- March 1, 2012
Why Millennials Want to Do Well by Doing
Morley Winograd and
Michael D. Hais
the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003)
differ sharply with older generations on
what constitutes success in life. Consider
Life is good
Playmakers, the nonprofit
organization of the Life is good
Company, where Steve Gross holds the title
of Chief Playmaker.
serious business,” says Gross, a social
worker who is on a mission is to help kids
overcome life-threatening challenges.
““Millions of our nation’s youngest children
have experienced profound trauma in its many
forms, including domestic violence, abuse,
neglect, natural disasters, and severe
summer, Gross and his band of millennials
jumped into their lime-green cars and
traveled 1,200 miles in 30 days to spread
the power of joy and optimism to thousands
of children from Boston to New Orleans.
to read more.
Playmakers are part of a GenY trend.
generations are about equally likely to name
“being a good parent” and “having a
successful marriage” as important markers of
success, young people are much more likely
also to mention doing work that benefits
society and having a high-paying job as
important life achievements.
their penchant for multitasking and their
ability to reconcile conflicting viewpoints,
many Millennials do not see any
contradiction in seeking to achieve both
In fact, a
recent survey by the
Center, showed that twice
as many respondents under 35 years old (15%)
named “being successful in a high-paying
career or profession” one of the most
important things in life, compared to only 7
percent among those 35 and older.
greater percentage of young people (22%)
said “having a job/career that benefits
society” was one of the most important
things in life; by contrast, only 14 percent
of older respondents mentioned that as one
of their life’s goals. Furthermore, almost
two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds were
confident they would achieve their goals,
with young African-Americans expressing the
most optimism (70%).
attitudes were most prominent among the very
youngest adults. More than three-quarters
(76%) of 18- to 24-year-olds said getting a
high-paying career or profession was one of
the most important things or a very
important thing to accomplish, while only
about half (51%) of 25- to 34-year-olds
rated this measure of success so highly.
Having a job
or career that benefits society was even
more important to 18- to 24-year-olds (79%),
a belief shared by a smaller, but still
impressive, two-thirds of those 25-34.
Education Research Institute’s annual survey
of incoming college freshmen confirms that
this attitude continues to permeate the
percent cited being financially well-off as
an essential or very important objective in
life. Seventy percent also named helping
others who are in difficulty as a life goal.
Raising a family, mentioned by 73 percent,
was the only other objective to reach this
level of importance.
generations, particularly Generation X (born
1965-1981), reading these results will
immediately argue that Millennials are naive
in thinking they can both serve society and
score big in the personal income
who view Millennials through the lens of
their own generational filters, Millennial
Generation attitudes toward success appear
to be filled with impossible demands and
brilliantly documented in James Marshall
World: It’s Not About Finding a Job, It’s
About Creating a Life, Millennials are
busy changing how we think about earning a
living in a way that makes attaining both
goals simultaneously completely realistic.
Mycoskie creating the
company TOMS shoes, which gives a pair of
shoes to needy children around the world for
every pair his company sells, or
McKee Gore, the executive
director of Global Partnerships for the
United Nations Foundation, who first rose to
prominence when she started the Great
American Bake Sale to fight world
hunger—Millennials are beginning to
transform the very nature of capitalism and
what it means to live and work within that
predicts the generation will create an
economic future “based on a
goods-and-services substitution model in
which traditional, everyday purchases yield
philanthropic and humanitarian dividends.”
future plays out exactly the way Reilly
(pictured right) envisions or not, it is
clear that Millennials’ penchant for doing
well by doing good will have a major impact
on America’s economic structure.
At a time
when Millennials cite the State Department
more often than Disney as an “ideal
employer,” and they name Teach for America
as a more desired place to work than
Electronic Arts, the need is clear for every
company in America to respond to the desire
of Millennials to contribute to society even
as they earn a paycheck.
of corporate social entrepreneurship and
“philanthrocapitalism” will, in the years
ahead, enable Millennials to have successful
careers and, at the same time, make the
world a better place.