There's no getting around it — millennials have a bad reputation. To hear many people tell it, we're narcissistic, lazy, irresponsible, and materialistic. We're overly obsessed with our images (both online and in real life), and we don't care about anything other than how many Instagram likes we get. But despite the cloud of negative press that often seems to cling to our generation, millennials have a lot to be proud of.
People who make sweeping, judgmental generalizations about Generation Y have clearly not looked at the statistics, because studies show that we're socially aware, hard-working, goal-oriented, and eager to make a difference. Part of being young is making mistakes — we all go through periods of trial and error, and pretty much every human being I've ever known has their moments of being self-absorbed and slightly dramatic. But just because many of us are still figuring things out, doesn't mean that we're entitled, fickle, or any of the other stereotypes people trot out when they're trashing millennials.
And despite the myth that millennials think they deserve success without hard work, most millennials don't have it easy. Many Gen Yers graduated from college saddled with student debt, only to enter an incredibly difficult economy. In fact, nearly half of college graduates are working jobs that don't require a four-year degree. And since we average $45,000 in debt after graduation, many millennials are stressed about money and feeling like they invested in an education that's not really paying off in the form of a rewarding job.
But despite that, we're determined and innovative. Not only are we working hard to improve our own lives, but we're also eager to give back to those who are less fortunate. Here are six reasons you should be proud to be a millennial:
1. We Know That Money Isn't Everything
In a recent study examining how millennials view corporate America, participants were asked if they agree or disagree with the statement "money is the best measure of success." 87.5 percent of millennials disagreed — compared to 78 percent of the general population. Given this statistic, it's not surprising that the same study also found millennials prioritize having a job that has a positive impact on society as a whole.
Some people may want to write this off as youthful idealism, but that assumption doesn't hold much water. Finances are a major concern for many of us — in fact, a whopping two thirds of millennials have at least one type of longstanding debt to worry about. Plus, many millennials are pursuing careers in fields that are centered in high-priced cities like New York, Los Angeles, and London. So we make sacrifices — we opt to live in tiny apartments, limit our evenings out, and spend our pennies carefully because meaningful careers are more important to us than a six figure salary.
2. We Value Equality
We may not be obsessed with getting a massive paycheck, but do you know what we do seriously value? Equal rights. 72 percent of the under 30 crowd support gay marriage — as opposed to 54 percent of the general population. When it comes to overall cultural and social values and ideology, younger Americans are the most progressive age group. So, as we continue to take over the world, our attitudes will make society a more accepting place.
3. We Donate Our Time And Money
It's no secret that millennials are still dealing with the effects of a rough economy — but that doesn't stop us from giving back. I've frequently heard criticisms that my generation loves to post about
social justice on Facebook, but our supposed "action" starts and ends
there — but that's totally false. A study conducted by Walden University in 2011 found that 81 percent of millennials have donated money, goods or services to a cause that's important to them. Sure, some of us like to post our political views on social media — but we're more likely to take action in the real world by volunteering, fundraising, and donating to important causes. (And by the way, the two practices aren't mutually exclusive.)
4. We Vote
And we're far from apathetic — millennial voters helped elect Obama in 2008 and 2012. And we are heading to the polls in greater numbers each election year. In 2012, a study showed that 75 percent of millennials planned to vote — which was a 15 percent increase over the 2008 election. That's tremendous progress for four short years.
The same study showed that over half of millennials expressed interest in helping out with a local campaign — so we're not just showing up to the polls when there's a presidential election. We're also conscious of the political climate in our home cities and states. Given the prior statistic that we value volunteer work, this isn't a big surprise.
5. We're Entrepreneurs
Millennials are innovative go-getters. Though most of us didn't embark on entrepreneurial careers immediately after finishing college (because it's pretty tough to launch a business right after graduation), many millennials who are employed in corporate roles have long-term goals to become entrepreneurs, and 35 percent of employed millennials supplement their income through business ventures of their own. Over half of us aim to start our own businesses (or have already done so), and 27 percent of millennials are self-employed entirely.
Being an entrepreneur is a tough but rewarding path, and it requires a lot of hustling, networking, and work ethic — especially when you're young and don't have an extensive resume. At my last corporate job in New York City, many of us worked 10-12 hour days before going home to spend our evenings and weekends on freelance work in order to build our brands. My roommate worked a variety of odd jobs as she established her own business, which has now taken off in a major way. We're willing to pay our dues via some stressful and unglamorous work in order to achieve our long-term goals.
6. We Know It's Up To Us To Make A Difference
We're aware of the problems in our states, countries, and world — and the majority of us don't plan to sit back and hope that someone else will get out there and make a difference. 61 percent of millennials report feeling "personally responsible" when it comes to bettering our world. This feeling of responsibility manifests itself in different ways — choosing jobs that focus on the "greater good" rather than the heftiest paycheck, volunteering, and having great conversations with friends and family members about what's going on in the world and what we can do about it. We all have different skill sets and financial situations, but we're striving to change the world and raise awareness about important, pressing issues.
Of course, we've only just begun our adult lives, and most of our achievements lie ahead of us — but it never hurts to take a moment and be proud of what we've already accomplished.