The Beloit Mindset List, created at Beloit College in 1998, is an annual publication that aims to reflect the world-views of the year’s entering college class. The appeal for this list is widespread, mainly because it’s helpful for those who wish to gain a better grasp of what our generation is all about: teachers, advisors, and even potential employers.
Ours is a generation largely disillusioned with the American Dream. We’ve grown up accustomed to recession and an ever-increasing unemployment rate. Gone are the days when a college education was a definite guarantee of a good job, and concerns over student debt are steadily mounting. These factors have led to a generation of young adults that are much more anxious and risk-averse than their predecessors, which generates criticism because we’re not doing things the way they used to be done. The problem is, we inherited a different world. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research psychologist at Clark University, says this about Generation Y: “I think part of the answer is that it does take longer to grow up than it used to…Older adults are still comparing them to a standard that really is obsolete and really not fair anymore.”
Ron Nief and Tom McBride, the authors of the Beloit Mindset List, have expressed their belief that generation gaps have always needed glue. That glue is what they aim to provide by making us aware of our differences while clearing up damaging misconceptions about the younger generation. Like many aspects of life, generations aren’t better or worse than each other, just different. Those differences can make it hard to relate to one another, which is challenging when there’s a generational gap between you and a professor or a potential employer. Awareness of mindset differences and what kind of impression you give off to the preceding generation is the glue that will connect you.
All-in-all, I’m proud of my generation. I’m proud of all the young adults paying their own way through college, which is more expensive than ever. I’m proud of the importance my generation places on family and work/life balance. I’m proud of how technologically savvy we are, leading to a curious and innovative generation. I’m also proud of the renewed focus on balancing ambition with finding what you love to do, rather than focusing on just making the most money possible. Dear Generation Y – be confident! There is such a thing as being too cautious if you’re never putting yourself out there. Dear Generation X – You helped raise us to be totally awesome, thanks! We’re all in this together.
Check out the most recent Mindset List.
Posted by Deirdre Newton, Career Services Assistant
Why does every generation get categorized as being so different when we’re more alike than different? Generational stereotypes are incredibly harmful, and often just that – stereotypes, rather than truth, creating more assumptions rather than acknowledging that there is diversity in every generation and you can’t rubberstamp people because of when they grew up.
1) “A college education was a definite guarantee of a good job” – not true. College educations have never “guaranteed” good jobs! In the decade of my parents (1950’s/60’s), only half of them went to college and the rest went into the trades.
2) “much more anxious and risk-averse” – again, not true. In fact, I’d argue the opposite, if you want to create a stereotype. I see young people these days much braver than I ever was (I’m “gen X”) as I came from a world where you were expected to get one job and stay in it for life, before you could travel around with Youth Corps or WWOOF’ing or Couchsurfing, before artists could truly make a living like they do now. More anxious? That’s crap. Every generation has anxiety. I grew up thinking we would die from nuclear war, and my parents actually did drills in school.
Every generation is different and every generation deals with strife and tries to say they have it so much harder than the ones before, or that the older generations don’t understand. People would do a lot more good work if they stopped saying that the current generation has it so much worse. We’re all living in this world together, to work and to live and to create a future that is bright.
By the way – I’m a recruiter who’s hired people from 15 to 75 in the workforce, and there are plenty of kids these days without massive anxiety who are getting good jobs, and plenty of older folks who are as you described “millenials”. The fact is, we all have to adapt to each other – it’s not a one-sided game. Millenials can learn from Gen X and Boomers etc as we can from them. And the less we use these awful labels, the healthier we’ll be.
Hi Aimee, thanks for your input!
I do agree that generalizations have their weaknesses and definitely can’t describe every person or every situation. While writing this article I had some trouble with the fact that for every defined “generation” (based on birth dates and world events and such), there are tons of people who actually fall somewhere in between generations. And like you pointed out, plenty of people don’t show any signs of personality traits that are popularly considered specific to a generation.
However, I still think it’s important just to have an understanding of different generations. Just the existence of different generations with different labels (X, Y, etc.) is indicative in and of itself that there are acknowledged differences between the generations. Like you touched on, this is often caused by different world events happening and how that influences how we perceive the world. It wouldn’t be right to put too much importance in generational differences, because then that gets into the realm of stereotyping, but a healthy appreciation for our differences is integral to being able to adapt to each other.
I mainly wrote this article to address a sentiment I hear all the time, which is “Young people these days…[insert negative comment]”. I hear things like that all the time and it’s always kind of bothered me because it’s not that we’ve somehow regressed, it’s just that we do things differently nowadays than our parents and grandparents before us. I just wanted to try to put a positive spin on the differences that many older people bemoan about the younger generation.
To address a couple of your points real quick:
1. The fact that not very many people went to college is a big factor in the fact that people with college degrees had a good amount of job security. Nowadays, with college being expected and often required, a Bachelors degree is no longer always enough and Masters degrees are the new standard by which to obtain financial security and better opportunity for advancement.
2. Just to be clear, these generational differences were written specifically from a career-related point of view, so when I talk about “anxious and risk-averse”, I’m mainly talking about in things like the job search and career development. Of course other generations had anxiety about things like nuclear war, but today’s anxiety is more about the economy which is directly correlated to people’s careers.
From what I can tell, I actually think we have relatively similar views, we’re just approaching the subject from different angles. Which, just for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, might be because there’s a generational difference between us? Haha, anyway, not trying to drive you crazy or anything.
Thanks again for your input, I enjoyed getting to debate a bit! I’d welcome any more ideas you want to go over.