It’s fun to be a millennial. Not only do you have to worry about all the other things that can stand between you and a job, but there are (mostly unfair) assumptions being made about you because you happen to be in a certain age range! No wonder we aren’t loyal to companies and want to start our own businesses. Who’d want to work for someone who thinks we are killing the industry?
Millennials, or Generation Y, are people born between 1980 and 2000, which makes most of them around thirty-five years old now. Their parents, Generation X, aren’t actually all that different (after all, where do you think millennials got their ideas from?), and to dispel some of these myths you have to go back yet another generation to the Baby Boomers.
So read on, my fellow millennials, and be happy that these are starting to be recognized as myths - as in, not true - and read on, Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers to see what assumptions you’re making that you shouldn’t be. Sweeping generalizations are rarely good or fair, and this is just one of those times when you shouldn’t be letting common misconceptions get in the way of your hiring and firing choices.
1. They're Really Young
Well yes, given that the youngest millennials were born in 2000, that does make some of them only fifteen years old. The oldest are thirty-five though, has thirty-five become the new twenty-five? Anyway, the myth here is that they’re young and they don’t want to grow up. They’d rather sit in their parents’ basement refreshing their newsfeed than working at a job, getting married or trying to own a home.
It’s a myth. Or rather, it’s a case of things changing; our parents are more willing to allow us to stay at home, and between the economy and the cost of houses these days, it isn’t really about whether we want to grow up, it’s whether we can find a job that gives us the finances to have the slightest chance of being able to do so.
For previous generations, it was easier. Listen to your parents or grandparents and they’ll tell you how they walked out of school (school, not university) and straight into work. Even if that first job was horribly menial, it was a first job and it paid well enough to put them on the life path that everyone else was taking. Millennials still want the same things, they’re just doing it a little differently - while some are taking a little longer to get started, others do have spouses, children, good jobs and advanced degrees and aren’t the lazy layabouts they’re painted to be.
2. They're Job Hoppers
The myth is that millennials are disloyal little rabbits, jumping from job to job when they either lose interest or someone dangles a carrot in front of them. While there might be a little truth to this one, there are a few things that should be remembered: it’s up to their bosses to make them want to stay, they aren’t the first generation to do it, and in fact in this day and time it’s not necessarily a good thing if you stay at the same job forever.
It’s believed that millennials head for greener pastures when they find that they aren’t getting the pay or promotion they feel they deserve. Why would anyone - not just a millennial - stick around in a place where they aren’t appreciated or feel fulfilled? The point of starting a career is to be looking out for any and all opportunities to grow; millennials aren’t moving because they’re bored, but because they seek companies with more innovation as well as higher pay and more benefits - just like their parents did. 80 percent actually believe they will only work for four or fewer companies in their career, and really it’s up to the companies to create a culture that their employees want to stay in.
3. They Feel Entitled
Supposedly, having been raised to believe they’re the best thing since sliced bread, millennials walk around with a sense of entitlement. They don’t know what hard work looks like and they have no interest in paying their dues; they simply want to walk in to positions with high pay and high respect without actually earning it.
Actually, they’re perfectly willing to work hard and 66 percent of them would like to have their own business. The issue isn’t that they don’t want to pay their dues; it’s that it’s harder for them to find opportunities to do so. Being young is considered a bad thing, but younger people are easier to mould and they find it easier to adapt: they can and will change their work ethic, and if employers would listen to them they might realize they have some good ideas about how to change the way things are done.
The fact that millennials want flexible work schedules and wish to incorporate more technology and collaboration into their work reinforces the belief that they are lazy and that they want to work less. They’re not, they just believe that achieving work-life balance shouldn’t be a perk, while they are also trying to bring their companies into the 21st century with improved efficiency and innovation.
4. They Need Their Hands Held
The myth: millennials were raised to believe that everyone should get a participation trophy, they need constant confirmation that they’re brilliant, and they’re incapable of making a decision without discussing it with everyone first. The truth: they value constructive and consistent feedback and would rather be treated fairly than showered with praise, and the last time I checked, discussing something before making a decision was called collaboration.
Sure, you hear these horror stories about helicopter parents who tag along to interviews and send emails to HR to ask them to be gentle with their children, but you can’t judge everyone based on a few.
It’s all about perspective, and the truth is that what most millennials want is honesty and transparency: they can’t improve if they aren’t told what’s wrong, seeking input is fine when it’s called "tapping sources" and they only expect praise when it’s deserved, just like everyone else does. The fact that they prefer to be told to do something "by 1pm" rather than "ASAP", to me, sounds more efficient; the boss won’t have to chase them up if they have different ideas on what "ASAP" means and the employee doesn’t put speed before quality.
5. They're Self-Absorbed
So millennials are more likely to take a few (hundred) selfies and spend a lot of time talking about themselves on social media. Question: are they doing it because they’re millennials, or do they just happen to be the first generation where it’s been so easy to do? If Baby Boomers had had smartphones and wifi hotspots and Facebook, they might have done the same.
But it’s not that millennials are self-absorbed. It’s that they’re the most technologically savvy generation, which means they know how to use social media beyond posting a million updates; they know how to use it to help the company, which is why social media positions are starting to become more and more widespread. The best way to learn how to use something is to keep using it, and their excessive social media usage means they know more than previous generations about what you should and shouldn’t share.
If that still sounds self-absorbed, consider these statistics on how millennials define success: 90 percent say it’s in being a good friend, 58 percent think it’s being of service and contributing to the community, and more than two thirds think success is fighting for a cause they believe in. None say it’s by being famous for having the Twitter account with the most followers.
6. Brand Hopping
Not only are millennials not loyal to their companies, they’re not loyal to their brands either. Traditional marketing techniques are wasted on them, because one well-placed post on social media will have them flocking elsewhere.
There may be a little truth to this one: while a millennial will be faithful to a brand they’ve deemed worthy of their loyalty, it’s up to that brand to keep them interested; they might be strongly influenced by social media and online campaigns, but they also still use loyalty cards and respond to store circulars.
Again, the economy is partly to blame here. When it comes to brands - with any kind of shopping, whether it’s clothes or food - money issues mean that millennials are more likely to choose a good deal over a favourite brand. They have budgets that require them to be conscious of the value in what they’re getting, and they’re going to go where they can either find the best quality or the best price.
7. They're Too Casual and Informal
Again, this is more a sign of the times than something that’s automatically a bad thing. On the one hand, bosses are rarely called "Sir" any more (unless they choose to be) and millennials are taught to think of everyone more as equals, but on the other hand you have university lecturers who are okay with being called by their first names, and that’s where the informality begins. As long as they adapt to each situation, this doesn’t have to be a point against them.
Millennials have been taught that while authority should be respected, that doesn’t mean they should meekly accept everything they’re told; they should speak up if they think something is wrong or unfair. It isn’t that they don’t like being told what to do or that they think no one can be superior to them, it’s that they have a better sense of themselves and they’d like to understand why they’re being told to do that thing that way.
Millennials aren’t really the rude and lazy youngsters they’re made out to be; just like the generations before them, all they want is to find value in their work, have a healthy work-life balance, and to be praised when they deserve it. They’re choosing to embrace technology rather than stick to the "good old ways", but they aren’t doing it to find new ways to slack off, they’re doing it to try and move the world forward. Millennials shouldn’t be seen as the reason for the decline in tradition and hierarchy, but the generation ideally placed to initiate change for the better. Then again, I am a millennial myself, so maybe I’m biased.
What do you think? Are all these myths true, and fair? Tell us about your experiences as and with millennials in the comments section below.