Here Is Why We Can’t Generalize Millennials

Millennials: You either love them or hate them, and chances are, you don’t really understand them. Look, it’s not you, it’s… well, it’s not me either; it isn’t either of us really. And I can’t say I blame us. I’m a Millennial (I think), but based on the inability to even define them, it is hard to say.

Why? After consulting my good pal Wikipedia for some information, here is what I found:

  • MetLife states that Millennials are born between 1977-1994.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers defines Millennials as those born between 1980–1995.
  • A May 2013 Time magazine cover story identified Millennials as those born from 1980 or 1981 to the year 2000.
  • Dale Carnegie Training and MSW Research described Millennial birth years as being between 1980–1996.
  • Synchrony Financial describes Millennials as starting as early as 1976.
  • Statistics Canada defined 1992 as the last year Generation Y was born.
  • Pew Research Center defines Millennials from 1981 and on. This means that there is yet another year of Millennials each year. Crazy.
  • Gallup Inc., uses 1980-1996 as the years Millennials were born.

This means that Millennials cohort could be anyone born in 1976 – today. Yes, that means 40 years depending on the source used.

That just doesn’t make sense. How then, can we generalize them all and say that 40 years of people, roughly 162 million Americans(!!!) are all narcissistic, job-hopping, disloyal basement dwellers that watch Netflix all day and don’t know how to work?

We can’t. Obviously.

Just like we can’t say that they are all go-getters that are changing the world.

And hey, we can’t even generalize a group of 100 random people to suggest the same. Regardless of age.

And so when we talk about Millennials being this and that, I find myself simply shaking my head. Yes, they’re right, but they’re also just as wrong as they are all right.

To suggest that Millennials can be engaged by doing X is the same as saying ‘people like spinach’. Yes, people do, but lots don’t too.

Ok, inability to define a generation aside, lets look at how fast the world is changing, just so I can emphasize my point a little further.

Moore’s Law states that the processing power of computers doubles every two years. So, for a starting point, lets use one of my favourite examples, Voyager 1 (launched in 1977), and a quote from the maybe not so credible source,

Although it’s traveled 11.6 billion miles to interstellar space, Voyager 1 does not have as high-tech software as you may think. In fact, the software has less than 40 KB of memory. To put that in perspective, your 16 GB iPhone 5 has 240,000 times more memory than a Voyager spacecraft.

Hopefully you laughed like I did.

So then, now, in a world where 90% of the information on the internet has been created in the past two years (I can’t make this up. I don’t think IBM did either.) how can we suggest that the world we grow up in now, and the way we communicate is even remotely similar to the world our grandparent’s grandparents grew up in?

But to think that we stick to ‘generations’ being ~10-15 year cohorts (Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995. Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976. Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to1964) stays constant seems a little silly when the way we communicate, interact, and information we have access to changes exponentially.

But you might argue that generations of people are different having not experienced a war, the Great Depression, or even the first iPod. I think you’re right. But these events don’t define a generation in the way we’ve come to label them. It simply means they were born after a world event that changed the way we do things or act.

So when you try to group people in the workforce or otherwise, I strongly caution against grouping someone based on the name of a generation that doesn’t truly exist in the way we’ve defined them for so long.

Sure, it is easy to do so, but to modify a Bob Marley quote I’d have to say that if you’re trying to make a good point and figuring out how to do it, don’t take the easy way out because ‘If [it]’s amazing, [it] won’t be easy. If [it]’s easy, [it] won’t be amazing’.

Signing off for now,

-A Millennial (or person, or guy, or a 24-year-old, or an entrepreneur, or someone who likes spinach, or someone who likes long bike rides, or a Canadian, or just Eric)

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