Millennials get branded as being lazy and taking the easy way out. But millennials are also one of the first generations that have to learn jobs that never previously existed.
Dr. Zimmerman notes that when computers were introduced in business and therefore in classrooms, teachers had to decide what and how to teach their young students. First and second-grade teachers had to try to figure out what jobs would be created for students who were going to graduate years down the road. They had to completely change education. By 2008, it became obvious the jobs they were educating children for hadn’t been invented yet.
How millennials were taught differently
So to find a workaround, they taught their students how to ask two questions:
- Why are you doing what you’re doing?
- How are you doing what you’re doing?
Millennials and boomers want the same things. But millennials want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They want the foundational reasons explained to them.
For example, if you’re working on a permit, they’ll want to know why you’re working on it. So you’d say it’s because a client asked you to work on it to submit to the state. Why? Because the government passed the Clean Water Act, and these are the standards they have to work with. Well, why’d they pass the clean water act? Now that millennials know “why,” they’ll begin to ask “how.”
How are you doing what you’re doing?
Millennials are trained to think about how things can be done differently than what’s currently being done. They’re using a technology that will solve the original issue that was dealt with in 1963. They may discover that the issues that the clean water act was passed for in 1963 aren’t even applicable anymore. A lot has happened in 60 years. They may come up with a different way to address the same thing as a clean water act that may eliminate the whole permit application that they’re submitting in the first place.
Boomers thought millennials were entitled and lazy because they’d come into the office and question everything. Dr. Zimmerman emphasizes that you have to understand that millennials are the most educated generation in human history. Think about all of the courses you had to take. The difficulty of courses and applying for a job is so much greater than any generation has ever experienced. The competition for the college classroom chair is so intense now. It ramps up what students need to know.
Meaning, purpose, and calling
Dr. Zimmerman points out millennials are driven by three things: meaning, purpose, and calling. What is the meaning of your life? What is the purpose of your life? What is your calling? For the last 1,000 years, there was the idea that God’s/God existed, and life was dictated by an outside source.
Agnostics, atheists, and nihilists were credited with perpetuating the idea that there’s no right way to live. They said you have to find meaning and purpose in this life alone. Those writings began to perpetuate after the Renaissance during a time when the church had a tight grip on thought. You were persecuted for believing anything different.
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. When he did this, he released human thought from the church. Humans began to explore free thought. But Dr. Zimmerman believes that once you believe that God is a myth and you try and explain the meaning and purpose of life, those questions become difficult to answer. That’s why millennials have a blank slate.
What else makes millennials unique? How has a seismic shift in philosophy changed the way they see the world? Listen to episode #39 of the Content Callout podcast to learn more from Dr. Philip Zimmerman!