Are Millennials Really Slackers or Just Misunderstood?

Since I’ve graduated and entered the work force I have read and heard a plethora of negative things about millennials. They’re lazy. Distracted. They act entitled. Well as a millennial myself I would have to say that I, for one, do not feel that these are entirely accurate descriptors.

Just to give you an idea of the hostile, post-grad environment we millennials are entering, check out this Fortune blog post by Patricia Sellers entitled Who Cares about a Career? Not Gen Y. The article opens with this bold statement: “Any Baby Boomer who has worked alongside Millennials – Gen Yers born after 1978 – knows how differently they view work and career. While we Baby Boomers typically place high value on pay, benefits, stability and prestige, Gen Y cares most about fun, innovation, social responsibility, and time off.”

While the above statement may be true for some Millennials (every generation has its share of bad seeds i.e. Paris Hilton and this disgruntled internship applicant) I would argue that fun, innovation, and social responsibility are just some of the many aspects millennials looks for in a career – and maybe not even the most important ones at that. So let’s move away from the assumptions and negative statements and take a look at some of the positive traits millennials are bringing to the work force.

Millennials are eager and self-confident.
Millennials grew up being told that they could be whatever they wanted to be. That they would be successful. Special. Now as they launch their careers, they want to make sure that the above statements come true. Most millennials will walk into an organization self-assured, ready to learn, and aiming to climb to the top.

Millennials can multitask.
Millennials have been on sensory overload almost their whole lives. But most of them have learned to manage it effectively and have become efficient multi-taskers. You can likely give a millennial multiple projects without being met with a look of sheer panic.

Millennials live out loud.
Through social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, millennials are connecting and sharing more than ever before. Millennials are likely to post positive things your organization is doing or things they’ve achieved that they’re proud of. They can become some of your biggest supporters and advocates in the social networking world.

Millennials thrive off of positive reinforcement.
It’s fairly simple to keep a millennial happy. When appropriate, give them a good dose of recognition and positive reinforcement. If you’re good to them, they’ll want to work even harder for you.

Sure, I understand that some of you might already be construing ways in which the above positive traits could be turned into negative ones. But I want to challenge you to think a little differently. Perhaps optimistically. So the next time you’re assigning teams for a group project at work, don’t be too quick to rule out the millennial.

For more insights on millennials in the workplace check out this previous LaughlinOutLoud blog post.

The Truth in Millennial Stereotypes

An AdAge post, by agency head Bart Cleveland, got my attention as soon as I read the title: Millennials Have Gotten a Bad Rap in Our Industry. Most likely because it was focused on the generation I fit within. And even more likely because it addressed something I feel many people think, but rarely talk about (in front of me anyways, because I’m… dun dun dun… ONE OF THEM!).

Every generation is put into a stereotype, some they are happy to be a part of… and some they work their life to distance themselves from. I could go into talking about each of the generational stereotypes… but let’s be honest, I’m a Millennial, and to fit that selfish stereotype, I’d like to keep the focus of this post on, well, my own generation.

Despite the ominous title, it turns out Cleveland’s post was about sticking up for his Millennial associates, and bashing all the popular, negative stereotypes… But I am going to have to disagree with his debunk of some major Millennial myths… as I see them as truths.

  1. Millennials don’t like the word “no” – We don’t! (But really, who does…) And I think this is a good thing; it comes as a part of a belief that anything is possible. Look at the library of apps we have access to on our smart phones. We can speak French without ever taking a class. We can find our way in a city we’ve never been to without asking for directions. If someone tells us “no”, we take that as a challenge, not a defeat.
  2. We have no respect for authority – Ok, now I won’t say we don’t have respect for authority. We do. But as a generation that has had the world at our fingertips – access to every piece of information and knowledge we could ever want with just a click of a button – we don’t rely on authority as much as our previous generations did. We ask fewer questions, we rely on their knowledge less, and we feel that anything they know that we don’t, we can figure out on our own. I blame this on Google. They feed us the false promise they can provide us with all of the knowledge we could ever need and answers to any question we can come up with.
  3. We expect a lot without doing a lot – Also known as the… Get-Rich-Quick Syndrome. There is a lot of pressure on us to have THE next million dollar idea. We’ve seen that it’s possible. If you drop out of college, and spend half as much time as you do in a cubicle on thinking up crazy ideas, you could be the next big thing, and happily retired at the ripe age of 28.

As Millennials, we are blessed to grow up in a world that has ultimately forced us into a corner of seemingly negative stereotypes. Like all generations, we are doomed to face them, and like all generations we will likely be criticizing the ones following us as well (I’m eager to know for what…). Stereotypes aside, the point of Cleveland’s post is that “hardworking young people are an asset to your agency”.  And that is the biggest truth in all of this. Our unique generation brings something different to the table that I am proud to be a part of.