Don't dis the millennials. They are the future, after all.
Don't dis the millennials. They are the future, after all.

Get to know the millennials

To many of my colleagues in the baby boom generation, the rising generation of millennials is a mystery.

What makes these young people, born between 1980 and 2000, tick? What motivates them? What excites them? What scares them?

Having raised two millennial sons, having recruited, hired and trained several millennial reporters and having completed three semesters of teaching advanced journalism to millennial students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I believe I am uniquely qualified to share some perspectives about these young people.

First off, I bristle when I hear boomers complain about the generation that will inherit our wind.

  • Most of my UWM students are respectful, polite, courteous and punctual – all qualities that will make them assets in the workforce.
  • Most have a balance of idealism and pragmatism.
  • Most also have a healthy suspicion of "the man," or the system that empowers him. This age of unprecedented income inequality is not lost on them. They know what’s happening, and they’re going to figure out a way to rebalance some of the wealth in this country.
  • Most are not loyal to specific corporate brands. They crave authenticity and loathe attempts to persuade or manipulate them. They see right through a sales pitch, and they know when they’re being spun.
  • The issues of race, gender and sexual lifestyles – issues that largely divided the baby boom generation – are for the most part not on the front burner for these young people. They are comfortable with people of other ethnicities and cultures, people who are different than them. In fact, many are attracted to diverse, urban settings.
  • Many are open-minded to the possibilities when it comes to spiritual exploration, but they also are skeptical that they will find their path through organized religion.
  • Many are also understandably cynical about the current American political system. They see how large donors have a disproportionate impact in elections, and they know that politic…