By most definitions I'm a baby boomer and my kids are closer than I am to the age-range for Generation Y. However, I think I may be a millennial. I mean age is only a number, right?
Here's what sparked my epiphany: At a recent panel discussion moderated by our own senior writer and resident millennial Lauren Brousell, the panelists spoke of their
tendency to job hop, their need for feedback, their high self-worth, their fearlessness, their comfort with technology and other traits widely associated with millennials.
As I listened I said myself, that's me. Crazy talk? Hear me out:
- Job hopping: I've worked for many publishing companies over the course of my career. In fact, I've worked for this company on three separate occasions (perhaps my hopping paid off, because I ended up in this great gig). As I look back at my 20s and even 30s, I realize I could teach Gen Y a few things about career advancement.
- Feedback: Who doesn't want feedback -- the more positive the better, though, in my case. Constructive criticism is highly overrated, so keep that stuff to yourself, Gallant.
- High self-worth? Just ask around.
- Fearlessness. I commute every day in Massachusetts. I laugh at danger.
- Grew up with technology. I may not be a digital native, but I was digitally born again in the early 80s when I got my first job in technology journalism. I was using and writing about technology when “other” millennials were in Pampers.
After listening to Lauren and her panelists, I wanted to test my Muse as Millennial theory. I Googled "what makes a millennial a millennial?" I found this PewResearchCenter survey: How Millennial Are You? I tackled the 15 questions confident my answers would reveal the truth. I scored a 92, proving that I am indeed a full-fledged millennial. I knew it.
Lighten Up, Hipsters
Don't worry, Gen Y. I'm not really trying to crash your party. I know I'm not officially or chronologically a millennial, as much as I wish I could turn back the clock. However, I am convinced that obsessing over the personality traits or work habits of Generation Y is not only silly, it can distract digital marketers who waste time thinking millennials are some new homogenized species to which no one over 30 can relate. Generation Y isn’t that much different from other generations of 20-somethings, and living a digital life style is hardly exclusive to millennials.
When my friends and I were in our mid-20s, we job-hopped, we were confident (maybe over-confident), we wanted to advance quickly and were fearless (or at least we didn't give a $*&@ about much). And we liked to drink beer and play video games after work.
For you marketing technology types here’s my amateur advice: Forget all the myths and target the demographic without getting caught up in stereotypes. According to U.S. Census data, millennials make up 26 percent of the population (the most of any generation) so they demand our attention. They are different because they are the current crop of young professionals, not because they consume information in dramatically different ways than Generation X and Baby Boomers.
Smartphones, social media and the Internet in general bring the generations together like never in history. Cases in point: My mother-in-law was the first person in our family to buy an iPad, I turned my college-age daughter onto Spotify long before her friends heard of it and my wife not only Snapchats with our daughters, she "snaps" with their roommates, too. My point: this digital native bias is BS.
If we’re going to define millennials by the traits currently associated with that generation, then it’s a no-brainer: I’m a millennial -- and I'm entitled to feel that way.