Few things we can learn from Millennials


My friends and colleagues know, because of our business, I work the majority of my time with the Generation Y crowd, or the Millennials. Having almost more than thirty years difference between me and them has some pluses and to be frank some minuses too. But I can’t complain, their world views help give me a new and more meaningful perspective on life.

Millennials get a bad rap. But honestly, they don’t deserve it.

Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers, the generation born between the mid-80’s and early 90’s. FYI – different sources refer to different timelines but this just about covers it-. There are also some places that refer to ‘old Millennials’ and ‘young Millennials’, Gen Y and Gen Z, as the span for this generation is so great.

When you hear the word ‘Millennial’ many older generations think of the ‘lazy generation’ that is collectively self-entitled, expects the world on a platter, love to have an “easy button” for everything, and forget that there is an entire existence outside of Facebook and social media, accused of being narcissistic and lazy, and few other things. Well, if you do, you wouldn’t be alone.

But despite their obsession with lattes, expensive fancy coffees and avocado toast (just kidding!), the fact is that millennials are reshaping our workforce and to some extend life in general. They’ve surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation by population and (some claim) they are the most educated generation in American history (not to mention their college debt, which will take 30 plus years to pay off). By 2025, they’ll make up three quarters of the global work force.

But some say Millennials are just misunderstood because their values are different to those of generations gone by, wanting more purpose and meaning to their work. That being the case, there are definitely lessons we can learn from Millennials that we can apply to our own lives.

As savvy older generations, then, it would serve us well to pay attention to this large and powerful demographic.

Here are some of the lessons we can learn from Millennials that can help us change the way we view life (or at least help us look at things a little differently):


Education Doesn’t Have To Come From The Classroom

40 years ago your main options for an ‘education’ were university or getting a trade and learning on the job. Now the possibilities are endless. You can get a university degree without ever setting foot in a classroom, you can learn how to do just about anything thanks to the internet and new technology and you have access to more information than ever before.

Millennials know that education doesn’t have to come from the classroom. Want to learn how to do something? Find out! research, ask in a group, attend local classes, attend online classes, find yourself a mentor, and give it a go yourself.


Work And Life Need To Co-Exist And You Don’t Need To Live To Work

Screw the work life balance. There is no such thing as a work/life balance. It’s just this concept that has been created, that we are all chasing, and that no one can quantify. (Just like to follow your passion crap) What does it actually mean? What does it actually look like?

Instead of a work life balance, Millennials focus more on work that means something to them, that contributes to their life and that they can incorporate into their life. It’s the new ‘balance’.

Even more importantly, Millennials are also fighting the idea that you work to live, work and then work more until retirement age. They travel more, do more and see more now rather than waiting until they are retired to enjoy the fruits of their labor. (I like this more than anything else!)


Back Yourself

One of the lessons to learn from Millennials is the ability to back yourself. Millennials generally seem to be pretty darn good at believing in themselves, believing in their abilities, their capabilities and backing an idea. It doesn’t mean they don’t have self-confidence issues or are impervious to the shitty day of ‘oh I can’t do this’. It’s more of a willing to take the leap in the first place mentality. And it’s awesome.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to do so?


Create A Career And Life You Want

While generations before felt they were quite happy to fit within the job description mold, the builder, baker and the maker, Millennials are challenging this and creating careers they want. Can’t find a job you like? Create one! Can’t find a business you want to work for? Create it!

Thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, creating a business is easier now than ever before. Millennials are chasing their dreams, creating businesses out of their living rooms while still working their 9 – 5 daytime jobs and creating a life they want.

In addition, there are incredible Millennials out there who are challenging the conforms of a job by creating their career based around a lifestyle. Want to live in England and work at a pub for a few months? Go for it. Want to travel the world and get paid to do it? It’s totally possible. Millennials create the life they want to live, not live the life created for them. II know few startup entrepreneurs that have exactly done this, and I truly admire them. Merve, Toni, Ron and few others know what I am talking about.)


Challenge The Traditional ‘Happy Family’

Think the old nuclear family of husband, wife and two kids is the only way to be happy. Uh, no. In the Millennial era, families come in ranges of shapes, sizes, colors and make up now! And while this may have always been the case, we are far more accepting of it now than ever before.

In addition, Millennials are also more likely to challenge the traditional gender roles and have a greater belief that parenting is an equal responsibility.

When you think of how far we have come as a society you have to be a little proud. Just look at the marriage equality movement – if you ask most Millennials if they have an issue with marriage equality their only objection will be that there isn’t enough of it.

Millennials seem to be far more accepting of people and their choices, something we here at Project Hot Mess stand behind 100%.


Find Purpose In What You Do

Not satisfied with being told what to do and just doing it, Millennials aren’t afraid to challenge the traditional systems and question if there is a better way.  And it’s not only in their careers. Millennials are more likely to support a cause or purchase a product they believe in even if it means paying a little more.

Millennials are driven by purpose. Find a purpose behind what you do and that is what will drive you.


Keep Up Or Get Left Behind

Just think of how far technology has changed in the last 10 or 20 years. In June 2007, Steve Jobs announced the release of the first iPhone. Technology is moving forward fast and Millennials know you need to keep up or you’re going to get left behind. There’s coding classes for kids in schools, and computer skills classes for the older generations who want to keep in touch. Technology keeps us connected more than ever before and it’s incredible.

You can now pay for your groceries with your phone, video call your friends in another country and create an entire business empire from your Mac. It’s pretty darn incredible. Kids are even more in tune with technology and avoiding it is no longer an option. While letting your kids sit for hours on the computer may not be the best option, it’s now essential that they have at least some computer skills (which they pick up at a ridiculously fast rate!).

Keep up with technology, even if it’s just the bare minimum, and avoid getting left behind.

Despite all the bad wraps Millennials tend to get, they have a lot going for them. Maybe they’re (we’re) just a little different, which doesn’t mean bad at all. They just look at things differently. And there’s still a whole lot of lessons we can learn from Millennials.


Embrace Change

The average millennial is on the move. Unlike his parents, who were likely to spend multiple decades

with a single company, a millennial worker doesn’t feel bound to his employer in the same way.

Having come of age during the greatest recession in modern history (and with the promise of a lucrative pension all but nonexistent) the millennial worker has learned to embrace change, always seeking out a better, more advantageous opportunity.


Challenge The Status Quo

76% of millennials believe they could teach their boss a thing or two about how to get the job done. Perhaps that explains why such a large number of them have opted not to have a boss at all—46% say they plan to start a business or would like to start one in the next five years.

This willingness to challenge the establishment no doubt contributes to the “entitled” perception of Generation Y, but in fact, it’s the way all revolutionary businesses began.

Henry Ford challenged the idea that humans must rely on horses. Thomas Edison felt certain that electric light bulbs were destined to be a fixture in every home. Steve Jobs took a device once used largely by scientists and mathematicians and made it accessible to the average American.

The desire and the grit to disrupt the status quo are essential for entrepreneurs who truly want to make an impact.


Value Work-Life Balance work life balance.jpg

Flexibility and work-life balance are two major factors in career choice for millennials. If they can’t find them at one job, they’ll soon look for another (or create their own).

It’s well documented that Americans as whole are doing work-life balance all wrong. We leave hundreds of millions of unused vacation days on the table every year, at a detriment to our own hobbies, happiness and mental health.

We could learn from millennials’ attention to work-life balance, which relieves stress, promotes productivity and keeps us healthy.


Opt For Experiences

More than three quarters of millennials would rather spend money on a desirable experience than buy a physical product. They value memories: creating them, experiencing them and documenting them.

Any smart business owner knows consumers are the same way. It’s the way the customer feels about your brand that drives them to make a purchase, not the statistics or facts you show them about why they should buy.

When you think about your customer, think in terms of experiences, from the look and feel of your website to the design of your store to your customer service policy. What kind of memory does it create for the buyer?


Pursue The Greater Good

Millennials crave meaning, whether in relationships with friends or interactions with companies. They also reject “The Man”, opting to work for smaller companies with fewer employees than their older counterparts.

These characteristics have contributed to an exciting and promising new business trend: social entrepreneurship. From poverty to conservation to STEM funding, the world is filled with problems, and social entrepreneurship aims to use commerce to solve them.

As business owners, we can add meaning to our entrepreneurial pursuits by incorporating elements of social entrepreneurship into our own business models. Partnering with a charity, donating man-hours and participating in revenue-sharing arrangements are all innovative ways to improve the world while running your company.


Take Advantage Of Technology

If there’s one stereotype that’s almost unequivocally true, it’s that millennials are the connected generation. With a smartphone in one hand and a VR headset in the other, they know the power of technology and how to use it to make life easier and better.

We, too, can take advantage of technology to improve our businesses, streamline operations and control costs. If there’s a faster, easier way to do something using technology, by all means we should do it.

Technology’s greatest benefit for business owners? Giving us more of our most valuable resource: time. We talk more about taking back your time (both professionally and personally speaking) using technology in this post.


Reject Busyness. That’s busy-ness, not business!

Chronic busy-ness is bad for your brain, causing decision fatigue and diminished mental capabilities. As we mentioned earlier, millennials tend to reject doing tasks just for the sake of doing them, instead craving meaning behind the items on their to-do list.

By focusing more of our energy on those projects that truly bring us value while rejecting those that are time-fillers, we’ll feel more fulfillment from our work.


Embrace Social Entrepreneurship

Millennials are driven by the idea that their actions could help to benefit the world. Forget being driven by money, for them, it’s all about the chance for them to make a difference. For example, did you know that 88% of millennial females and 82% of millennial males think that it’s important to do work that gives back to the community? And that 84% made a charitable donation in 2014 alone?


Take Advantage of Trends

While trends can sometimes feel like fads, it’s important that as a startup owner you don’t ignore them. Granted, it’s likely that some trends might not be a good fit for your business. That doesn’t mean that you should completely dismiss them without delving a little deeper first.

In the world of millennials, trends are there to be taken advantage of – especially when they are hot. For them, it’s all about maximizing an opportunity, whether it’s short-lived or not.


Utilize the Marketing Power of Social Media

Driven by the fact that millennials were the first generation to use smartphones and grow up in the ever-changing digital world, 81% of millennials check social media platforms like Twitter once a day. The most popular platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat offer businesses the chance to set up profiles for free. While their advertising options are very cost effective. In addition, it’s possible to run ads that are extremely targeted. This is an important factor when it comes to achieving a good ROI on tight marketing budgets.


Don’t be afraid to do things differently

Millennials certainly aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and go against the norm. Not all of them want to follow the example of their baby boomer parents and join the establishment for example – in fact, 46% say they would like to start their own business one day, rather than work for the same company forever.


Just when you think you understand Generation Y -The Millennials-,  here comes the new generation of Millennials (or young Millennials as some labels them) the Generation Z. Here is a blog post about understanding the new Generation Z. There are couple of other blog posts about the Gen Z universe worth reading)

What are some traditionally “Millennial” qualities you know of that you value? Are you the owner of a startup? Or a company that employs Gen Y and Z. We’d love to know your experience of working with Millennials. What business lessons have you learned and how have they helped you and your company? Join in the conversation by leaving us a comment and share your thoughts.