Speaking to BBC News Brazil About Millennials’ Unexpected Real-World Journey

Millennials on phones on abstract background

Millennials are the most interconnected generation to fully emerge as adults. This generation was the first generation to grow up with the rise of personal computers, smartphones, the internet, and the constant streaming of global information from an early age. With the world seemingly at their fingertips (many times, literally), they had high expectations for themselves and their future as adults. So how did this highly ambitious, connected generation take a turn from being the “sure to make it big” generation to often being labeled, especially outside the U.S., as an “unlucky” generation?

It is no secret that Millennials have faced one global challenge after another, particularly as it relates to the economy—and now the pandemic. Add in the rising cost of education in many parts of the world, employment challenges, and much more, and it is clear that there are many reasons why Millennials are struggling to find their place in the world and achieve the success they envisioned in their youth. 

With this growing disconnect between goals and reality—whether that means moving back home with parents, feeling stuck in the gig economy or part-time jobs, or having big expectations that don’t seem to align with current opportunities—many Millennials feel like they have not reached the ambitious goals they set earlier in life. 

At the same time, Millennials have frequently come of age being criticized as lazy or entitled, which only adds weight and frustration to missed goals. However, we all know that generations don’t grow up in a vacuum. There are many factors at play that shape them. Beyond the macro-economic factors and localized educational differences, there is parenting, access to healthcare, mobility, technology, and much more that shape each generation. Bringing context to generational-shaping factors, both similarities and differences, is one of the important ways we can begin to find empathy and understanding across generations—as well as build bridges. 

For the above reasons, and many more, I was excited to share my perspective on the topic of Millennials with BBC Brazil, as the news outlet sought to shed light on the challenges Millennials have faced on their journey into adulthood and why it is important to be aware of them—as well as for Millennials to work through them. 

“The millennial generation became adults in the early days of smartphones and [internet] connectivity… they were in the right place at the right time to develop great ideas about their role in the world. Their parents told them they would be successful, they had broad access to education compared to previous generations, and there was a great sense of connection and making an impact.”

But even with all of the connectivity, aspirations, and more, there was not a path to adequately prepare them for the economic headwinds they faced at pivotal times in their emergence as adults. Of course, every generation faces a variety of challenges, defining moments, and “Where were you when?” events that influence their future. Understanding the specific challenges Millennials have faced helps us to understand the complexity of the generation. 

Below are a few points I shared in the BBC Brazil interview about the types of challenges Millennials have faced: 

  • There has been a considerable rise in the cost of living as Millennials have come of age as adults—often in education, healthcare, transportation, and housing.
  • Millennials have often faced job insecurity as employers did not offer “employment for life” but a new kind of employment reality where turnover is more of a norm. At the same time, Millennials came of age expecting to change jobs and possibly careers throughout their life which has created both new opportunities and pathways but has also potentially limited receiving loyalty and talent development from their employers. The result to Millennials can be reduced benefits, reduced investment in their professional development, fewer professional relationships, and more. 
  • Events around the globe also appear to be impacting Millennials much faster and more often than what would have previously been limited to more regional or country-specific events. For example, the interconnectedness of financial markets rapidly affects countries around the world instead of being more limited to a single country or region. The same is true for a virus being able to rapidly travel around the world due to the global movement of people. Globalization, in general, has created a more interconnected reality for Millennials than previous generations.

“Economies are much more connected, as are banking systems and supply chains. And, if we look at jobs, many of the big employers are multinationals. So the generation has a feeling of interconnection that didn’t exist before.”

It can be argued that this generation, due to some measure of elements outside of their control, feels that traditional experiences or even milestones of adulthood now feel farther out of their reach than in previous generations. This type of reality is showing up in Millennials delaying careers, marriage or long-term relationships, having children, buying a house, saving for retirement, and more. 

At the same time, there is no doubt that every generation has faced its share of setbacks, challenges, and painful headwinds beyond their control. 

Wars, governmental collapses, environmental disasters, and much more are not unique to Millennials or any generation. In fact, looking at the trajectory of previous generations might reveal that Millennials will take these challenges and transform them into strengths, knowledge, and new decisions that form an inspiring rally cry and identity as the generation further moves into adulthood. At CGK, we are very optimistic about the future of Millennials and how they will positively impact the world!

“Millennials have great skills, are relatively young, they will benefit from whatever economic recovery comes in the next few years, and have a lot of time ahead of them to make a decision and find their purpose.”

While our work exploring Millennials as adults, employees, consumers, and trendsetters continues to evolve with the generation, one thing is sure: Millennials are here to stay, and they are seeking to make an impact on their terms.

If you’ve enjoyed this perspective and are curious to know more, please check out our annual State of Gen Z® research study, which provides an interesting comparison of Gen Z to Millennials. 

Thank you, as always, for being on this journey with me. I look forward to sharing more findings with you on what the future holds for Millennials and emerging generations.

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