Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y came after Generation X and before Generation Z. They were born between 1981 and 1996 and are the largest current generation at around 83.1 million just in the U.S.

Millennials, just like the other generations, were influenced by the world they grew up in. In their case, that was a world of mobile phones, computers, and the internet. This generation can’t imagine a world when technology wasn’t at one’s fingertips every second of every day.

Where does this generation get its name from?

The millennials got their name from the fact that they became adults around the turn of the millennium.

According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in 1987 around the same time the media made the connection that the children then in kindergarten would be graduating high school at the start of the new millennium.

Characteristics of millennials


Tech-savvy millennials

Having grown up with technology, it’s not surprising that this generation loves their digital gadgets. Social media is an integral part of their lives. This generation uses email, text messaging, but especially social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter constantly.

They are accused of constantly checking their social media feeds, even in company, and seeking validation via social media.

They don’t only use social media for chats and gossip – they also use it to share information, report crimes, to do crowdfunding, and spread news and opinions.

Delayed transition to adulthood

Many millennials were raised by helicopter parents – that is parents who are overinvolved in the daily affairs of their children. These parents obsess over their children’s success and safety. Millennials who had helicopter parents often experience burnout at school and find it difficult to make the transition from school to adulthood.

Another result of this overprotection has been young adults that are described as self-involved and entitled. As employees, they thrive on and need constant feedback.

Having been raised to believe they are special and can be anything they want to be, many of them find themselves lost with no life goals of their own. They struggle to form romantic relationships or to stay at the same company for a decent length of time.

Millennials are competitive

Due to their upbringing that instilled in them the drive to be the best, millennials are competitive in the workplace. This is a confident and ambitious generation. They will leave a perfectly good position for another one that promises to be more challenging. They are known to expect their workplace to be challenging and their work to be fulfilling.

Tennis stars Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Novak Djokovic are all millennials that exemplify the competitive trait of this generation.

Prioritizing family and community over Work

Millennials Family

Ironically, this generation who has been brought up to take on the world, has also lost interest in what the world has to offer. Many millennials who initially tackled working life with college degrees and enthusiasm for promotion, status, and financial reward have lost interest in the rat race.

Many have experienced burnout and are now looking for a better work-life balance. It’s not that they lack commitment to work, they are simply prioritizing family life over a career. Having a family and giving family quality time is a millennial goal. They are even prepared to take a pay cut if it means that they can have a better work-life balance.

Studies have shown that making a contribution to society is very important to this generation and that they want to be leaders in their communities.

Highly educated but carry huge student debt

Millennials are the most educated of all generations. Nearly 80% of them have earned a bachelor’s degree and thousands went on to obtain post-graduate qualifications.

Due to the rising cost of education, they are also burdened with huge levels of student debt. When millennials started studying the recession was in full swing and tertiary institutions put up college fees because the federal government had withdrawn subsidies. Getting an education suddenly became very expensive in poor economic conditions. According to Business Insider, millennials in the graduating class of 2018 have an average student-loan debt of $29,800.

Millennials are natural team players

Millennials Team Players

While growing up, many millennial children competed in team activities like sports and eisteddfods. They even did their school projects in teams. These experiences taught them the value of collaboration. They are used to teamwork and they know how to give input and expect others to give them feedback. They enjoy being part of a team and know how to cooperate with others.

Millennials are deferring homeownership and marriage

Due to huge student debt and rising housing prices, millennials are taking longer to get married and buy a home. Many are living with their parents or are sharing living spaces with friends or partners. In order to get into the housing market, millennials often buy a property with a significant other before they get married.

Millennials tend to get married later in life. They don’t want to get divorced so they don’t get married easily. They take their time to get to know their prospective partner and try to get rid of any debt before they get married.

Interesting facts about Millennials

Great Recession of 2007-08

When the recession hit, the youngest millennials were 11 and the oldest were 26. The youngest were in their formative years and the oldest were finishing their studies and starting their careers. For the older millennials it spelled disaster. They had student loans to pay off and no jobs or only low-paying jobs to help them pay off their study loans. The recession meant millennials faced major challenges to enter the job market.

September 11 (2001)

All millennials can remember where they were and what they were doing when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, crashing them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre and killing close to 3,000 people. This event destroyed Americans’ sense of safety in their own country. The event changed America forever and had an indelible impact on millennials.

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

When Florida and Louisiana were hit by hurricane Katrina, the youngest millennials were nine, and the oldest 24. For them, it was a formative experience. When you watch such a tragedy unfold on television as a youngster, it forever affects your sense of safety and security.

A childhood marked by gun violence

Millennials lived through the horror of Columbine (1999), Virginia Tech (2007), and Sandy Hook (2012). These shootings meant that for millennials, school was no longer a safe place to be. Many millennials have memories of active-shooter drills that were frightening and upsetting for them.

These massacres and others also shone a light on neglected mental health issues, bullying and sparked renewed discourse on the issue of gun laws.

And the threat hasn’t been limited to schools, it has spread to other spheres of life devastating communities in their clubs, movie theaters and churches.

Most entrepreneurial generation

Millennials love convenience. They keep an eye open for opportunities to fill a gap in the market that would fulfill a need their generation has identified. This is how the sharing economy came into being.

Everything can be rented now, accommodation (Airbnb), transport (Uber and Lyft), and luxury goods (Rent the Runway) to mention a few.

Millennial global leaders

Malala Yousafzai (July 12, 1997)

Malala Yousafzai was already an advocate for girls' education when on 9th October 2012 she was shot three times by a Taliban gunman. After the attack, she continued her advocacy for worldwide access to education for all. She received the Nobel Peace Prize In 2014, the youngest person to do so.

Kim Jong Un (January 8, 1983)

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a controversial millennial, to say the least. He has ordered the execution of many of his own family members and continues to threaten the world with nuclear attacks.

Mark Zuckerberg (May 14, 1984)

Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook, the internet social media giant. He has declared that he wants to change the world and together with his wife has pledged to use most of their wealth to "advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation."


This is a vast and diverse cohort that can’t be summarized in a short article. Generation Y continues to change the workplace, transform families, shape online shopping, and change the world through influential global startups like Airbnb, Uber, and Facebook. Scores of young millennial entrepreneurs are disrupting industries and creating new ways of doing things.

Millennials have not reached their peak yet. They are shaking up the work environment and society at large and they are not done yet.

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