Millennials are the first generation to grow up surrounded by mobile phones, social networks, and a 24/7 connected wireless Internet world. But how have these forces shaped the way that these talented young professionals communicate and think? In addition to diving deep into the topic in recent bestselling book Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap, we asked Gail Sheehy, author of Daring: My Passages, to share her insights on the topic.
Q: What constitutes a Millennial in your mind? And what notable characteristics, behaviors, and perspectives most define this generation from your standpoint?
A: Millennials are the first digital natives. Natural entrepreneurs, they don’t trust institutions or governments. They favor innovation and creative disruption. They belong to global networks of peers. They are America’s economic future.
Q: What are some of the most important trends and happenings we’re seeing emerge amongst people who hail from this age group?
A: Millennials are more inclusive than any previous generations. Across all genders and races the majority accepts multi-ethnic and multi-racial relationships and gay couples.
Q: What are a few unexpected things people would never guess about members of this generation?
A: Millennials are taking longer to grow up. Faced with the Great Recession, their post-adolescence lasts through most of their Trying Twenties. Tough times getting off the ground makes them more agile in crafting and changing careers.
Q: How does this generation fundamentally differ from those which came before – and those will follow after?
A: No boundaries. Gender is fluid. Marriage is only an option. Having children is a separate decision. Half the babies born to American women under 30 are born outside of marriage, and most are not planned. Surprisingly large numbers of these young single mothers are also having children with more than one partner.
Q: How might Millennials be unexpectedly similar to other generations in ways casual observers might not expect?
A: Many marched into the workplace believing it was now a meritocracy. The reality: Subtle gender bias persists, and equal pay is still rare. Faced with this splash of cold water on their dreams, many who started out anti-feminist–based on the bra burning, ball busting stereotype–have come to identify with neo-feminism. Role models like Lena Dunham and convert Taylor Swift are updating the women’s movement.
Q: How are Millennials changing the way we communicate and interact?
A: Older generations must become proficient in social media or drop out of the national conversation.
Q: How are Millennials changing the way we do business?
A: We’re online all the time.
Q: How is this generation changing the world? What kind of impact has it had on our society already?
A: They are exposing unconscious biases and overt racism which is no longer being swept under the carpet or dismissed by all-white grand juries. They have shortened our attention spans to a Twitter tempo, leaving most people with little historical context for major news and world events.
Q: What are some of the best and most effective ways to connect with and speak to members of this generation?
A: Speak to them with blogs, cool websites, or fearless documentaries, as on Vice and Frontline.
Q: How do Millennials’ daily, social and professional habits differ from other generations – and what would those hoping to communicate with them do well to know about these shifts?
A: Their attention is fractured by attachment to inanimate devices. It’s almost impossible to make it through a face-to-face conversation without checking what else might be more important.
Q: What does success look like for today’s Millennial in your opinion, and what’s driving them as they go about making decisions in business and life?
A: Millennials have a strong sense of social justice, that’s what’s driving them. But they are also frantic about making enough money to live as well as their parents – a dubious dream given the vast income gap that has grown, unchecked, over 30 years.
For more on how to effectively manage, lead, and communicate with every generation, be sure to check out Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap.