From time to time, I enjoy providing statistics on the emerging generation of young adults often called Millennials (or Generation iY). This demographic is proving to be different in several ways from previous young adult populations. We’ve demonstrated that the second half of this generation — those born since 1990 — is even different from the first half, born in the 1980s. (Sociological shifts happen more rapidly as culture changes more rapidly). We call this second population Generation iY. Below are some categories that require wise leadership from us who manage and teach them. Some of the statistics represent good news, some not so good news, and some are just… well, different. I’d love to get your feedback on what you do to provide guidance and leadership to these young people who are now becoming adults:
These young adults have grown up in an age when the nuclear family has exploded. They long for “family” or community experiences, but many have seen unhealthy models and now are waiting to settle down with a married partner. 26% of Millennials are married, down from 36% of Gen Xer’s, 48% of Boomers, and 65% of the Builder generation. (These numbers are based on percentage of each generation married at age 18-32.) The paradox is that Millennials long for committed relationships... but often don’t know how to experience them. Two countries in our world today have introduced legislation for two-year marriage contracts for this very reason.
Question: How do we prepare young adults to engage in long-term, committed relationships?
Millennials have claimed for years that they are entrepreneurial in nature. They don’t want a conventional “job” but one where they can work for themselves and make up their own rules. It’s not necessary wrong, but parents and culture have given them this picture of autonomy and power. 71% of Millennials at “regular” jobs would prefer to quit their current job to work for themselves (Millennial Branding is huge). 60% of them plan to jump ship in the next two years. Change is their middle name, and most twenty-somethings work at multiple jobs during their first decade as new professionals, rather than build equity at one job.
Question: How do we help them discover their identity and “niche” during their young adult years?
School plays a larger role in this generation of young adults than any in American history. 23% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, making them the most educated generation ever. Obviously, some have stayed in school due to a poor economy. (It just wasn’t a good time to launch a career). Others stayed in school because mom or dad pushed them to get that college degree and a “white collar” job instead of a “blue collar” job, and parents were all too happy to have them live at home during (and after) the process. So they’re well educated but may need to take a job they are over-qualified for at first. It also may mean they take a job where they must “pay their dues” in order to make progress. This is difficult.
Question: How can we enable young adults to capitalize on their education and leverage it to take them where they’re most gifted to serve?
Far and away, this generation of young adults is a mix of ethnicities, with a higher percentage of them being born from an interracial marriage than ever. 38% of Millennials are bilingual, up from 22% in 2003. They are more at ease with mixing races in marriage, workplaces and friendships. They embrace the idea that they live in a society bound by a world wide web and that they’ll work in a global economy. Although research demonstrates every child is drawn to people who are “like them” (see the book Nurture Shock), this generation has been conditioned to embrace those unlike them more than previous populations.
Question: How can we help this multicultural and bilingual generation leverage their strengths in a global economy?
One of my greatest concerns for this emerging generation of young adults is their mental health. 94% of college students indicate the best word to describe their life is, “overwhelmed.” About half of them are so overwhelmed, it’s difficult to function. Nearly one in ten has thought about suicide in the last year. Dr. Jean Twenge’s newest study shows that teens now have more psychosomatic symptoms of depression, such as trouble sleeping and remembering, than in past generations. Obviously our world is complex, and all of us probably wrestle with such issues. Yet young adults today become anxious over the smallest of difficulties.
Question: How can we help cultivate resilience and coping skills in young adults so they can face greater challenges as they age?
This reality expands with every study. As Millennials consider work, they want to do something they feel really matters. They want a “mission,” not just a job. They desire to work in an organization that improves the world in some way. Want proof? 87% of Millennials consider a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes when deciding where to work. To retain them, companies must find ways to care about the world around them, not just the bottom line. Young adults are drawn to organizations with a mission to transform the world.
Question: How can we capitalize on young adults’ desire to improve the world and, at the same time, demonstrate that they may have to do “little” things first?
What do you think?