The Emerging Millennial Generation

Joel Junker has written about the generational shift as our country transitions from the leadership of the Baby Boomer generation to the next generation. His writing is well-researched and based on dozens of conversations he has had with leaders of Fortune 500 companies. Scott LePage and I are seeing a major shift of focus among junior military officers (JMOs) who come to Cameron-Brooks to interview for our Development & Preparation Program© as they prepare to transition from active duty service to careers in corporate America. There is an emerging focus common among JMOs who express to us their desire to find meaningful and worthwhile work. This is a welcome shift from the Gen-X focus on rapid promotions, high starting pay and restriction to starting in their first choice of location.

To explain this shift, it is important to first understand the factors that contribute to generational stereotypes. “Baby Boomers” is the term used to describe those born in the years 1946-1964, during the baby boom following WWII. “Generation X” is used for those born from 1965-1980. Those born after 1980 are part of the “Millennial Generation” (aka Baby Boomlets or Echo Boomers). Each generation develops characteristics from key events called generational markers. The generational markers for the Baby Boomers include the space race, the Vietnam War, Beatles and Rock & Roll, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, and the Cold War. We remember the asinine schoolhouse drill to duck under our desks or in the hall in case of a nuclear attack. We received our news from three networks that went off the air each night at midnight playing the Star Spangled Banner. Gen-Xers were the first generation to be termed “latch-key kids” because both parents typically worked, and kids came home to empty houses and grew up responsible for fixing their own meals and doing their homework alone. The emerging technology was typically used for toys and games where getting the next new version was important. This independence was coupled with a lack of trust of authority that came from generational markers like the Watergate break-in and subsequent resignation of President Nixon.

Their news came 24/7 with the emergence of CNN. So what are the generational markers of the Millennial Generation? Less has been written about them, but certainly recent history can allow us to assume they will include 9-11, the war on terrorism, environmental disasters, and the impact of green technology. They don’t wait to receive news. They make it by using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They have elected presidents and created social awareness. I remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot and when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon. Millennials know where they were on September 11, 2001.  They also remember that our country came together, albeit briefly for a common goal. The dream to come together to make a difference has been deeply implanted in them. The average age of JMOs who transition to corporate America through Cameron-Brooks is 28. That means there is an increasing number of officers from the Millennial Generation who have a different focus than officers we have seen in previous years. I often hear comments about frustration with senior officers who appear to care more about their own careers than taking care of their subordinates. The overwhelming desire among this group is to find worthwhile and meaningful work that will change the world. I, for one, believe they will.

In my next blog I will discuss the definition and source of meaningful work as well as several books on the subject that may allow all of us to find it. Until then, I recommend you review my earlier blog on this site titled, “The Alchemist and the JMO.” http://blog.cameron-brooks.com/2009/12/29/the-alchemist-and-the-jmo/.

 Steve Sosland