There are 75 million millennials in this country; 19 per square mile. Chances are, you’re within spitball distance of one right now. Though young, naïve, and inexperienced, millennials are the most threateningly beautiful additions to today’s workplace since sliced bread.
There are countless opinions in circulation regarding you, me, us. It is as if the generations that raised us millennials have dusted off their hands, taken a few steps back to observe and started shaking their collective heads. I get it. It appears we spend all of our time texting or on social media, lacking the ability to hold a face-to-face conversation lasting longer than 26 seconds, and we’re just plain lazy. We could spend time analyzing the originating source of this reputation we’ve unwillingly adopted, but time is of the essence and we’re not getting any younger.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all purchased a dozen eggs only to discover one has a crack in the bottom. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to give up my over-easy egg and toast breakfasts. I’ll take another chance on the next carton.
My point is we could all point our fingers at one another and turn a blind eye to the dirt covering our own hands, but that is so last generation. Humor me as I stroll through five commonly stereotypical stigmas of millennials and elaborate on the pure, naked reasoning for their misperception.
Stigma 1: Millennials are entitled.
Shocking, I know. If you truly believe that, you didn’t read the fine print. We aren’t entitled to nice cars, endless money (it does grow on trees though, right?), and C-level positions on our second day on the job. We feel entitled to take the path of most resistance because we were born knowing there is more to life than following directions with complacency. We don’t mind being told what to do, but we sure do love having the liberty to find out how to do it with efficiency and innovation. There is a difference between directing, leading, and guiding. We are not contempt for authority. We have only become more aware of our compliance and the appropriateness of exercising our right to challenge the typical. Forgive Millennials the need to constantly improve everything. Our suggestions might be overwhelming, so give us an outlet to question and innovate.
Stigma 2: Millennials are impatient.
No, we are eager. How could we not be?! Millennials are living in a world full of daily ground-breaking medical improvements, technology advances and scientific discoveries, not to mention having grown up with a world of knowledge right at our fingertips (I’m talking about you, Google).
Eagerness is the gasoline that fuels our lifted spirits and keeps our brains active. It has been made all too obvious that life is an hourglass and we only have so many grains of sand, so forgive us if our legs are jittery and our focus gets divided. It only means we are turning gears that will lead tomorrow’s world in seven different directions. Unleash this incredibly valuable trait in millennials in your workplace by openly acknowledging the importance of staying one step ahead and building an environment conducive to creativity.
Stigma 3: Millennials have no work ethic.
Of all the stigmas about millennials, this one just screams “subjectivity!” We need to feel purposeful. Purpose drives our desire to work, and often work harder. Not in an “I solved world hunger today” kind of way, but the need to fulfill and be fulfilled seems ultimately higher than ever before. We can deal with data-entry and tedious labor as long as we can see the big picture and pinpoint exactly where our efforts come into play. I know how it feels to significantly impact the outcome of a customer’s day, and that is the key in finding purpose. We cannot stomach the idea of being on this earth to simply waste air and resources. There is a constant pressure to be fully present and make an impact on someone, somewhere.
Help millennials see how their work is important in the larger scheme of things. It will make us double-down our efforts in the tasks at hand.
Stigma 4: Millennials are selfish.
This is actually true. With a world saturated with opportunity and a limited time of residency, we have every right to create a life that we are proud of. Millennials are not afraid to give ourselves everything we’ve ever wanted, even when we can’t quite figure out what it is we want. We will rarely complain about having too much on our plate, because our goal is to eat. It seems as though fear, risk and challenge are no longer the enemies; they are friends who, for ages, have been misunderstood, and we hoard these allies while pursuing our goal reality.
Stigma 5: Millennials are flighty.
We really do want to give opportunities the time they deserve to grow and flourish. It is no secret that success takes hard work and knowledge takes effort, but we may entertain new experiences when we feel it is time for a change. Only when we start feeling complacent do we explore other options on the menu. This doesn’t mean we jump around jobs; we simply feel the urge to take a detour. Whether this constitutes a membership with a new church, eliminating a toxic relationship in your social circle, or taking on a new responsibility within your organization, change will always be attractive to the youthful eye. Our generation is about ambition. Ambition takes focus and focus takes discipline and discipline means discomfort. We are ready and willing to endure an uncomfortable journey.
All that we ask is to be given an honest chance. Have an open mind. There is bound to be a bad egg, but one millennial cannot possibly soil your perception of all of us. We may not have years of industry knowledge, but we do have hunger and a desire for innovation driven with genuine intent because progress is impossible without change. Help us see how our work ties into the success and failure of business and we’ll be much more motivated to see it succeed.
Let us challenge each other, provide feedback, and build a vision peppered with industry tenure, fresh eyes, mutual trust and endless change. We are the youth of the nation, and we are forever traveling into uncharted territory—stigmas in tow.