Reclaiming What It Means To Be a "Millennial"

By Emily Hill, Chair, Membership Relations YNPN Triangle NC

I have a confession to make. Two years ago, I found out that I was a Millennial.

I was born in 1982, so two years ago, I was over 10 years into the workforce. I was working in a job that had me on the internet a lot: reading articles about philanthropy, business, higher education, and wealth. I would read all these articles about Millennials: Millennials entering the workforce, Millennials and their staggering college debt, Millennials and their lazy work ethic, their smart phone addictions, and their social media shenanigans.

I read all these articles and I thought…HA! Those spoiled, entitled Millennials! Good thing I’m Generation Y! Under the radar! Yes!

Then I finally read an article that gave me the birth years that make up the Millennials – 1980 – 2000.

(I’ll give you a moment here in case you—like me—were skating through life blissfully unaware.)

I’m not the only one who didn’t know because when I started sharing my new-found knowledge, I had a lot of resistance from my peers. I heard:

“Well, I consider myself Gen X because I aligned with my older siblings.”

“I was born in ’81, so I’m on the cusp.”

“Nope. Nope. Millennials are those born after 1985.”

It’s no wonder that I – er – these folks didn’t want to align themselves with Millennials. The media says we’re self-involved and obnoxious. And we’re basically destroying everything good and decent in this world.

But, like all juicy media stories, you really have to look beneath the hype.

That’s what my co-presenter and I did when we approached NC Center for Nonprofits about presenting at the upcoming 2015 Statewide Conference. In our session Reclaiming “Millennial”: Understanding and Engaging the Largest Generation we are looking to expose the myths, reframe the conversation, and try to help us all tap into the potential that Millennials offer as the largest, most highly educated, and most diverse generation.

At over 80 million, Millennials are the largest generation right now – and just this year, we also became the largest generation in the workforce. By 2025, 75% of the people in the workforce will be Millennials. So, we’re not a trend. If Millennials are asking for their workplaces to rethink the 40 hour work week, for their careers to be a work-life blend, and for their communities to be more walkable  – you better believe it’s on its way.

Furthermore, 70% of us are interested in working for a nonprofit. You’re also not alone, YNPNers!

So, let’s all embrace our Millennial! Let’s read – and write – more articles about the positive things that our generation is doing. The Millennial Impact Project produced by Case Foundation and Achieve since 2009 is a good start. Let’s defuse the hype. Better yet, let’s become a leader of our peers! (Isn’t that why we’re involved with YNPN Triangle NC after all anyway?!?) When we understand the generational differences, we can embrace the things that make us all awesome, and then we can all work better – smarter – faster.

You’re a Millennial, so I bet you like the sound of that!

And if you need a little help in doing any of these – or some comradery around your revelation that you too are a Millennial – come check out our session at the NC Center for Nonprofits Statewide Conference on October 1.

Better yet, invite your boss to join you.

We’ll see you there!

P.S. If you can’t join us, but want to check out our presentation slides, you can find them here – or reach out to us on twitter @ekhilllll or @elizab3th_byrum. 

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