The generation born between 1977 and 1997 is known as the Y-generation, or millennials.  If you were born between these dates then you may have already experienced the Jekyll and Hyde reputation of the millennial generation.  Some employers believe that millennials are entitled, self-absorbed, spoiled narcissists with a fixation on technology.  But others claim that the millennial generation is dynamic, well-educated, and socially conscious. 

For starters, I posted the question on Yelp.com asking whether there was such a thing as a millennial or quarter-life crisis and I received comments such as, yes there’s a crisis and most of it stems around the fact that there are no jobs out here, that they’re having to go and live with parents, find temporary work outside of their field of study, and stress out over the loans they owe.  It appeared to me that their frustration stems more around the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any let up or light at the end of the tunnel unless something happens with the economy.  Is there a sense of entitlement from this age group? Is this a global, social, and economic problem that needs to be further addressed? I have chosen to throw my two cents in the ring to (as a career coach ) at least lend them an ear and to provide what help I can in support of their journey ahead amidst an up and down economy .

So, depending on how your employer and associates view your entire generation, you may be swimming upstream against a negative reputation, or striving to meet high expectations.  Either way, millennial are often faced with a set of problems that may include the following:

  • Lack of early work ethic
  • High cost of living compared to income
  • High cost of education
  • Increased pressure toward specialization
  • Educational institutions not keeping up with technology
  • Postponing families

The “spoiled” assumption certainly does not apply across the whole generation, and indeed can cause conflict between individual members of the generation.  As one young woman explained, “My boyfriend and I carpool together.  When I was growing up, I had to work in my dad’s store before I got to do sports or have gadgets.  But his parents gave him anything he wanted—skis, electronics, tech toys—and all he had to do was get good grades, which was easy for him because he really is bright.  And once he gets to work, he seems to be doing really well, but when it’s time to wake up and get going in the morning, his attitude is, the world can wait.  He’s constantly making me late for my job, and it’s becoming a very contentious issue in our relationship.”

Many millennials are finding it difficult to achieve financial independence, due to the high cost of living in many U.S. cities compared to income.  “Even with two incomes, we are going to find it difficult to buy a nice house and have two new cars,” one 30-year-old millennial complains.  “We’re going to have choose.” 

Others are burdened with unreasonably high education loans that will haunt them for perhaps decades to come.  Added to that, at the time millennials were graduating from college, there was increasing pressure on them to excel in technology-related fields and business management.  Yet universities were woefully behind the times in many technical fields, including physics, astrophysics, engineering, and computing.

“After I graduated with an IT degree and massive student loans, I discovered I was still way behind older co-workers because I hadn’t been truly immersed in the newest technology,” said one millennial.  “So I had to spend even more money on workshops and online courses in order to get caught up.  Unless I invent something crazy, I’ll be living in my parents’ basement forever,” he lamented.

Millennials are also finding that they have to postpone raising families even later than their parents’ generation.  “My mother chose to wait because she wanted a career,” said one young woman.  “For her it was a conscious choice.  For my husband and I, it simply doesn’t seem possible or wise.  I have a terrible case of baby-envy, and it’s making me feel very sad and depressed.”

Millennials are experiencing intense financial pressure and career competition that can sometimes lead to depression or a feeling of hopelessness.  “My girlfriend is taking Xanax all the time,” confided a 32-year-old man.  “She says and does inappropriate things because the drug keeps her so numb, she doesn’t really care about anything anymore.  I don’t want to leave her, but at the same time I feel as though she’s dragging me down when I am trying to face the same problems.”

 Should you stay in that relationship?  Cling to a career or take some risks and become an entrepreneur?  Stay in the U.S. or move to a country with a lower cost of living?  While I certainly would not presume to have all the answers, my experience in life coaching can help you define your strengths and weaknesses, uncover your deepest motivations, and help you chart your most likely path to success.  In fact, if you are a millennial, you are very likely to find there may be several paths to your goals.

Tips for overcoming the Millennial Blues:

  1. Remember there are always options.  Think outside the box and look for creative solutions.
  2. Consider leaving corporate offices for the life of an entrepreneur.  It’s always a huge risk, but many people start up a side business or home business while still fully employed. Even if you never make the leap to full-time entrepreneur, owning a side business will bring in extra income.
  3. Look outside your specialty or career path and maybe jump sideways.  A friend of mine recently left a career as an insurance actuary to take a job in account development at Yelp.  “I am so much happier,” she said.  “I have no real background in this, but I learned a lot from a friend in marketing, and this is so much more fun and exciting.” 
  4. Consider a return to village life.  Talk to your parents and extended family about your desire to have children and see if there is support within your family.  Co-housing communities are also becoming more and more popular in the U.S. and may offer a healthier, more serene, community-oriented lifestyle compared to a city apartment or condo.
  5. Maintain balance in your life.  Find time for fun, hobbies and friends.  A strong network of family and friends is important for emotional health.  Also, listening to other people’s troubles can surprisingly lighten your own load.  Counter-intuitive, I know, but it always works. 

I’m sure you have a couple of tips yourself in solving this growing social and economic problem. I’m a career coach and I might be able to help some of you, at least I will listen.

Curt Canada, Board Certified Coach, coaches careers and relationships at Adapting2change in Washington DC. Adapting2change is a DC Chamber of Commerce Member.