Millennial is a term used to describe anyone born between 1981 and 1996. Millennials compose the demographic cohort that follows Generation X and precedes Generation Z.
The term “echo boomers” is sometimes used when referring to millennials because they are the offspring of baby boomers. This generation came of age in a world defined by three key events: the 9/11 attack, the Great Recession, and the explosion of the internet. Millennials have experienced the internet, mobile devices, and social media from childhood on, which has resulted in this generation sometimes being referred to “digital natives”.
This article was reviewed and updated January 2022 by Amanda Scheldt.
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Defining the millennial generation
The “Millennial” name first was first used publicly in 1991 in Generations: The History of America’s Future. by authors Neil Howe and William Strauss. Some of the other names that have been used for Millennials also include Gen Y (shortened from Generation Y), Net Generation, or the MTV Generation. Older Millennials generations born in the early 1980s have also been called “Elder Millennials” or “Xennials,” given their closer age range to the Generation X age group.
The creators of the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, which describes a recurring generational cycle, are credited with coming up with the name for this cohort in 1987. The term millennial was actually derived from the fact that the oldest members of this generation became adults around the turn of the third millennium.
The Millennial generation makes up nearly 1.8 billion people of the world’s population. Originally referred to as Generation Y, the Millennial generation refers to the age range of individuals situated between the Generation X and Generation Z age groups.
Characteristics of millennials
Millennials are often characterized uniquely by other generations and the media for their behaviors, personalities, and career traits. While not unique to this generation, millennials are often identified with some of the following traits.
- Tech-savvy—The Millennial generation grew from childhood to adolescence, with many experiencing the early dot com boom and intuitively adapted to it with ease.
- Promote greater work/life balance—Millennials place importance on projects in their jobs more than how many hours worked. They often desire to work remotely and be flexible in their schedules aside from a typical “9 to 5” career path.
- Ambitious—Many Millennials often exude a highly ambitious outlook on their lives and career with a more optimistic and confident demeanor, which can be primarily positive but can appear egotistical, selfish, and with a sense of entitlement to other generations.
- Adaptable—This generation often has been the individuals who ushered in new and fresh changes in business, technology, and economies by having a deep understanding of the adaptive needs of these industries.
Millennial career differences
Along with many of their distinctive characteristics, countless Millennials utilize these traits as part of their career paths. Commonly, Millennials also have vastly different career aspirations than preceding generations. Given Millennials are naturally driven by technology, the top technology career paths for them often are:
- Website developer
- Social media manager
- Graphic and web designer
- Cybersecurity specialist
- SEO specialist
Millennials are known to be more educated than the previous generations by seeking a more significant number of higher educational degrees. This generation is also more progressive with their career choices, opting for non-traditional occupational avenues, such as technology, and more creative career tracks than the generations that came before them.
Comparing millennials to other generations
Comparing this group to older generations has become much easier now that the youngest group of millennials has reached adulthood. Some key characteristics that set this generation apart from older generations are an increase in confidence, tolerance, a sense of entitlement, and narcissism. Some identified basic traits of Millennials include special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured, and achieving. However, applying all seven traits to each member of this generational cohort has proven to be controversial.
Millennials rarely identify with their generation, unlike older generations who feel a strong belonging to theirs. Overall, this generation is more educated than older generations, and Millennial women are more likely to work than older women. This increase in education has caused a delay in Millennial marriages and the formation of families as well as individuals living with parents for longer than other generations. The Great Recession and the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted this cohort the most, causing extremely high levels of unemployment.
This group is credited with bringing more racial and ethnic diversity to American society as well. This group also holds immense political power because they are the second-largest voting generation after the Baby Boomers.