The Millennials' Journey Into Adulthood

Claire Schooley

A New York Times article, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” written last summer has stayed with me as I continue to talk with clients about the Millennials and how they approach work life. This article talks about the new growing-up phase of today’s Millennials as a distinct life stage called “emerging adulthood” and relates it to “adolescence,” which was a new term 100 years ago when 12- to 18-year-olds began staying in school instead of starting to work at 12 or 13. Many young people in their early 20s are not following the path of past generations — graduate high school, go on to college, graduate, find a job, marry, start a family, and eventually retire. Rather, 40% of today’s Millennials move back home at least once, have many jobs as well as romantic relationships in their 20s, travel, do what appears like nothing, and go back to school. They are exploring and feel no need to rush to make work or personal commitments. They are the product of their Baby Boomer parents who, although they worry about their children making it on their own, provide support and encourage them to find what’s right for them. Millennials as children were encouraged to explore as they participated in a variety of sports, drama, music, and other enriching children-focused activities during and after school. It’s not surprising that they now want to explore many career and life options and don’t feel any obligation to follow the traditional approaches to adulthood. We also see government regulations allowing parents to keep their children on their health insurance until they are 26.

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