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The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation

June 8, 2011

Trevin Wax interviewing Jess Rainer about the book he co-wrote with his dad, Thom, called The Millennials:

Trevin Wax: Jess, you and I are both part of the generation called “The Millennials.” Labeling people according to their generation is a tricky exercise, full of complexities that make a common portrait difficult to ascertain. My first thought upon seeing The Millennials was: ”I hope this isn’t a one-size-fits-all portrait of our generation.” I was surprised to see that one of the millennials you interviewed said roughly the same thing: “Don’t stereotype my generation.”

Despite my aversion toward broad generalities, I couldn’t help but nod my head at the general descriptions you give in the book. Over and over, I thought, That’s me. Or: Yes, these findings are an accurate characteristic of the Millennials I know. So tell me how waded through all the diverse pieces of information about this generation in order to pull out these commonalities.

Jess Rainer: You are correct that we can not stereotype any particular person within the Millennial generation. The diversity is far too great to even try to put the Millennials into one category. In fact, the first thing I discovered in the research was that I am not the typical Millennial! But despite all the diversity we found, there were still common themes throughout our generation.

One approach we took to understanding the 1200 different Millennial responses we received was to break the findings down by beliefs, actions, and expectations in all major life categories. These life categories includes items such as family, work, money, religion, media, diversity, as well as other categories.

For example, we asked these 1200 Millennials what they believed a family unit should look like. We asked what their family unit looks like right now. We asked what they expect their family to look like in the future. In asking these key questions, patterns or themes became more evident as more and more responses were received. This process is the only way to get a high level perspective of our generation. Anytime I looked at individual responses, I would be amazed how the answers would drastically change.

Trevin Wax: This strategy appears to put a strong emphasis on relationships during the information-gathering process.

Jess Rainer: Yes, that’s right. In addition to the pure statistical research, my dad and I both made it a point to engage the Millennials on a personal basis. Observational research provided an extra source of validity to the massive amounts of statistical research we accumulated. These conversations and observations helped bring the major themes of our generation to the surface. For example, my dad and I quickly saw the lack of environmental vigor that was expected out of the Millennials.

It was an exciting time to read the statistical data and then engage my friends and peers. I think some of my friends got tired of me backing up their feelings and desires with percentages and fractions! The twofold approach to the research brought the book to life and provided the realness of life as a Millennial.


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