The Ultimate List of Millennial Characteristics
Millennials (also known as Generation Y, Digital Natives, Generation Me, Generation Rent and Echo Boomers) are generational cohort born roughly between 1980-2000.
Millennials are likely the most studied and talked about generation to date. They are the first generation in history that have grown up totally immersed in a world of digital technology, which has shaped their identities and created lasting political, social and cultural attitudes.
Like every other generation, Millennials display generalized and unique traits that make them different from their predecessors.
Mainstream media has drawn a picture of Millennials as lazy, narcissistic and entitled selfie-lovers. To balance out the perception, I’ve listed more unbiased view of Millennial characteristics backed up by some research below.
This list is an ongoing work, which eventually should morph into “The Ultimate List Of All Millennial Characteristics You Can Think Of”.
NB! Since majority of Millennial research is done in the USA, I will try to dig up some more data on UK Millennials soon.
Millennials – The Largest Generation in Western History
Millennials are the largest generation in Western history. As of 2012, it is estimated that there are approximately 80 million U.S. Millennials and 14.6 million Millennials in the UK (according to “Debunking the millennial myth” research done by Initiative )
This year (2015) more Millennials surpass Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Our massive size ensures that we will dominate everything for years to come, just as the Baby Boomers have for the last 30 years.
It is estimated that by the year 2048, Millennials will represent 39% of the nation’s electorate. This will give us incredible voting power. In fact, we are already having a huge impact on elections. In 2008, Millennials were the number one reason why Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination during the primary season.
Millennials – The Most Educated Generation in Western History
Millennials are on track to become the most educated generation in Western history.
34% of 25 to 29 year-olds Americans held a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, professional degree or doctoral degree last year, a higher share than in any year in data going back to 1968, according to Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at Brookings. The share will probably increase as Millennials, usually described as those born after 1980, mature.
The Millennial women are outperforming the Millennial men in the classroom. Overall, Millennial girls tend to outperform boys in elementary and secondary school, getting higher grades, pursuing tougher academic programs, and participating in advanced placement classes at higher rates.
Additionally, 57% of today’s undergraduates are women, and women are now earning 170,000 more bachelor’s degrees each year than men.
While in 1970 fewer than 10% of medical students and 4% of law students were women, today women represent roughly half of the nation’s law and medical students and 55% of the nation’s professionals overall.
Without a doubt, educational achievement and getting a college education is very important for Millennials. The majority of us think that education is a big factor to achieving success in life and we are willing to put ourselves into debt in order to get that increasingly expensive piece of paper.
Millennials are Technologically Savvy
We are the first generation to grow up constantly connected to the world, and are what the Pew Research Center has labeled “Digital natives in a land of digital immigrants.” Without a doubt, we have embraced technology like no other generation.
Millennials clearly adapt faster to computer and internet services because they have always had them.
A global study of Millennials conducted by Telefonica in 2014 reveals that mobile technology is important to Millennials across the board, and it’s not all for fun and games. In addition to entertaining themselves and keeping up with social contacts, 46% of US Millennials and more than 60% of Latin Millennials said they use their devices for research and education.
The Telefonica study interviewed 6,700 men and women age 18 to 30 in the US and Western Europe.
The vast majority of Millennials everywhere see themselves as being “on the cutting edge of technology,” though they don’t necessarily want a tech career.
72% reported owning a smartphone and 28% had a tablet. This year, the numbers rose to 80% and 45%.
Millennials do everything tech-related in higher percentages than all other generations. We are the most likely to use the internet and send or receive an email at least occasionally (90% reportedly do), although Gen X and Boomers aren’t far behind (at 87 and 79%, respectively).
And Millennials are not only most likely to have created a profile on a social networking site, but we are also most likely to visit our profile page “several times a day” (29% say they do, compared to 19% of Gen Xer’s and 11% of Boomers).
Millennials also have more positive attitudes about technology than other generations–we are the most likely to say that technology makes life easy rather than harder, are the most likely to say technology brings people closer together than drives them further apart, and are the most likely to say that technology allows people to use their time more efficiently.
Millennials are Civic-Oriented
Millennial generation have a strong sense of community both on local and global scale. Compared to previous generation, Millennials focus on larger societal needs rather than individual needs.
“People born between 1980 and 2000 are the most civic-minded since the generation of the 1930s and 1940s,” claimed USA Today.
Millennials believe in the value of political engagement and are convinced that government can be a powerful force for good.
According to Deloitte Millennial Survey 2014, Millennials consider government to have the greatest potential to address society’s biggest issues. Almost half feel governments are having a negative impact on areas identified as among the top challenges: unemployment (47%), resource scarcity (43%), and income inequality (56%).
Also, the majority of Millennials say that the rising inequality gap is a serious problem in this country. A 2004 National Election Survey found that 84% of 18-to-26-year-olds felt that the gap between rich and poor had grown in the last twenty years and 94% said that this was a bad thing, a higher percentage than all other generations.
Millennials are likely to support a progressive tax system, to want an increase in the minimum wage, to support free trade, and to believe that government regulations on businesses are necessary in order to keep them in check and to protect consumers.
Overall, Millennials feel obligated to do our part to make the world a better place, and we believe that we can.
Civic generations tend to bring about times of greater economic equality and more inclusive racial and ethnic concerns. Thus, it isn’t surprising that a Civic generation like Millennials shows high levels of compassion–a characteristic will certainly be instrumental in helping us to build a powerful legacy.
Millennials are Conscious
When it comes to health, social, economical and environmental issues, Millennials are the most conscious generation to date.
Millennials are often referred to as conscious capitalists, which means that they look up to businesses that serve the interests of all major stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, communities, suppliers, and the environment.
In fact, a whopping 81% expect companies to show their commitment to corporate responsibility.
Nielsen global online study found that Gen Y continue to be most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings—almost three-out-of-four respondents in the latest findings, up from approximately half in 2014. This is a generation that truly believes that it can influence the world with the power of the wallet (or credit card).
Socially conscious mindset is one of their most defining trait of Gen Y. As the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in US history (43% of adults are non-white), Millennials have learned to embrace the differences in one another.
Millennials are Global Citizens
The majority of Millennials see themselves as global citizens, who have a responsibility to make the world better. They are less patriotic and more globally minded, which enables them to contribute to the general welfare of society.
A global citizen respects and values diversity, is outraged by social injustice, is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place and takes responsibility for their actions.
Millennials are Entrepreneurial
Millennials are the most entrepreneurially-minded generation ever.
In the US, only 13% of survey respondents said their career goal involves climbing the corporate ladder to become a CEO or president. By contrast, almost two-thirds (67%) of said their goal involves starting their own business.
Millennials have disregarded the life and career path that was so formally laid out by the Baby Boomers and eager to make their own pathways as they see chaos, distrust of corporations, redundancy and other bad news associated with businesses.
People’s minds are open to new possibilities, exciting opportunities and great challenges.
It is now easier than ever to start your own business, which is one of the reason Millennials are discovering entrepreneurship significantly earlier than Boomers did. While the older generation launched their first businesses at roughly 35 years old, so-called “millennipreneurs” are setting out around 27—which means some of them already have almost a decade of experience.
Millennials are starting more businesses, too. The report found that they’ve launched about twice as many as boomers have—nearly eight companies each versus three to four for boomers.
However, many of the businesses set up by Millennials, unfortunately fail.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, young people very well may lead the country in entrepreneurship, as a mentality. But when it comes to the more falsifiable measure of entrepreneurship as an activity, older generations are doing most of the work. The average age for a successful startup-founder is about 40 years old.
In the UK, Millennials have built new businesses out of the ruins of a recession since 2008, and in doing so, they’ve changed the career expectations for a whole generation.
More Brits are joining the freelance ranks. 1/6 of UK workforce are self-employed and western society hasn’t seen a change this significant in more than a century.
Since the crash of 2008, self-employment has skyrocketed in the UK. Today (2017), there is about 5 million self-employed people in Britain, which is a significant proportion of the total 31.85 million employed (2017).
Recession has shown that there is no job for life and that we live in the economy of SELF, where only YOU are responsible for what is going to happen with your life. Millennials are enthusiastic about creating their own luck and work opportunities through life.
Millennials are realising that starting a company, even if it fails, teaches them more than sitting in a cubicle for 10 years. And learning is the number one force for a societal and personal progress.
Millennials are Flexible
Millennials value flexible working arrangements and freedom over the stable 9-to-5.
They want to work from remote locations with non-traditional hours.
They are also likely to pursue flexible career paths as they prioritise work-life balance higher than their previous generations (Carless and Wintle 2007; Smola and Sutton 2002).
Several other researchers (Martin (2005) have noted that, while money is important, Millennials do not see money as their only source of happiness. Rather, they feel rewarded by work arrangements that offer them more flexibility. PwC study found, that 15% of male employees and 21% of female employees would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in their careers in exchange for working fewer hours.
It is important to note here, that requesting flexible work is a legal right for all employees in the UK .
Whether it’s night-owl who’s still half asleep at 9 AM, the Millennial who wants to volunteer in her community or the parent, who needs to care for their kids or elderly, everyone has an equal right to request flexible working.
77% of Millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age (Bentley University study), and 82% of Millennials said they are more loyal to their employer, if they have flexible working options (Flexjobs).
According to Gallup “State of the American Workplace,” (2017) report, 43% of American employees spend at least some time working remotely, in the UK 25% of workforce are currently working part time (30h or less a week) and 12% work occasionally from home.
Millennials are Pragmatic Idealists
For a long time pragmatic and idealist were seen as opposites. Now Millennials are saying “We want to change the world and we know it’s not going to be easy, but we going to have a plan to get there.”
From an early age, Millennials witnessed firsthand what it takes to be agents of change and as a result, 61% are worried about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to make a difference.
A typical beliefs of pragmatic idealists:
- Believe in your dreams and the only thing that stands between dreams and reality is your own hands to make it happen.
Millennials are Authentic
Millennials want to be real. They want to stay true to who they are, their values and individuality. They want their employers to respect their individual differences and embrace the potential that these unique qualities can bring.
Millennials are not interested in playing “the game” their parents once did. For many generations before, the cost of playing the game was too high: failed marriages, burnout, too little work-life balance, depression etc.
In the age of social media, authenticity is characterised by a consistency and continuity between their online personas and their lives in the real world.
Matthew Tyson wrote on The Huffington Post in 2016 that millennials “are not moved by flashy ads, big promises, and ‘wow’ factor. They want authentic messages, authentic brands, and authentic interactions.”
What does “authentic” mean? It means imperfect and transparent. Open your business up a little. Show what’s happening behind the scenes. Do what you say you do on social media. Stand for what you say you stand for on social media.
Millennials are Transparent
Millennials want to have an open and honest relationship with their manager and co-workers.
Transparency in the workplace, means sharing truths about the company, providing an honest feedback on performance, and encouraging two-way communication.
Employees job satisfaction is higher when leaders share information, including bad news, evaluate their job performance regularly, create a supportive climate and expect input (Jablin 1987).
Millennials seem to expect open communication from their leaders and managers, even about matters that have traditionally been considered for more senior employees (Gursoy et al. 2008; Martin 2005; Remo 2006). In other words, even in a low-level position, Millennial workers require to be kept in the loop of information.
Maccoby (2000) states that Millennials’ leaders should increase trust by promoting transparency and involvement.
Transparency refers to being clear of reasons behind decisions and being open about policies, results and information of the market.
This is because Millennials want to know about what is coming down the road and also have a say in decisions of which they are expected to implement. It is important for employees that their views are being heard and taken into account.
According to the world’s largest human resources consulting firm Mercer, pay is less of a secret to Millennials. Roughly 1/3 of U.S. workers aged 18 to 36 say they feel comfortable discussing pay with their co-workers, which is about four times more than Baby Boomers, (according to a survey of 1,000 employees conducted by personal finance firm Bankrate Inc).
Millennials are Frugal
Conscious of unemployment, stagnant wages and lack of stable jobs, Millennials try to live within their means, save for emergency and not buy things they don’t need.
Trying to get by with spending as little as possible, has become the norm for many young people. Leading a minimalistic life is the new cool.
Millennials don’t want to buy stuff, but experiences trump possessions. Millennials prefer to spend on experiences, food/drinks, eating out, concerts and wellness.
Millennials are Liberal
According to The Economist, surveys of political attitudes among Millennials in the UK suggest increasingly liberal attitudes with regard to social and cultural issues, as well as higher overall support for classical liberal economic policies than preceding generations.
Millennials are more likely to support same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. Data released by the Pew Research Center found that acceptance of gay marriage is at an all-time high among young adults, so it’s much more likely we will be seeing more progress if our generation votes and continue to be vocal.
Seventy-seven percent of Democratic-leaning millennials and 63% of their Republican counterparts support legalised marijuana, according to the latest data from Pew. Those are the highest numbers among any age groups. It turns out that being subjected to anti-drug lobbying for most of their adolescence hasn’t prevented today’s 20-somethings from coming to the conclusion that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and that, if your goal is to promote a healthy and just society, it might not make much very much sense to legalise the latter and put people in jail for the former.
Millennials are Compassionate
Another 2006 Harvard Institute of Politics survey found that 74% of 18-to-25-year-olds said that their number one reason for volunteering was to help other people, and 11% said it was to address a social or political problem.
None said that it was because it was a requirement to graduate from high school. A 2006 UCLA survey of 26,000 freshman found that two-thirds said that it is “essential or very important” to help others, the highest percentage to agree with this statement in 25 years.
Millennials volunteer mainly because we want to help people. We want to be a part of changing and improving lives and we have quite a bit of disdain for selfishness.
Millennials are Progressive
Millennials don’t just accept the status quo and they will challenge the system if there’s something we could improve on.
We think independently despite the system we’re operating within. We constantly question the messages society puts out through the media.
According to the numerous studies conducted on Millennials, we are a very progressive generation. This may not be very surprising to many since it is commonly believed that young people are always progressive, but then become more conservative as they age. More than likely Millennials will largely retain our progressive views even as we age.
To us, being progressive is about wanting to move the country forward, to advocate change, to advance new ideas and policies.
In fact, a November, 2008 Pepsi Refresh Optimism report on Millennials found that we tend to embrace change, and 95% make positive associations with the word. The top words Millennials associated with change were “new” (79%), “progress” (78%), “hope” (77%) and “excitement” (72%).
And according to the 2007 Greenberg Millennials Study, participants reported that one of the top defining characteristics of their generation is the ability to “embrace innovation and new ideas.”
Social issues are where Millennials hold the most progressive views. In terms of homosexuality, interracial relationships, gender roles, immigration, and religion, poll after poll and study after study confirms that Millennials hold decidedly more progressive views than all other generations alive today, and in history.
Couples are more progressive. More women are becoming breadwinners and coparenting with their partners.
Millennials are Confident
Nearly nine in ten high school students in the US today say that they would use the word “confident” to describe themselves.
PwC Millennial survey (2015) revealed that British female Millennials are the most confident and ambitious of any female generation. 49% of them starting their careers believe they can reach the very top levels with their current employer.
And according to a November, 2008 Pepsi Refresh Optimism report found that 81% of Millennials chose the word “hopeful” to describe their feelings about the future, 65% chose “optimistic” and 57% chose the words “confident” and “excited”.
Millennials have been raised to believe that we can accomplish anything. Our parents, teachers, coaches and all adults who have been a part of our lives, have drilled it into our heads that “if you believe you can achieve it, you probably can.”
Our sense of “specialness” is what drives our confidence. It isn’t an individual confidence that fuels this attitude, it is a collective confidence.
We just aren’t letting these immense challenges that we have before us dampen our spirit. Instead, we are becoming increasingly determined to work together to solve these problems. We really do believe that things will get better.
Millennials are Diverse
Millennials are America’s most ethnically and racially diverse cohort ever. Among Millennials ages 13 to 29: 18.5% are Hispanic; 14.2% are Black; 4.3% are Asian; 3.2% are Mixed Race or Other; and 59.8%, are Caucasian (Keeter, 2010).
Millennials are more accepting of all kinds of people. No matter what colour their skin is, how they dress, or what religion they are.
Millennials view diversity as a way to create unity in a country as opposed to using so-called “identity politics” to divide the country. In fact, a January, 2010 Pew Research Center Study revealed that 67% of 18-to-29-year-olds agreed that increasing ethnic and racial diversity is a good thing.
Our diversity will be crucial to us as we attempt to overcome some big issues like racism, immigration, sexism, homosexuality and religious differences.
Millennials are very open-minded about diversity, so we don’t really care about the colour of your skin, what country you come from, what gender you belong to, what gender you are attracted to, and even what God or Gods you pray to (if any at all).
A majority support same-sex marriage, we almost unanimously agree that interracial relationships should be accepted by society, a large majority support equal pay and opportunities for women, we are the most likely to feel that immigration is a good thing for our country, and we are the most religiously tolerant generation alive today.
Millennials are Practical and Results-Oriented
Millennials are interested in processes and services that work and speed their interactions.
They expect evaluation & promotion of their work to be based on the outcomes they produce and not based on age, time spent at the desk, years of experience, or position (Alsop 2008; Hill 2002).
Millennials are practical, if they are offered a service, they expect it to work and they have no tolerance for services that do not continuously and reliably add value.
Millennials are furious when they feel they are wasting their time; they want to learn quickly and move on.
Millennials are Team-Oriented
Millennials seem to be more people-oriented in their working style, establishing close relationships at the workplace.
They prefer egalitarian leadership, not hierarchies.
After many years of collaborating at schools, sports teams and peer-to peer networks, most Millennials like working in groups and we highly prefer a sense of unity and collaboration over division and competition.
Teamwork is something Millennials actually enjoy, because working together is far more effective than doing it alone.
Contrary to previous generations, Millennials were brought up in an atmosphere of equal relationships and co-decision-making, and they have a community-oriented “we can fix it together” mindset.
Also, the 2007 Greenberg Millennials Study found that when respondents were asked about the best way to address the challenges facing the country, the leading choice by far was “through a collective social movement.”
The Millennial generation’s attraction to teamwork could be, and arguably already is, a big factor in strengthening our civil and political engagement.
Millennials are Non-religious
In the UK …
Over half of Millennials polled in the UK in 2013 said they had ‘no religion nor attended a place of worship’, other than for a wedding or a funeral.
25% said they ‘believe in a God’, while 19% believed in a ‘spiritual greater power’ and 38% said they did not believe in God nor any other ‘greater spiritual power’.
The poll also found 41% thought religion is ‘the cause of evil’ in the world more often than good.
In the US …
In the United States, Millennials are less likely to practice organized religion than older generations, and are more likely to be skeptical of religious institutions.
While the majority of American Millennials are religious, one in three is irreligious, continuing a trend towards irreligion that has been increasing since the 1940s.
29% of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21% born between 1963 and 1982, 15% born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7% born before 1948.
Millennials are Multi-taskers
Millennials excel at juggling several tasks at once since this an efficient and practical use of their time.
Multi-tasking can enable them to accelerate their learning by permitting them to accomplish more than one task at the same time. They do want to use their time most efficiently and multitasking offers them more options. For example, a student may download and listen to a lecture while doing his/her laundry or exercising.
The research shows that Millennials will almost never instant message someone without doing some other task(s) simultaneously.
Millennials are Nomadic
The nomad, defined as “an individual with no fixed location who wanders in search of pasture,” can represent a cultural ideal for this generation. In the face of social and financial pressure, many are attempting to remain free from the feeling of restriction.
Millennial have also nomadic communication style – they are prolific communicators, whose communications are speeded by using shorthand, coded, or abbreviated text.
They love and expect communication mobility; to remain in constant touch wherever and whenever. This is their firm desire to do whatever they need to do, obtain any services independent of their geography or distance.
Millennials are much more likely to instant or text message more frequently than they email and they typically have more buddies on their IM lists than the older generations.
Millennials love flat, networked world and expect nomadic connectivity, 24×7.
Millennials are Impatient
Millennials are impatient about becoming recognised as valuable contributors (Gursoy et al. 2008; Pew Research Center 2007). They view time as a valuable resource that should not be wasted (Deloitte 2009).
Millennials are impatient “We Want It Now” generation. We are the products of our society – we are bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing messages a day and as a result can’t hold attention for more than 8 seconds.
On demand services like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Deliveroo don’t add to our patience either. We expect instant gratification, instant answers and instant services.
Millennials are Adventurous
Millennials are looking for adventures.
I’m reluctant to put this phenomenon down to youthful wanderlust alone, because the breadth of experiences this generation craves suggests there’s something more to it:
• Far more Millennials than Non-Millennials report a desire to visit every continent and travel abroad as much as possible, according to Boston Consulting Group.
• More than twice as many Millennials as those in other age brackets say they are willing “to encounter danger in pursuit of excitement,” according to Barkley.
• When Millennials dine out, they’re often in search of something exotic, adventuresome, memorable to explore during the experience.