Who Are These Millennials Anyway?

As baby boomers, we don’t have the luxury of disliking millennials or even ignoring them. They might be our children or our newest co-workers, for whom we’re supposed to be role models and mentors…the same people who may roll their eyes at our technology learning curves.

And according to demographic predictions, the millennials will overtake baby boomers as the largest living adult generation in the U.S. by 2019.

But who are they, really? The Pew Research Center, which measures public attitudes on key issues and documents differences in those attitudes across demographic groups, has finally decided it’s time to determine a cut-off point between the youngest Millennials and the generation that follows them. Pew is defining Millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. That makes them currently between ages 22 and 37.

Pew had to take on the task of defining the millennial years because the U.S. Census Bureau only officially designates one generation: the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964. For now, Pew is calling people born in 1997 or after “post-Millennials.”

Millennials have certainly attracted media attention.

They’ve also acquired stereotypes. Some say they are job-hoppers with no loyalty to employers. They like to take naps. They expect a trophy simply for participating. The American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labelled them “the Peter Pan generation” because of their tendency to delay rites of passage into adulthood, including putting off moving out of their parents’ home.

Not everything is negative. Millennials are known for wanting their work to be intrinsically rewarding. In this they are not alone. Research has found baby boomers to want the work they do to be meaningful, too.

In a survey of more than 16,000 millennials in 42 countries, the organization Universum, which advises companies about talent recruitment and branding strategies, set out to test the stereotypes. Among their findings about millennials:

They want to work for a flexible organization rather than a rigid one. They expect to retire at age 60 or earlier. They would rather have work/life balance than be in a managerial role. While presenting challenges for employers, these are not necessarily bad qualities. And most people will admit – millennials are adventurous, idealistic, and independent.

It’s important to stay positive about millennials – because, like the baby boomers, their numbers are going to have a major impact on our world.

Click here to read more about the Universum research on millennials.

And check out “16 Positive Qualities of Millennials“.