When my friends at ArCompany started the Millennial Think Tank project, it inspired me to share, and connect this audience to a place where they can communicate and share their ideas. For more on how to be a part of their Think Tank, visit their community and jump in the conversation

If you missed the first edition of our Millennial Think Tank, it was an eye opening and thought provoking experience. Despite some technical and domestic pet related issues (broadcasting from a home with an English Bull Terrier and Fireworks outside was not my wisest move), it was a very worthwhile hour. I’ve embedded it below if you want to watch it, and of course we’ll have many more to come. Our core members are:

  • Ryan Cox, middle Millennial, Marketer in search of a job, and founder of Feed the Kids (a non profit he is building WHILE looking for work.
  • Joe Cardillo, older Millennial, Content and Analytics specialist.
  • Kiernan McGinnis, young Millennial, 2nd year student at Lehigh University, English Lit. Major
  • Tiffany Daniels, older Millenial, job placement specialist.

Here’s what established in the first discussion:

1.  The Entitled Generation: This group of Millennials thoroughly reject the concept that they are the ‘Entitled Generation;’ rather, they feel more like they’ve been forced to be the Responsible Generation, because those that came before them left so much for them to deal with in regards to both the economy and the environment. And they realize they have to do it quickly. Ryan Cox so eloquently phrased it as:

“We weren’t the entitlement generation; the entitlement generation is the generation before us, and the one before that, that felt they were entitle to make all of these sweeping, big picture decision without thinking about what would happen afterwards.”

2.  What They Spend Money On: The concept that Millennials won’t spend money was laughed at; they might be reluctant to spend money on a mortgage or brand new car, and they seriously question the “American Dream” that they feel was created by others. The idea of taking on more debt when many of them already paid far more for their education when compared to previous generations, is unbearable. Ryan Cox suggested another succinct but pointed quote:

“I would call us the ‘Living out of our checking account’ generation.”

Not one Millennial in this group owned a home,  most of them by choice. Travel, technology, and experiences were far more important.

3. Their American Dream: It is clear that Gen Y’s reputation for repudiating the establishment carries through to what they want out of life. Kiernan McGinnis talked about how important globalization and connected-ness was to him, and how many who went before will be remembered for little other than ‘their carbon footprint.’ Building connections, human relationships, are far more important to them than owning things.

Connected to this repudiation of collecting wealth and things, Kiernan also suggested, and the rest of the Millennials agreed, that they are very aware of the environmental repercussions of their actions.

4. Student Loan Debt is Crushing: Our Millennials bemoaned the skyrocketing cost of education, and felt strongly that their generation are being crushed by the cost of their education. Starting their lives with the type of debt that may take decades to pay off colors many of their decisions.

5.  Being Connected is Essential: Having WI FI in an hotel room is possibly the number one necessity when selecting an hotel. Having fast and reliable connectivity at home, and really wherever you are is almost as essential as water.

6. The Recession’s Impact: Tiffany Daniels spoke about being laid off in 2009, and how confusing and frustrating it was to ‘have done everything I was supposed to do,’ yet still deal with being unemployed when jobs were scares. Having gotten great grades, worked hard, planned ahead, and to be in a situation she never thought she’d be in forced her to re-evaluate her goals.

Although she quickly found work, owning a home is not on the horizon; simply owning her own car is enough. She spoke about revamping her goals, and being ok with not going after the American Dream in the way she thought she would pre-Recession. The group answered with a resounding yes when asked if they were far more risk averse now.

7. The Credit Card Set Up: We talked about how this generation were drawn into the credit card abyss without knowing what they were getting into. One of our Millennials was handed a $3,000 credit card when he had no job and was still in school. Another was handed a $2,000 card when she was 17 at her college orientation.

They lay this squarely, and rightfully, on the shoulders of the decisions made by previous generations. Ryan stated

“Millennials weren’t the ones letting anyone get a house if you could spell your own name.”

8. Millennials are Impossible to Work With: Tiffany Daniels, who works with both job seekers and C Suite executives, named the lack of feedback as a real issue for Millennials; waiting 6 months to hear how they’re doing, whether positive or negative, is frustrating to people who are used to instantaneous feedback.

She spoke about the older bosses complaining about retention rates, and how desperately she wanted to ask them “Would you hire your own child?” because she knew that often, the Millennials had been raised by the generation complaining about their behavior. Her recommendation is not to change your entire business model to suit Millennials, but perhaps to examine ways that you can shift things to make it a more effective workplace where ‘the business’ could use their Millennials for their ideas and positive qualities.

9. Generation Validation: One of the biggest knocks on Millennails is that Social Media has conditioned them to require ‘likes’ and ‘good jobs.’ The most striking response was ‘if anyone before us grew up with Social Media they would have behaved the same way.’ If you had access to instant communication and validation, you would have used the technology to get it.

The fact that older social media users behave exactly the same way now when it comes to validation did not go unnoticed. Our Millennials were honest about wanting positive feedback and to feel good about themselves, but we all saw it as a very human, universal need. The difference, in their minds, is that what is different is that they grew up with the technology to get this validation instantaneously.

By the end of our first hour, one thing was very clear: yes, this generation is dealing with a very different world than any of those before had to when it comes to both technology, and the responsibility to ‘fix’ what is broken. But in the end, we all agreed that sweeping generalizations about any one group of people are fundamentally flawed. It was an interesting first edition; our next hangout will be July 17th and we’ll discuss how all of the things we talked about this week impacts Gen Y’s feelings and opinions about brands. If you’d like to check out our hangout, here it is: