The worst stereotypes about millennials and how we can overcome them

(PS: This article was published in the September 2016 Issue of Badassery Magazine, so that’s pretty neat.)

If I hear another person tell me how lazy and entitled my generation is, I might lose it. You know what I’m talking about, right? If you’re somewhere between your early 20s and early 30s, and you’ve had a conversation with literally any person who’s even slightly older than you, there’s a pretty solid chance you’ve endured an anti-millennial rant. As far as I can tell, that rhetoric isn’t leaving anytime soon and there’s probably not much we can do about it. What we can do, though, is be the exception to what our older friends (or foes) consider the rule.

Here are some of my favorite (insert sarcastic tone here) criticisms targeting millennials, plus ways you can shut them down, or at least prove them wrong.

millenials

Millennials think they’re better than everyone.

Why it’s ridiculous

Now, I can’t speak on behalf of all millennials, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the percentage of millennials who think they’re better than everyone is right in-line with the percentage of people in other generations who feel the same. Pride and even narcissism exist within millennials, sure. But no more frequently than they exist within other sub-populations. Actually, since we’re on the subject, I bet I could list off significantly more arrogant, self-absorbed 40-50 year olds than 20-30 year olds.

In fact, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting millennials are the most insecure generation of all time. Now, I wonder what might be causing that? Could it be the mountains of debt most of us have to bury ourselves in, just to have a fighting chance at securing a job that might pay $40k/year, if we’re lucky? Could it be the product of living in a bipolar society that criticizes us for being too fat one day, and too skinny the next? Or maybe it’s the fear of making one tiny mistake, and it blowing up into an internet shame campaign within 24 hours. Did our parents deal with any of that?

What I’m really getting at, I guess, is that if one of us is acting in a way that suggests we think we’re better than you, we’re probably faking it. If, on the other hand, we’ve done something awesome and are just celebrating the rare success, can you just give us a minute of glory?

How to prove it wrong

Ok, millennials, I don’t mean to be that girl, but this is easy: don’t act like you’re better than everyone. Ever. You’re not. It’s fairly likely that you’re not even better than half of everyone. So if you’re acting like a self-absorbed prick, stop it.

Once you’ve got that under control, swing aggressively in the other direction. Act as though it is your sole mission in life to genuinely help anyone and everyone. If we all do our part to amplify our selflessness, we might have a shot at dispelling this nasty stereotype.

Millennials just aren’t as loyal as past generations – especially to employers

Why it’s ridiculous

First of all, comparing our generation’s work ethic and loyalty to past generations’ implies that the job market and economic climate today are the same as they were then. Do I really need to waste energy explaining how not true that is? Great, didn’t think so.

The way I see it, employees of every generation make decisions surrounding whether they stick it out with a company for the long-haul based on what’s best for them personally and professionally. Professionals from generations past held careers during a time when pensions and “The American Dream” were real things. In that environment, sticking with one employer for the duration of your career doesn’t make you loyal. It makes you human. A human with common sense.

Fast forward to today. Things move a lot faster now than they ever have before. New companies are created every second. New fields and skillsets emerge constantly. If you’re not keeping up with trends in your field and evolving your skillset, your opportunities for professional growth are limited. The continual pursuit of knowledge is the new career path, and if your current employer doesn’t support that path, you move on. That doesn’t make you disloyal. It makes you smart.

How to prove it wrong

I guess the only way you can really prove this stereotype wrong is by sticking with your current position for 5+ years. Only do that if your current organization supports your continual pursuit of knowledge.

Instead of proving it wrong, prove that any time you spend working at organization X – whether it’s 12 years or 12 months – is worth their investment in you. Whatever your job entails, bring your A game and make yourself completely indispensable. When the opportunity to discuss your value arises – annual performance reviews, anyone? – be armed with an inventory of the projects you’ve completed while in your role, and do your best to quantify the impact and value resulting from those projects.

Millennials are the absolute laziest.

Why it’s ridiculous

Wa wa wait, what?! Show me a middle-aged person who had to work half as hard as I did to get accepted to the college of my choice, and to graduate in four years once I got there. Show me a Baby Boomer who couldn’t land an entry-level job without a resume stacked with internship on top of internship. Show me a member of Generation X who is constantly connected to work, and also manages to fit in side-income opportunities, exercise, and spend time with friends and family. I’m not saying people like that who are older than I am don’t exist, but I am saying I work just as hard as them.

How to prove it wrong

It’s a shame that we have to, really. But for every nine of us who are overachievers, there’s one of us who perpetuates this stereotype. Who lays around day after day, living off of mom and dad, probably slaying Pokemon Go with the rest of America’s teenagers. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about that one. We can, however, keep busting our asses until the professional world has no choice but to recognize our capabilities and strengths.
I’m always up for a good conversation about handling generational differences and stereotypes, especially in the workplace. Got any interesting experiences or generalizations to share?

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