Does Millennial Idealism Echo Our Own Hopes?

1 Sep

So much has been said about the millennials and generally with respect. Their views about life are more balanced and notably the reported greater focus on work/life balance and more importance given to the meaningful way they occupy their time at work, rather than how much they are paid. It is not unusual for people early in their career to have higher expectations and ideals and what is attributed to millennials may well have been the initial thinking of many younger people from earlier generations. I remember at one of my earliest interviews (UK) being asked my political affiliation and after responding, the interviewer saying that it was normal for many young people to start as socialists and later become conservatives. It made me think of George Orwell and peers, going off to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The sixties and seventies were also periods when young people sought enlightenment and a more meaningful understanding of life and the ability to experience at a more profound level than our parents.

One thing I believe has changed significantly is the job situation. During most of my career, despite economic fluctuations, there have been enough jobs, particularly for young people and recent graduates. This included summer jobs for students that could inspire confidence for later and possible career direction. The need to work and availability of work was almost an assumption. People could develop their own values and philosophies, but while things were going well did not have to think much about employment.   Materialism may have seemed somewhat distasteful to many, but the availability of jobs mellowed some criticism as income earned supported independence in other ways. Earlier generations seemed to focus more on politics than the sins of big business.  

Today the situation is very different. Major organizations have been exposed for unethical and illegal practices and trust in organizations is probably at an all time low. Recent (and continuing) economic problems have triggered harsh treatment of employees and indifference by many to the communities they are part of e.g. outsourcing and relocation.

There is no longer trust that there will be jobs in the future. There is significant emphasis on the new workforce needing to be freelancers and self-employed in other ways. The balanced interdependence between employers who need people and people who need to work no longer exists. There may be some employees very high in demand, but most are on their own and will have to make do the best they can.

The millennials are very bright and have access to information from all sources and the experience to differentiate between credible sources and other sources biased for whatever reason. Many millennials feel alienated from an economic system that does not seem inclusive of them. More than previous generations, from a personal and social perspective, they know values must change and that acceptance of the status quo is slanted against them and their future interests. The millennials, with little vested interest in the present system, must be the change agents and steer business evolution in a just and sustainable way. They know not all is well and their thoughts are already influencing change, particularly with employers seeking to accommodate millennial thinking to promote engagement.   The millennials (and other new generations) are the future and must build a future more appropriate to all the changes, including environmental, anticipated.

Earlier generations may have developed similar ideals, but in different economic times, it was easier to slip into the comfort, relative stability, of conventional employment and accept the good with the bad and at least have reasonable financial security. Today it is different and as we watch the progress of the millennials, maybe we see them as the champions of our earlier ideals. Maybe we have confidence in their ability to take our civilization to the next stage – a civilization based on what is and will be rather than what used to be!

I can only comment based on my own environment and recognize that many different “worlds” converging into the future may introduce factors we cannot even anticipate at this time. We wish well to the magnificent millennials as they move forward with their ideals and their commitment to a sustainable and inclusive new world.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.




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