A New America: Richmond

Stop Trying to Help Millennials - They Can Help Themselves

As 5 college students stand on the brink of adulthood, they reflect on the tools they need to succeed in the working world.

(Kristoffer Tripplaar/The Atlantic)

The Atlantic and National Journal traveled to Richmond, Va. on April 16th for the third in a series of town hall events on how Millennials are engaging in entrepreneurship and service. Speakers including Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Disruption Corporation Founder Paul Singh, and Corporation for National and Community Service Chief of Staff Asim Mishra shared insights from their own experiences and advice for Millennials interested in pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and service.

At the end of the program, Atlantic Senior Associate Editor David Graham asked a group of University of Richmond students what parts of the conversation particularly surprised them or struck them as true. Here are excerpts from the students’ responses:

Clay Helms RC ’15, Editor-in-Chief, The Collegian

“I think that going back to something Paul Singh said earlier, our experiences are built by the more things that we try. As a journalist or a student, I think that the more people we can talk to, the more different things that we can learn, the more things that we can expose ourselves to—especially if we don’t know exactly what we want to do—make us more appealing and a potentially more effective person, whatever we end up doing.”

Mimi Mudd WC ’14, Former President, Westhampton College Student Government

I think the thing that most resonated with me was what [University of Richmond] President Ayers said about the drive for Millennials to be involved with NGOs, not just part of NGOs, but running them. With Millennials, I’ve heard in marketing classes that we’re very entitled, but along with that we’re very motivated and action-oriented. We have this desire and want to create change, which is why I wanted to do Teach for America. So I think it’s our desire to organize to create change—and to not only be a part of it, but to run it.”

Rachel Brown WC ’14, Scholar, Bonner Center for Civic Engagement 

“Another thing was the idea that sometimes our generation is overambitious, and we do just want to own and be recognized as the leader or founder of X organization. That’s something that I’ve been driven to do during my time here and part of the goals that I have for the future. But it’s really forcing me to look inside and evaluate other organizations that already exist, and to be sure that I am not going to add to the competition in a negative way, and what I’m going to do is needed and can serve the community uniquely. And if not, can I contribute to an organization already in existence? I think that’s something we should factor into the equation much more than we do.”

Brad Groves RC ’15, President, Richmond College Student Government

“I think that a defining quality of this generation...is that desire to create something or to be close to that creation aspect…[On the interactive development model of innovation platform Quirky, where his older brother works]...That also addresses the way technology can be used to leverage a more horizontal style of leadership across the organization, which can harness that desire for each individual to be their own boss, and really result in a pretty good outcome. That’s a pretty defining quality of our generation, that desire to be close to that aspect of creation.”

Lauren Grainger WC ’14, Founder, Line Guard

“I think that the best part of programs and panels like this is the idea that for this generation there are so many resources available, and the way to get people inspired to start their own businesses or start on the social entrepreneurship track is connecting with those resources—not only for other people to help you, but for you to help your own self. One of the other speakers said that if you want to build a website, just go online and learn to code….This generation knows that they can do things themselves and that they have a lot of resources to help them with that.”