However, the make-up of downtown has seriously changed over the past few years. The unofficial city monument is the enormous construction crane, majestically dotting the skyline. Since downtown is located so close the University of Missouri campus, intrepid developers have built a number of multi-story apartment complexes to serve the needs of the “affluent” student population. I say affluent, in all honesty, out of a wee bit of jealousy. During my college years, I lived in a 200 square foot cinder block apartment with three other smelly guys, minimal heat, and no air conditioning. Obviously, we didn’t have many guest. .
So, with the injection of students now living in the downtown area, I watch them migrating to campus every morning and the returning home every afternoon. Those roving gangs of bankers are now competing with bands of millennials, marching together while tethered to their phones, for cross walk space. Seeing this shift, made me wonder, who are these “millennials” and what do we know about them?
Generally, millennials are considered to be the generation born between the early 1980’s (Flock of Seagulls, I am a Gen X’er) to the early 2000’s (I lost track after grunge). The millennial generation is now one of the largest demographic groups in the US, having recently surpassed the Baby Boomers by one million people (77 million to 76 million, respectively).
- Passionate: Millennials have been told to chase their passion, no matter what it is. For better or worse, this group is dedicated to search for meaning, no matter where that might lead them or how difficult it might be to find.
- Risk-taking: Though millennials seem to be risk takers, statistics do not necessarily bear this perception out. According to a recent Small Business Administration study (https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Millenial_IB.pdf), millennials are the least entrepreneurial generation in history. They just do not, on average, start as many businesses, a very risky endeavor under any circumstance, as previous generations at their same age.
- I do think, however, that millennials are much more willing to risk switching jobs and careers. Millennials believe that since corporations have no loyalty to them, they should not place any unearned loyalty in their organization. This also manifests in their lack of brand loyalty. Studies show that this group will search for the best deals and latest technology, rather than staying with aging brands and outdated tech. This is certainly a form of risk taking that is unique to their generation (I am loyal to Coca Cola, and I think Pepsi drinkers are just plain odd… Switching to Pepsi would just be too…risky).
- Work-life alignment: For many millennials, the concept of work-life balance is a lie. They feel that corporate America does not care if they are happy or fulfilled during the week. This disillusionment with corporate life, despite any compensation they might receive from the job, is not made up for by being fulfilled on the weekend. Instead, they believe in work-life alignment, or aligning their life passion with their career interests. They do not wants to spend 50-70 hours a week, which many millennials do, working for something they don't believe in.
- Spontaneity: Millennials remember the old saying: "no risk no reward." Many are aware of the fear of missing out, and seek rewarding experience over potential consequences.
- Travel: Millennials will sacrifice material things for experiences. This is clearly illustrated in the “Tiny House” movement. Many of this generation do not want to burdened with a mortgage and long-term debt. Rather, they would prefer to live simply, without roots, and be able to move from place to place (and nation to nation) collecting experiences like my mom used to collect spoons with the state’s names on them (I think we had maybe five state spoons…we didn’t travel much). These experiences can be captured and remembered on their phones, which are used as photo albums, jukeboxes, communication devices, travel planners, and on and on….
I wonder what the next generation will bring? They have already been named Generation Z. I am sure it will involve teleportation and mutant powers. I am also sure it will confound the Millennial generation as much as many of the millennials confound me.