Assessing the Millennials
What can you expect from applicants now entering optometry school?
MICHAEL BACIGALUPI, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.
The applicants to optometry school this year were born around 1992. This number shocks me, because I remember 1992 very well — it wasn't that long ago.
These young people are very different than the applicants of my generation. The generation that was born after 1981 has been called by many different names including; millennials, generation we, the digital generation, gamers, the net generation and trophy kids. Many of these terms have negative connotations, but from the perspective of someone who works with these students on a daily basis, they are a special group.
A background in millennials
These young people grew up in times of economic challenges and extreme parenting. Helicopter parents, or concierge parents, ensured that they always felt special and appreciated.
They are digital natives, meaning that digital technology has always been part of their lives. Don't ask them about cassettes or records. They know about iPads and streaming movies.
Millennials multitask. They never just watch television, but check Facebook and text message while the television is on. They played teeball, and everyone got a trophy regardless of the win-loss record.
The results of this environment are not always positive, but it has created a group on a mission. Millennial students want to improve the world locally and internationally. They are not afraid to contribute their opinions or ideas. They want their actions to impact others. They want to be recognized for their achievements and ideas.
Taken the wrong way
So, why do so many people take these characteristics the wrong way? Generation X is defined by people born from 1965 to 1980, and they typically don't appreciate millennial students. Resentment and mistrust often permeate the interactions between these two groups. Gen X'ers have often been heard saying, millennials haven't earned the respect that they are demanding. But, older generations, such as baby boomers, appreciate millennial students, perhaps because they are their children or grandchildren. For me, I love working with the millennials. They work well in teams. They are conventional and predictable. They are motivated and creative.
So, keep these facts in mind the next time you are working with a millennial student, patient or colleague: First, share information. They want to know the facts so that they can contribute. Second, make all communications two-way streets so that an open exchange can occur. And finally, make sure all interactions are fair. Fairness is a cornerstone of their belief systems, and all interactions are judged to see whether they are fair.
Leaving their mark
Clearly, the future of optometry will be forever changed by the impact of the millennial generation. We will hear new ideas, seek global impacts, be better connected and see change.
I am not sure what the generation before mine said, but I hope it was something like this: “I can't wait to see what they accomplish.” This is exactly how I feel about the millennials. OM
DR. BACIGALUPI, A FREQUENT AUTHOR AND LECTURER IN THE AREAS OF PRACTICE MANAGEMENT AND STUDENT AFFAIRS, IS THE ASSISTANT DEAN FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS AT NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY. FROM 1995 TO 2005, HE FOUNDED AND GREW A PRIVATE OPTOMETRIC PRACTICE IN RURAL TEXAS. SEND COMMENTS TO OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.
Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: December 2013, page(s): 67