Seeking instant validation, imbued with a sense of entitlement, enjoying an extended adolescence. Traits that have often times been used to characterize the Millennial generation. Traits that may be outdated as younger Millennials look to arm themselves with a new approach and the tools they need to succeed in uncertain times.
Burdened by an uncertain economic situation and reeling from a breakdown in institutional trust, Generation Edge, or Gen Edge, the post-Millennials, meanwhile, have taken on a gritty persona rooted in a realistic approach to their careers, relationships and personas. One that younger Millennial’s feel they can learn from.
Part of what appears to be driving this realism is the increased role of technology and the hyper-informed society that results. The level of connectivity and access to information has reached the boiling point, an increased sense of skepticism and fear exists around how much information Gen Edgers put out into cyber space. Younger Millennials are following their lead by withdrawing from their tech-immersion with high-profile stories such as the WikiLeaks NSA surveillance breach having many questioning their cyber safety.
A University of Vienna study revealed that, of those quitting Facebook in the past 12 months, almost half did so primarily due to privacy concerns. This caution also helps explain the boom experienced by sources such as Instagram, where the user can more carefully curate their online identity, a boom that saw Facebook acquire Instagram in a (at the time) billion-dollar deal in April 2012.
Couple this with the instability of the economy and a growing institutional mistrust (Gallup surveys revealed that trust in both — 21% and 36% — hit their respective rock bottoms during the 2009 recession) and this gritty realism becomes all the more understandable.
However, while uncertainty around institutions, economies and personal privacy exists, Gen Edge understands that they can still pursue their dreams. They also appreciate it’s going to take perspiration, perseverance and a good dose of ingenuity to realize them.
There exists, a growing understanding that little will be handed to them for free, that a college education doesn’t guarantee a fast track to the corner office, and that the traditional path to success may no longer exist. As a result, we’re seeing a re-tooling of the entrepreneurial mindset. Forbes magazine notes a shift in definition from “someone who starts a company” to a broader more innate mindset, “a person who sees opportunities and pursues them.”
Perhaps more indicative is that the same survey revealed that over half (58%) of Millennials responding classified themselves as entrepreneurs. They are acutely aware that the professional marketplace is more competitive than ever and that the tech revolution is accelerating and changing every facet of their lives at such rapid pace. Resourcefulness and adaptability are the only ways to get through, let alone get ahead.
What we see emerging from this reformation of the workplace is younger Millennials’ reliance on “collected individualism” — the idea that you bring a very specialized skill, personality or character to your roles and relationships, one that is unique to you. An idea that also means you have the support of a community to fall back on when things get rough.
Gen Edge, in contrast to older Millennials, are typified by their need to express their individuality sans the need to rebel with the same voracity as their Gen X parents. Instead, it’s about celebrating each other’s differences and embracing the quirks rather than raging against the machine.
Younger Millennials see this chameleonic approach, one governed by a newfound realism, appreciation for hard work and as the solution to the tumultuous eco-system they now find themselves a part of. It doesn’t mean the American Dream is dead; more that it’s been revised, with Gen Edge leading the way.