The G.I. Generation fought in World War II. The Silent Generation grew up too late to be war heroes and too early to free spirits. The Boomers gave us Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, the first earth day and the summer of love. The Gen-X’ers made their contribution to society in the Brat Pack.
Members of the Millenial Generation, born between 1982 and 2002, have been marked as something different.
“From the moment they were born they were the most wanted generation,” Dr. Kimberly Thornbury, dean of students at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., said. “They were in the media eye from the time they were born because this is the class of 2000. They were seen as pretty special.”
The parents of these children soon earned a reputation as “Helicopter Parents” because they were constantly hovering over as they sought new ways to protect and insulate them. Unlike their parents, this generation does not automatically counter their sheltering authority. They want to be protected.
In a USA weekend online-poll 87 percent of teens said there should be limits on where they can go on the web. Seventy-five percent say authorities should be able to search lockers for drugs and guns.
“They had their 9-11 in April 1999 at Columbine,” Thornbury said. “They learned what could happen if you don’t have (sheltering).”
The increased pressure to succeed may have some unexpected effects. This gold-star generation may be breeding a cheating culture.
“Because they work together so much, they may not know the lines between ‘my work’ and ‘our work,'” Thornbury said. “You have a seventh-grader breaking down because she got a D on a quiz, but she feels she’s not getting into law-school now,” Thornbury said.
Dr. Kina Mallard, associate vice provost for faculty and academic development at Union University, said: “This need to always be at the top leaves little room for growth. If the Millenials are to be successful in work and life, they need to practice humility, realizing that we all can learn from each other.”
Thornbury also said the emphasis on team-orientation and parental influence have an affect on the development of traditional individual identity.
Added pressures have also contributed to an increase in athletic injuries, anorexia, bulimia, exercise bulimia, irregular sleep habits and other health problems.
Waves of Millenial graduates have been hitting the American work force for the past five years. Now graduates must take all the pros and cons of their generation and learn to mesh with employers and colleagues from previous generations.
“I think they’re going to be very excited to have you in the workplace,” Thornbury said of students approaching graduation. “I think if Boomers could discount you for not having logged in so many years it’s going to frustrate the Millenials a lot.
“Millenials like to work in teams and they don’t want to have to wait until they have five years under their belt to get on a team.”
Although Millenials are noted for their respect of authority, Thornbury said they would be likely to leave a company if they did not feel their input was heard and valued.
“They like to know what’s clearly expected of them,” Thornbury said. “They like creative freedom but also want to know what the bigger goal is.”
Mallard said Millenials have traveled more frequently and have a more global perspective than their bosses. Overall, she said, this makes Millenials a very confident generation, which could work for their advantage or disadvantage.
“It is important for them to realize that while they do have good ideas there is a time and place for them to share them with those who have seniority in an organization,” Mallard said.
“Not only do they not know everything they need to know now, they will never catch up. None of us will. The concept of “life-long learning” isn’t just nice to talk about. It is critical for those entering the workforce today.
“Skills they have learned in the liberal arts context of Union University – speaking and writing with clarity, gathering, analyzing, processing and synthesizing information, thinking critically about connections between different kinds of knowledge, appreciating God’s created order and the aesthetic gifts He has given us – will never go out of vogue.
“Students also need to understand the importance of being emotionally intelligent at work and building strong relationships – social capital – to help them do their jobs in a more healthy efficient and effective way.”
Thornbury said, “It’s a great generation. They’re going to do a lot of great things.”