Born in the year 1983, I was often told I was part of Generation-Y… the not as cool as “Gen-X” generation that propelled Vanilla Ice to stardom. Much to my relief, the term “Millennial” came along to make us stand out from our counterparts.
A millennial is defined by The Center for Generational Kinetics as a person born between the years 1977 and 1995. These timelines vary wildly, based on the statistics you read, but according to The Center, “It’s really important to note you can be born within three years on either side of the beginning or ending of a generation and have all the characteristics of the generation before or after.”
Generational transitions are typically a gradual shift. However, a civilization altering event like 9/11 can create a much more defined divide in generations. Those born closer to the year 2000 may have little to no recollection of a time before September 11, 2001; thus creating a much more precise partition between factions.
Using the proposed period of time, there are nearly 80 million members of the millennial generation in the United States today, which makes us the largest group of consumers and wage earners in history. If you have yet to hire a millennial director for your firm, you undoubtedly will soon.
Several groups (I’m talking about you, Baby Boomers) seem to agree — my generation’s less flattering traits are impatience, an addiction to technology, entitlement, and low self-esteem. While we plant our flag on the hope of changing the world, we don’t always find careers with the purpose or impact we crave.
The funeral profession has the opportunity to present millennials with a calling that is abundantly meaningful. It is a field that offers us a chance to leave our mark on the communities we serve and to satisfy our desire to feel significant.
My generation can be impatient and we are, most certainly, addicted to technology. We were raised in the era of 30-minutes or less. You no longer need to grab your car keys if you want something. Just open up your laptop to Amazon and anything can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours.
Millennials actually possess a strong understanding of the need for patience in our line of work, especially in the arrangement process. Millennial directors yearn to make arrangement conferences more efficient. We are constantly searching for new ways to clearly communicate memorialization options to our families.
Some funeral homes have already begun to shift into the digital age by showing some, most, or all of their offerings via electronic means. It is not meant to make the conference less personal. The move to digital platforms is an inevitable transformation towards the expectations of modern consumers, and your millennial directors will fully embrace that. The use of technology seems to burden some directors. Rely on us to demonstrate how it is changing the way we offer value to our families.
There is no sugar-coating the following statement: Millennials are entitled. We received participation trophies for finishing in last place. Our heads were filled with promises that we could be whatever we wanted to be because we were special.
Reality has ultimately shown us that rising to our own lofty expectations does not always happen as we would like. Yet, there are ways of advancing in our chosen field without having to receive a promotion. These include: continuing education, serving with an association, community involvement, and earning professional designations.
Encourage and incentivize millennials on your staff or on your association committees to seek out these opportunities. Everyone will benefit when millennials absorb the growing trends of our profession and bring them back to share.
Lastly, our self-esteem is lower than past generations. We seek out approval through social media instead of human interaction. You can help millennials overcome this by putting them in the conference room. When entrusted with a family in dire need of direction, we will strive to prove our faculties.
Our confidence will swell as we continue to grow from our experiences. Millennials are often expected to be disparaging of our own abilities, but issues with low self-esteem will melt away as compliments from those we serve affirm that we are indeed well-suited for this profession.
Millennials may continue to confound those from previous generations. Though if given the proper environment to thrive, we are hardwired to make a difference in the world.
Written by: Matthew Morian
Matt is a licensed funeral director & embalmer in the State of Texas and is a founding member of Millennial Directors. He is also a contributor to Texas Director Magazine.