I’m not sure about you, but where I come from that is a four letter word. Has there been a more reviled generation in the last century? Millennials are accused of being the ‘Participation Trophy’ generation. ‘Everything was just handed to them,’ I’ve heard people say. Ignoring the fact that someone had to do the handing to said generation, I want to focus on the struggles I see in this generation, my generation, and how I believe they’ll change the world.
The concept of being a millennial has been on my mind a lot lately. I work with others that are of the same generation. I spend time with other millennials outside of work. I recently received a blog post in my work inbox from a popular marketer – Mark Schaefer. It was about ‘Belonging.’ I enjoy his content, but this post was something else entirely and I strongly recommend you read it.
He wrote about topics such as employee retention, of the changing buyer market, but most importantly he wrote about the idea of being a part of something bigger. Not one time did he use the word ‘millennial,’ but I read it between every line. It is a powerful piece about how now, more than ever, we seek to belong.
Employees stay at companies when they feel that they are more than a replaceable cog in the wheel.
Customers stick with brands that take a stand that aligns with the customer’s beliefs.
It’s less about the price these days than it is about supporting something in which you believe.
Mark’s post really helped me put words to my turbulent thoughts. My generation wants to belong to something greater than ourselves. We want to feel like we’re making a difference. Whether it’s in our jobs, our relationships, or where we buy our groceries – we search for meaning.
I can only speculate how we got here (and I will do so right… now), but I would argue part of it has to do with having it so easy, and that’s not the bad thing that it’s often portrayed as. The generations before ours fought to grow this country and this economy. As a result, many of us have been blessed with an abundance that previous generations didn’t have. We’re not surviving, but thriving. That frees us to think beyond the difficulties that our parents experienced. It frees us to think about the future, about where we’re headed.
It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in generational form. We’re no longer worried about food, or safety. Our minds are free to focus on ‘love and belonging,’ and that’s thanks to the generation that came before.
Where are we headed?
All of that doesn’t mean that we aren’t spoiled and that there aren’t growing pains. Once we enter the workplace we now face issues that are foreign (and looked down upon) by our parents. We now have to earn our way, but we’re also faced with trying to find our place. We seek to belong, to be accepted. In a world where we’re always connected, we’re also very lonely. We struggle internally with working for companies that don’t align with our personal beliefs. We struggle with finding others that share our interests.
This is a good thing.
Ours is the generation that now dominates the workplace, and we’re bending our wills toward reshaping the world. Companies seek to retain employees not through higher salaries or generous benefits – but by fostering a sense of community. Tech companies the world over are turning their workspaces into sprawling campuses, places at which you want to spend time.
Ours is the generation that speaks out and has a voice that can’t be quieted. In the world of social media, everyone has a voice and organizing has never been easier. Don’t get me wrong, this is abused more often than not, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Ours is the generation that supports one another. A popular Dungeon’s and Dragon’s show called Critical Role launched a Kickstarter in order to produce a single animated episode of their show. The budget was $750,000. $11,385,449 pledged by 88,887 individuals later and an entire season is in the works. Why? Because of the sense of belonging that the fans of the show feel. This isn’t about the cast, but about the fans and the community they’ve built.
We feel as a generation, and we push the boundaries, focusing on a sense of belonging because that’s the next logical step. We don’t want anything too complicated – we want to thrive. Oh, and we want to change the world.
The scary thing is we’re starting to believe we actually can.