Hey World: Quit Stereotyping Gen Y!

Posted October 29, 2012

Experts are constantly scrutinizing Generation Y – especially when it comes to work habits. But we Millennials are not much different than the generations that came before us.

“Like all generations, Millennials are a product of their times,” says Lindsey Pollak, a speaker and best-selling author of Getting from College to Career.

While it’s true that we have grown up amidst cutting-edge technological advances, like access to boundless information and constant connectivity, there’s no way that roughly 80 million people born in the late 1980s to early 2000s share the same characteristics or behavior on the job.

You know the stereotypes, written in endless articles, books and research papers: We are lazy, entitled, narcissistic and disloyal. This line gets more play than Carly Rae Jepson’s "Call Me Maybe!"

Universities, marketers and corporations are dead-set on figuring us out. As a result, there’s an entire industry of experts who put us under a giant magnifying glass. But Generation Y is sea of complexity, and experts end up drawing terrible generalizations, leading to hype and media frenzy.

The truth is that who we are and how we are isn't based solely on the generation we belong to. Employers, you should interview Millennial candidates without any preconceived notions, especially these popular labels:

1. Millennials Are Disloyal Job Hoppers

One Forbes writer recently cited “91 percent of Millennial expect to stay in a job for less than three years.” And then followed that with “that means they would have 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives!”

With all due respect, could this conclusion be any more flawed?

Most of us are in the early stages of our careers and only 5 percent of people end up choosing the right job on the first try, according to economist Neil Howe as cited by career expert Penelope Trunk. Leaving a job doesn’t necessarily mean we are a disloyal bunch.

No one here is encouraging frivolous job hopping, but Pollak says there are good reasons to leave a job. For instance, “if you have an abusive boss, if you feel there is absolutely zero opportunity for learning or advancement, or if you have strong reason to believe you will be more fulfilled and better compensated someplace else.”

We will be loyal to opportunity, not a paycheck.

James Sweeney, 22-year-old marketing assistant at York Solutions, makes a great point: “Things like mentorship programs and the ability to grow within a company are what we value, because money will come and go, as the recession proved,” Sweeney says.

Millennial-centric workplaces recognize this and are prioritizing job happiness and fulfillment in their hiring process.

“During interviews, I look for passion,” says Sarah Piper-Goldberg, head of fun at DoSomething.org, the largest organization for teens and social change. “I want to know why you want the job.”

2. Millennials are Entitled and “I want it fast and I want it now!” is Our Motto

Lots of Gen Y critics say we all grew up coddled by our parents. We spent too many hours in front of the TV watching Mr. Rogers tell us that we’re special — each and every one of us --- while our helicopter parents hovered to protect us in every step of the way.

This is probably true for some. However, Many other kinds of students have not come from backgrounds where they felt safe, sheltered, and secure, or from schools that recognized their gifts and talents,” Fred A. Bonner II, a professor at the Texas A&M University and Millennial researcher who examines Generation Y characteristics especially among minorities, told The Chronicle.

Take Sweeney, for example.  When he and his girlfriend were in college, they couldn't afford living independently, but they commuted and both worked part-time jobs.

“We are a generation living in the aftermath of one of the worst recessions in history,” Sweeney says. “It's hard to be ‘entitled’ when you have lived much of your adult life without economic security.”

Employers and researchers, let’s not discount the Sweeney’s of my generation!

3. Millennials are the “Peter Pan Generation”

Generation Y is pegged as the Peter Pan or Boomerang generation, largely because three-in-ten young adults (age 25-34) have moved back home, and many that were surveyed said they were satisfied with their living arrangements, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

These stats make it sound like many of us are happily sleeping in our childhood bedrooms staring at Backstreet Boy posters with no plans to move out. Let’s get this straight: Millennial folks who live at home do not necessarily suffer from the Peter Pan syndrome. Nor does “satisfied” mean complacent.

Most young adults I know who are living at home have a long term plan to get out. Many of us are scrimping and saving to live within our means while paying off huge college loans. In fact, a recent report on Gen Y spending found that we are more frugal than previous generations.

Like Pollak says, we are a product of our times. And while some of us are veering off the traditional path does not mean that we are all disloyal, entitled or resistant to adulthood. Employers, please, throw these stereotypes out the window and realize that we are all the same in that we are all different.

photo of The CareerBliss Team

The CareerBliss Team

CareerBliss cares about your career happiness. That's why we offer a variety of great tools and resources to help you make better-informed career decisions. We believe that if you're happier at work, you'll be happier in life! Check out company reviewssalary informationcareer advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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