If there is one word that summarizes why the millennial generation doesn’t want to work a 9-5 job, it’s possibility. The possibilities of today far exceed the accepted limitations of years passed.
Because truthfully, the possibilities for young people today are endless. Plenty are able to work from their laptops, anywhere in the world. Plenty have found fulfilling jobs at small, culture-driven startups on a mission to change something about the world. Plenty have made their passions profitable, turned their love for vlogging into a full-time job, or built a personal brand and a business off Instagram alone.
It’s the amplification of these “success stories” that has urged the masses, specifically young people, to ask the same for themselves: “How can I do what I love, every single day?”
Unfortunately, it’s also this mindset of possibility, opportunity, and seeing “what life could be” that has consequently earned the millennial generation a few of the following descriptive adjectives: impatient, entitled, idealistic, etc.
Because this mindset of “possibility” is very opposite of older generations. They were born and raised in a time when the possibilities were far more limited to what was available and accessible—and the further back in time you go, the more your possibilities in life were affected by your direct surroundings.
So the conflict makes sense. Older generations are, if not offended, at least uncomfortable with young people so early in their careers asking the question, “Why?” In fact, they almost see it as a sign of disrespect. How could someone so young have the audacity to ask why things are the why they are, or why they can’t have more for themselves, at such a young age.
But to the millennial generation, this question feels familiar—and, at times, even overbearing. Younger generations, in all their digital hyper-connectivity, are so exposed to the possibilities of life that to go a single day without asking, “Am I truly living my purpose?” would cause worry.
They see their peers jumping off cliffs in tropical locations, making money as social media influencers—the modern day rock stars—so they ask why they can’t have that too. They see other young people working from coffee shops on their laptops, or being part of fast-paced tech startups, and they want in on the action. They want to ask the question “Why?” because today’s world has shown them much more enticing possibilities than clocking into a 9-5, five days a week.
Now, it’s worth stating that just because possibilities exist, doesn’t mean that everyone is entitled to them. Just because it’s possible to become a pop star or a famous athlete, or a social media influencer with two million followers, doesn’t mean anyone and everyone can.
But in the digital age, and with the access we have to not only information, but each other, the barrier to entry for many of these possibilities feels much more attainable. That’s what drives young people to want them. They don’t appear to be distant hopes and dreams. They seem like a viable career path tomorrow, if only they could find a way.
That mentality, admittedly, is both empowering and worrisome. Because the truth is, nothing happens overnight. And it’s not supposed to. There is some element of impatience that goes on when it comes to chasing greener grass on the other side of the fence.
The striking difference between the millennial generation and generations prior is simply the sheer amount of people actively asking the question, “Why?” That is what makes the narrative feel so loud. It’s not just a handful of millennials who want out of the corporate climb. It’s groups and groups and groups of them, who all feel as though they’ve seen brighter horizons and are actively trying to find a way to the other side.
This is why employers are beginning to cater their workplace cultures to some of these more freedom-based desires. More and more employees are being allowed to work remotely. Major companies like Google intentionally incorporate time for their employees to spend on creative projects. The corporate world is beginning to recognize that younger generations have endless possibilities at their fingertips when it comes to choosing a career path.
But in order to retain younger talent, these older organizations and business leaders also need to adjust. The millennial generation is only the beginning of a sweeping shift from living life based on what is expected, to what is possible.
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