To be a Gen Y (or millennial) -meaning, being born between 1980 and 2000- is to be constantly confronted with a negative image of yourself.
As illustrated in the news, we are addicted to social media, lazy and entitled. We prefer fame over hard-work, and we are probably unemployed and still living at our parents’. Some media often forget that the combination of higher university fees, higher unemployment rate, globalization and rising house prices is negatively affecting the incomes and prospects of millennials. According to The Guardian, “it is likely to be the first time in industrialised history, save for periods of war or natural disaster, that the incomes of young adults have fallen so far when compared with the rest of society.”
Facing higher rent prices and difficulties in finding a full-time job, I understand those who rather live comfortably at their parents’ house than in a small flat with 6 roommates. Wouldn’t you?
When I grew up, I internalised the expected “milestones” in life – going to university, graduating, working in a full-time job, getting married, buying a house and making babies. However, after my graduation, the idea of working for only one company my whole life or taking on a mortgage was laughable.
For the vast majority of millennials, the new expected “milestones” are student debts and part-time jobs.
Despite everything, Gen Y are unapologetically optimistic.
We grew up together with the Internet, where we learned about important concepts such as climate change, gender and racial discriminations, social justice, and sexual identity. We discovered technology through video games, computers, and smartphones, and we know this will enable us to create innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. We dreamt together of a society where any gender, race, and sexual orientation would be accepted. We use social media as a powerful tool for social good, not only for self-centered narcissism.
We question authority, we know that the adults aren’t always right. We know old processes and already-used systems might not be the best way to make an impact. We are not driven by financial value creation anymore – we know that it is our responsibility to create social and environmental change.
And we are ready for it. That is why Gen Y will make the best social entrepreneurs.
– We do not trust the traditional ways.
In 2014, a survey by Bentley University noticed that 66% of millennials have a goal to start their own business. They believe traditional career pathways to be inefficient, and the business world to lack opportunities. They know that building your own start-up, even if the project fails, will teach you more than staying in the same position for 10 years.
In other words, we are ready to work hard and not as lazy as it seems. However, we prefer working hard on our own projects rather than working for low-paid positions in which we are often over-qualified. We grew up seeing our family members and friends exhausting themselves in purposeless jobs. We witnessed burnouts, stress, anxiety, and we want better for ourselves.
– We know the potential of technology (and know how to use it).
My family bought our first computer when I was 11 years old. I did not care much about it and preferred spending my time between reading Harry Potter books and playing The Legend of Zelda on my Nintendo 64. I did not know at the time that the democratization of computer technology would enable me, several years later, to book my own flight and to plan a travel to my first humanitarian mission in Kenya. I had never boarded a plane before and never been in Africa. I was only 18, and learned everything – from the luggage procedures at the airport to Kenyan culture and customs – online, on my own. Neither did I know that social media would become what it is now, and enable me to follow the work of many influential organizations and activists. I was completely unaware of the fact that the Internet would teach me, inspire me, enable me to create my own project and to network with like-minded people.
Gen Y has grown up with an increasing understanding of new technology and knows its potential for personal and professional growth.
– We are leading the way to a rising “collaborative economy”.
A 2015 report by PWC states that those who are most interested in the sharing economy are between 18 to 24 years old. This report shows that Gen Y have a different perception on “ownership” than their parents and grandparents.
We are not as materialistic as it seems. Yes, we like our smartphones and computers, but we don’t really care about owning big cars and luxurious mansions. We don’t want to overspend. We are OK with buying already-used clothes, we are happy to share our couches and our flats. It isn’t a coincidence that we are the principal target customers for trendsetting giant companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and BlaBlaCar.
– We care deeply about the fate of the world.
My grandmother did not have a television in her home before she was already an adult. My mother had a TV, but only with 2 channels. They would learn the information they were told, and believe it no matter what. Today, I have the great opportunity to question what is said on TV, on the radio and on the Internet. Gen Y, like me, grew up hearing words such as global warming, energy savings, human rights violations, natural disasters. We have the information, we can go online and verify the accuracy, learn more about the topic, and discuss it with people around the world.
We know more than our parents and grandparents, and as a result, we care more about it, too. The rise of this Information Society developed a social and environmental consciousness that we did not think we had.
Let’s give Gen Y a chance to prove themselves.
We have ambition, we dream of a better world. It is a different kind of dream than the previous generations had, perhaps less realistic and definitely naive, but nonetheless beautiful and powerful.
We have the tools to start an entrepreneurial revolution, and we are ready to work hard for it.
Isn’t it exciting?