We've all heard the false stereotypes about millennials: entitled job-hoppers who dine on avocado toast and make our living off of Instagram posts. But defining—and stigmatizing—an entire generation isn't just harmful, it's inaccurate.
Millennials number over 83 million in the U.S. alone and are by the far the most diverse cohort in the workforce to date—which means we are not as narrowly defined as one might believe.
Approximately 46% of U.S. Millennials identify themselves on the most recent census with an ethnic or racial group other than non-Hispanic white. Many are children of immigrants and about 15% were born in foreign countries — nearly double the number of Gen X. Young millennials are also three times as likely as boomers to identify as LGBTQ+. But diversity isn’t the only thing setting us apart from past generations. In order to really understand 83 million strong, it's important to contextualize when and how we came of age — at a time of unprecedented socio-economic disparity.
Many of us entered the workforce precisely as the global financial system buckled in 2008. Today, the wealth gap is the largest on record: In 2013 the median net worth of the highest income tier of families was almost seven times that of the middle-income families and nearly 70 times that of lower income families.
Going into college, Millennials were told, to spend whatever it takes to get an education because it’s an investment in our future. As a result, at least 40% of us have a bachelor's degree, according to Pew Research, and as many as 60% of those with high education backgrounds carry student debt, the NCES found.
Millennials stereotypes abound, their endless quest for meaning and purpose and the demand for higher compensation endure. In truth, millennials are looking to achieve the goals set before them and they strive for financial security, both things many sorely lack.
"We’ve seen a trend emerge in students – particularly the older ones – who witnessed the impact of the recession: they are more likely to prioritize career growth and stability in their job search compared to past generations," states Joyce Russell, president of Adecco USA. "They are making mature decisions much earlier on in their careers, like pursuing financial stability over passion, and focusing on long-term goals, as a way to ensure their futures are secure."
Finding meaning and purpose is not solely defined as jumping ship for the non-profit world or kick-starting a private venture. It’s about finding a sense of accomplishment in their day to day responsibilities.
Nearly 75 percent of respondents to Levo Institute and Adecco's Work & Happiness Report rate Learning & Skill Development Opportunities as a prime metric for measuring workplace happiness and satisfaction.
High compensation is tied to recognition for good work and provide a sound metric for our performance-driven cohort. Career satisfaction is also crucial because of an understanding that our careers don't have an end date as past generations did.
Millennials, the first generation that will not surpass their parents in wealth, property ownership, and social mobility constantly face the reality of a stagnant economy where they are working more and saving less. Exacerbating this gloomy economic forecast is the likelihood that we will retire no earlier than 70 years old and without the benefit of social security payments.
It is with that in mind that over 85% of those we surveyed in the Levo Institute Adecco Millennial Survey hold some kind of a savings or retirement account, though over a half make less than $55,000 a year in salary.
This #NotMonolithic group is, for the most part, navigating an economic landscape utterly unlike the ones Boomers and Gen Xers faced upon entry into the workforce — a landscape in which socioeconomic status is as much a deciding factor in career mobility as workplace diversity and equality.