June 2004

Volume X Number 2            jimborland@att.net

Working with “The Millennials”


About four years ago, I taught a course for NYU’s Career Counseling Certificate Program on Intergenerational Issues in career counseling.  Recently, one of the alumnae of that course asked me to do a presentation to the forty counseling staff members at Nassau Community College. I was asked to focus on the newest generation, which formerly was   called Generation Y but are now labeled as The Millenials.  Since we are going to see more of them in the workplace, I thought I would share some of my research with you. 


Demographers define a “cohort” as people in the same birth-death rate cycle.  There are currently four cohorts in the American work force.  They are:

  • ·        Silent  Generation  or Veterans, born before 1946
  • ·         Baby Boomers, born  1946-1063
  • ·        Generation X, born 1964-1977
  • ·        Millenials, born 1978 to the  present


The recent attention from the D-Day anniversary as well as Tom Brokaw’s book has focused on the Silent Generation’s characteristic patriotism, hard work ethic, and loyalty.  Other attributes include difficulty with ambiguity and change and reluctance to express disagreement or conflict.  Of the 40 million alive, 25-30% are still in the workforce.


Baby Boomers were the result of the national optimism of winning World War II and subsequent Eisenhower economic expansion.  The defining events for most Boomers were the death of President Kennedy and the Vietnam War.  Boomers are achievers but also cynics.  They are the first generation to have parents who focused on making them feel good about themselves and their feelings, thanks in part to Dr. Spock. They are service and process-oriented but also rather materialistic and not budget-minded.  Paying for this cohort’s impending workforce  is creating major social policy challenges. 


Generation X is defined by a drop in the birth rate and little immigration.  It spans those turning forty this year, who entered the labor force in difficult times.  Although many had degrees, there were few good jobs to the golden technocrats of the late 1990’s who were given great latitude in the workforce.  The first “latchkey” kids, from high divorce rate families, X’ers are adaptable, techno phobic and creative.  They are also impatient, often not socially-skilled, and are committed to the importance of “life style” issues.


 Millenials are the least ethnically and racially   Caucasian generation. In New York State, by 2010, 53% of the population will be non-Caucasian.  They were raised by parents who were very involved.  Their defining events are the 9/11 tragedy and subsequent conflicts in the Middle East.  Their absolute intelligence, as measured by standard IQ tests, is the highest ever.


The values of Millenials include cooperation, accepting authority and following rules.  As “trophy-kids” they spend much time with their parents and are more comfortable with their parents’ values than the previous two generations.


As managers and mentors of Millenials, we need to approach each individual with an understanding   of their experience, tempered by an avoidance of stereotypes.  Ethnicity, social class, gender, religion and regional and sub-cultural experience all impact Millenials.


For Millenials, the overriding constant is the impact of technology. They used computers before they could pronounce the word.  Multi-tasking, 24/7, email relationships, webzines, and blogging are all part of their world. 


Their first college graduates, the Class of 2000, reached corporate America just as the job market was going into a profound decline only exacerbated by 9/11.  That tragedy affected more than this cohort’s economics.  There was an increase in patriotism and military service but pervasive fear and post-traumatic stress disorders are only now becoming reported. 


Finally, I have isolated seven points to consider in understanding Millenials


  • 1)       Concept of Family -- only one in four grew up in families with two parents and two children. Nonetheless, family relationships are very  important
  • 2)        Conviction of Education’s Value – yet frustrated by costs and opportunities. A report on ’04 graduates said     75% of them cannot find jobs in areas related to their major.
  • 3)       Employers are concerned that there is too much emphasis on assessment and rote learning. They see a need for vocational, social, and experiential learning.
  • 4)       Technology drives their spending. Of those over fifteen year old, 76% have their own computer and a majority their own cell phone.
  • 5)       Learning and growth scored highest as drivers in Millenials’ job search
  • 6)      As high school and college students, they are concerned about school and local issues, and want to help address them.
  • 7)      Family life style issues are ranked ahead of job success and advancement by most Millenials.



We at G &S are only beginning to deal in coaching relationship with the Millennial cohort, but we want to be ready for them.  I encourage all my readers to follow the demographic trends because the future is them.  As the authors of Millennial Rising, Neil Howe and William Strauss commented, they may well be the first cohort since the Silent Generation to positively impact our country.



Summer in the Coaching Workplace


One recent G & S transition client got a great offer in the Midwest which needed him to start in early May. His new wife, an MD, had to stay until June 30th, to complete her residency, and they were, as newlyweds, disappointed at an eight week separation.


It made me reflect on my first career in health care, when all the staff everywhere in the country  rotates or changes July 1.  The joke was you didn’t want to be an inpatient in July and August, because the attendings took vacation and the house staff didn’t know where anything was.


 In contrast, while there is some rotation of junior staff going to new assignments or leaving for graduate school, summer is a good time for our coaching clients to see us. Yes, vacations can get in the way, but internal meetings decrease in frequency. I think I often can have a better impact and accomplish more change with clients in summer. The abundance of sunlight and good weather seems to have a positive emotional impact.  We all have more time to think and may be predisposed to be optimistic. 


As always, I’d value your ideas and perspective. 


The Other Dr. Borland


Several of you have asked about my daughter,   Elizabeth, since I wrote about her efforts to secure a tenure-track position. I am proud to report that she successfully defended her dissertation last month in Sociology at the University of Arizona.  Her topic was “A Study of Women’s Social Movements in Argentina”. 


Elizabeth interviewed at several colleges, and received offers from three.  She has accepted The College of New Jersey, located near Trenton, about an hour from our home on Staten Island.  Elizabeth decided she wanted to be back on the East Coast.  She has teaching as her primary job expectation and TCNJ is one of the highest-rated public liberal arts colleges.