Millennial myths and stereotypes—debunked

Kristin Piombino

As an editorial assistant here at Ragan, I’ve been reading and editing a lot of articles about my generation and, as the subject of these articles, I had to weigh in.

A lot of what I’ve been reading lately are articles that tell Baby Boomers and Generation Xers how to communicate with Gen Y because our laziness, lack of work ethic and inability to handle criticism are far removed from their professional experiences.

I couldn’t disagree more. As a 20-something millennial, most of the young professionals my age don’t share those characteristics. We don’t stroll into work late wearing a hoodie with a Starbucks in one hand and a smartphone in the other.

That’s not to say none of us do. While most of us born in the 1980s and earlier don’t fit the negative millennial stereotype, those younger than us might. Then again, they’re still in college where hoodies are the standard.

Millennials are not risky hires or liabilities. We’re an overlooked, yet potentially valuable, resource.

We’re just like you

Those of us born in the 1980s acknowledge that we grew up at a very different time than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. But we do have some things in common. Like those generations, our early years were devoid of the Internet, cell phones and social media.

We learned how to properly and politely communicate with others in person, over the phone, and even by handwritten letter.

What makes us different, however, is that while we were learning how to formally address an envelope, we were also learning math on computer games in elementary school, instant messaging our crushes in middle school, and using our first cell phones in early high school.

We grew up with the best of both worlds; we understand life without technology, but we’re young enough to quickly adapt to it. And that’s an asset.

We can easily distinguish when social media would help a campaign and when it would detract from the message. Just because we understand social media doesn’t mean we think it’s necessary all the time.

We want to work hard

As millennials enter the workplace, we’re excited to land our first professional jobs. Other generations argue that we don’t want to work for our careers and expect constant praise because we’re used to hearing it from our parents. In most cases, this isn’t true.

I can’t begin to fathom how someone could succeed in the communications industry if he or she couldn’t handle a little criticism. Take my job, for example. The stories I edit and the headlines and posts I write all pass under the critical eyes of my editor—who gives me feedback. If I quit and went home after she told me to change something, I wouldn’t have made it through the first day.

We learn by messing up and trying again, just like anyone else. It’s nothing new—we’ve been critiqued since we started school. And hey, it only makes us smarter.

What we lack in experience we make up for in knowledge. Yes, knowledge

Hiring a millennial shouldn’t be seen as a liability—not all of us are going to jump ship in a year. But like an employee of any age, we want to be engaged with our company. If we don’t feel valued, of course we’ll want to go work somewhere else.

Instead of seeing millennials as risks, why not view us as an asset and tap us for information? All the time you spend behind closed door meetings discussing Twitter, Facebook and social media could be better spent asking us what we think.

We might not have spent years on the job yet, but we know how to market to our generation. Try running a video past us. We can tell you if it’s too long or not funny. If we can take criticism, so should you.

Hire a millennial, I dare you

Companies shouldn’t be afraid to hire us. We understand that we have to work hard at our jobs. In fact, most of us probably worked harder to get our first job than any Baby Boomer because we graduated from college during a recession. We have no issue with taking direction from our superiors because we know their feedback is only going to help us get to where we eventually want to be. And—gasp—that just might be at the company where we first started.

We don’t want you to treat us differently than anyone else in the office or look at us like we’re another species. We just want your respect, and a chance to prove ourselves.

That’s all we ask.

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3 thoughts on “Millennial myths and stereotypes—debunked

  1. What a great post! I just did a google search and found your site. I agree with everything you say. I am so tired of the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers judging us as lazy and distracted. I know more motivated and hard working millennials than other people. Thanks for the post! 🙂

  2. This is spot on. We’re young enough to understand the technology but old enough to recognize that there is a time and place for everything, even a handwritten note.

    As a Millennial working in social media it seems I spend too much time proving myself and my ideas and not enough time innovating!

  3. I’m a Gen Xer and I LOVE my Gen Y employee. She’s smart, capable and always has a new perspective. I usually just point her in the right direction and off she goes. Her work is outstanding. I have no problem with Gen Y.

    I think the real issue for many managers and organizations is the desire for control and the old system of hierarchy that some people buy into. Many workplaces are struggling with the lack of control that social media, smart phones, etc. introduce into the workplace. Gen Ys are much more comfortable with this, and I think as a result are (unfairly) a target for frustration by others who are not as comfortable. It’s short sighted to alienate Gen Y, but many organizations will learn that the hard way.

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