienced anything like it before. I had been stressed before, but this was a whole new level of stress.
And the sad part was, I was craving that proud feeling that you get when you work yourself to exhaustion. When you fall into bed, and you feel like you achieved something today. It was like a drug, I had to do more and more, and I always thought, you can do a little more, work a little longer, get up a little earlier.
After around three months of this, I stopped going to church. The thing I enjoyed most and the event I used to look forward to every single week had become a chore. It was more important to succeed in my job. And Uni? I had just started it and told everyone how much I loved it. I wasn’t gonna give it up! I stopped seeing a lot of my friends as all I did was work - I did quite well at work, so I felt like my sacrifices paid off. I did well at University but often felt regret that I didn’t make friends at the beginning of the term. I was quite alone while everyone had their little study groups. At the same time, I didn’t like the people I studied with (which probably has to do with the fact that I didn’t really know any of them).
After another two months, I started to wear out completely. I cried almost every night from exhaustion, my body just didn’t know how to cope anymore. And on Sunday night (spent finding the best leads instead of at Church with my friends) I started to have trouble breathing. My chest felt like a heavy weight was laying on it. I was dreading the week ahead. I was absolutely terrified of not having done enough. As this went on, I started to find fewer and fewer leads, my inspiration was pretty much nonexistent, and it took me hours to find just about 50 new companies. Which of course wasn’t good enough.
My mom was the one who told me to stop when I talked to her about how bad my anxiety had gotten. When I told her how I felt on Sunday evenings, she dropped the term burnout, and I finally believed it.
I asked my work to get Fridays off so I could have a day to study. They happily gave it to me. It didn’t help. It was still too much and honestly, writing this right now brings those old feelings back big time. My heart got really heavy, and I actually had to take a break. I didn’t know how bad things actually used to be until I laid it all out just now.
Thank God the love of my life proposed to me and swept me away to the United States and away from that job. I’m kidding of course. But truth be told - he really came in the right moment and gave me no choice but to leave my job. And while I still believe it is one of the most excellent companies out there, I wasn’t able to handle it at that time. I took on too much and did not put myself and my health first.
I know I’m also not the only one feeling that way. As we’re always available, day and night, we feel pressured to work even when we’re off the clock. It’s a Millennial thing, it really is.
My Grandpa used to always say that young people complained too much. In his day and age, they worked six days a week, 12 hours a day. And while that is a long work week, at least they were unavailable when they were off the clock. The most pressure, stress, and anxiety comes from always being available. And I could sit here and list a bunch of things to ‘cure’ your burnout, but essentially it comes down to one thing.
I used to blame my surroundings for things that happen to me, for my mood and the way I felt. But I have learned a crucial lesson over the past two years:
You are the master of your own life. Stop blaming your circumstances and your surroundings.
You are in control of your actions and the way you choose to live your life. If you want to do it all at once and fall into bed crying every night and never see your friends, you go right ahead. But don’t blame your job and your school for it. Because you could also make a choice to prioritize what you really love; and if that means to find a job that pays less, then that’s what it’ll have to be - that's what Millennials like anyway, right?
You have a choice. Don’t let social media, peer pressure and expectations force you into a lifestyle that you don’t enjoy.