To many of my colleagues in the baby boom generation, the rising generation of millennials is a mystery.
What makes these young people, born between 1980 and 2000, tick? What motivates them? What excites them? What scares them?
Having raised two millennial sons, having recruited, hired and trained several millennial reporters and having completed three semesters of teaching advanced journalism to millennial students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I believe I am uniquely qualified to share some perspectives about these young people.
First off, I bristle when I hear boomers complain about the generation that will inherit our wind.
- Most of my UWM students are respectful, polite, courteous and punctual â€“ all qualities that will make them assets in the workforce.
- Most have a balance of idealism and pragmatism.
- Most also have a healthy suspicion of "the man," or the system that empowers him. This age of unprecedented income inequality is not lost on them. They know whatâ€™s happening, and theyâ€™re going to figure out a way to rebalance some of the wealth in this country.
- Most are not loyal to specific corporate brands. They crave authenticity and loathe attempts to persuade or manipulate them. They see right through a sales pitch, and they know when theyâ€™re being spun.
- The issues of race, gender and sexual lifestyles â€“ issues that largely divided the baby boom generation â€“ are for the most part not on the front burner for these young people. They are comfortable with people of other ethnicities and cultures, people who are different than them. In fact, many are attracted to diverse, urban settings.
- Many are open-minded to the possibilities when it comes to spiritual exploration, but they also are skeptical that they will find their path through organized religion.
- Many are also understandably cynical about the current American political system. They see how large donors have a disproportionate impact in elections, and they know that politicians are beholden to those donors. They do not like or trust the two-party system that has divided and polarized this nation.
- Many have conceded to me that they feel they have not connected with nature in the ways preceding generations did.
- They have grown up multi-tasking. Theyâ€™re mobile. Theyâ€™re capable of simultaneously carrying on multiple conversations across multiple platforms.
- They have shorter attention spans. Growing up in a digital age with immediate, 140-character Twitter responses can do that. They are over-stimulated. They are bombarded with information all day long.
- They are fragmented. The baby boom generation watched three network television stations, picked a 6 oâ€™clock and a 10 oâ€™clock newscast to watch and read either the morning or the afternoon newspaper. We shared a common culture. We received news from the same sources that was presented in the same way. We listened to the same Top 40 music on the radio. We watched the same television shows. In contrast, the millennials are left to their own devices and preferences. They do not consume the same news from the same sources. Each decides how she or he interacts with the world. I believe that fragmented existence fuels their desire to collaborate with each other, both in the workplace and after hours.
- They can be altruistic. When they say they want to make the world a better place, they mean it. And sometimes they do it.
Take the time to get to know and even learn from these young people. After all, it wonâ€™t be long before theyâ€™re calling the shots around here.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Steve Jagler
Published April 22, 2015
Several jaws dropped and eyebrows rose in January when BizTimes predicted a robust year of national economic growth for 2015. Well, we're at the quarter pole, and so far, so good.
Published April 8, 2015
Under new ownership, the Milwaukee Bucks made significant strides by building a young pool of talent on the court this season. However, the organization also has quickly assembled an impressive pool of young talent off the court in the front office.
Published March 25, 2015
By virtually every measure, Minnesota is taking Wisconsin's lunch money, according to a recent study by the LaCrosse Tribune, which lies right at the border.
Published March 11, 2015
In his Feb. 23 column for the BizTimes, Steve Jagler observed that each time a project is proposed to propel the city forward, someone or something seems to pop up and attempts to stop it. Judging from the feedback Steve Jagler received in response to his piece, many readers feel the same way.
Published Feb. 9, 2015
Since 1851, Wisconsin's state motto has been "Forward." However, these days, a more appropriate motto might be "Just hold on a minute..."
Published Jan. 14, 2015
If it seems like so many public policy decisions are hanging fire in Wisconsin these days, it's only because they are. And so many of these loose ends seem to be intertwined and interdependent.
Published Dec. 23, 2014
As the legal slog to develop a new streetcar system in Downtown Milwaukee continues to play out in court, in City Hall and at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, proponents and opponents alike would do well to keep an eye on Cincinnati.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
If asked to return for another term as secretary and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Reed Hall says he would be honored to serve again.
Published Nov. 14, 2014
In recent years, the Milwaukee Bucks have not had much to celebrate when they've conducted their annual preview luncheon with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. This year, however, there was a tangible buzz in the room at the event, which was held at the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Published Nov. 12, 2014
In essence, preserving net neutrality would ensure that all consumers and businesses will have universal levels of access to a fast Internet, not just some preferred customers who would pay for "faster lanes" on the Internet.