Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Truth About Millennials

As we near the end of graduation season, there's a lot of buzz about how Millennials handle the transition from college to the "real world." Joel Stein's TIME cover story and its accompanying online package - particularly the video of Stein living like a millennial - have been controversial, spurred many rebuttals, and sparked many conversations.

But consider this: Is he right?

The first half of Stein's story has blunt statements like "They are fame-obsessed," "They are lazy," "their development is stunted," and "they're cocky about their place in the world," which are all backed by data.

Obvi, none of these statements are positive. But here are the facts:
  • More people ages 18 to 29 live with their parents than with a spouse.
  • In 2007, three times as many middle school girls wanted to be a personal assistant to a famous person than a senator; four times as many chose the assistant job over CEO of a major corporation.
  • People ages 18 to 29 in 2012 had less civic engagement and lower political participation than any previous group.
Many of you may be arguing "But that's not true! I'm not this way, and neither are my friends!" That's one of Stein's main points: it's not about you

We all know stereotypes are generalizations about groups of people, and that's exactly what Stein is doing. But since TIME is targeted at older Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, he's trying to help older people understand Millennials as a whole.

If you keep reading while the smoke is blowing out of your ears, you can see that Stein talks about big culture changes like Millennials' propensity to innovate, try new things, and go after what they want. We also expect a flat organizational structure, need self-actualization more than money, rebel less, are more cautious, and are extremely optimistic.

So, how does this relate to fraternity/sorority life?

Think about your new members' expectations when they first join the chapter. With expectations of an accessible executive board, you will have to justify the decisions you make. Millennials rebel less because authority isn't just something they don't respect, it's something they don't acknowledge. More than ever, student leaders truly have to earn respect; members won't respect you based on title alone.

With our propensity to do new things, if you're in a culture that tolerates hazing or a disregard for risk management, this generation is going to be the catalyst to change it. Use your group of innovative members to make positive changes, harness our generation's disregard for the past, blaze that trail, and earn that legend status that Millennials crave.

P.S. Joel, while we can concede that you make many great points, stop trying to make "twixters" happen. It's not going to happen.

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