I just started a new job. Besides the normal awkwardness of not knowing where the bathroom is or how to use the revolving door (I have a master’s degree…how hard can this be), I was acutely aware that I was about twenty years younger than everyone else. While touring the space, one of my coworkers commented on just how young I was (it’s all in the eye cream baby). She joked that I would be a “definite problem”, being a Millennial and all, and should quickly learn how to “play nice in the sandbox and wait my turn”.
Oh. Heck. No. Besides, I’ve got an app for that.
If you’ve missed the message on Millennials (you’ve probably been scrolling Instagram) then you’ve missed the barrage of television, news, and constant chatter telling us that Millennials are the worst. We’re lazy, entitled, narcissistic, unrealistic, tech-obsessed monsters who emerged from under the bed to make the world more difficult. Time Magazine called us the “Me Me Me Generation” and points to higher rates of diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder and greater numbers of us returning home to live with our parents than ever before in American history. Clearly, this must be proof that we are a different breed: a Starbucks-drenched, iPhone-addicted, job-hopping nightmare.
Although…hasn’t every generation in the past century been called some variation of lazy and criticized for their role in moving society in a different direction (remember when rock-n-roll was the worst thing those youngsters were doing?). We’re certainly not the first group to be ostracized for a different worldview than our parents. And speaking of those Baby Boomer parents of ours, wasn’t it YOU who gave us the participation trophies even when we lost and told us we could do anything we wanted and bought us those first cell phones and asked for our help with computer problems and LET US MOVE HOME?? (thanks mom and dad)
So instead of spending so much time highlighting why Millennials are the worst thing to happen to this country since the McRib, why not instead acknowledge that while we may be different, we may also have something incredible to offer. We’ve been born into a world that has been infused with technology, watched the globalization of government and big business and been exposed to the most diverse demographics in our country’s history. For employers, this has real and immediate implications. As a generation, we can influence monumental culture changes in how businesses operate in the country. Moreover, as more Millennials flood the workforce (which we will do, I promise you) you can use us as a powerful tool for employee retention, engagement, and becoming an employer of choice. Consider these examples:
1. Millennials want to be appreciated and promoted faster.
Well duh! We grew up being told college was critical as jobs and skill-based trade moved overseas. Many of us hold multiple degrees (read: insane, ramen noodle-inducing debt) and want jobs and work that match. In fact, Pew Research reports that while just 31% of our parents generation held bachelor’s degree, 58% of Millennials have at least a bachelor’s degree. Challenge us and let us work to that potential instead of keeping us at entry-level jobs simply because of our age. And appreciated? Doesn’t everyone want that at work? You’re just mad you didn’t demand it first.
2. Millennials want work/life balance.
As Millennials, it’s likely we saw parents invest in big companies that may not have survived the 90s, working moms, and hours at daycare. We know firsthand that working to the bone for a company that may be extinct sooner rather than later doesn’t equate to happiness. It’s not that we don’t want to work, it’s that we want to live full lives more. Thanks to technology, the workplace doesn’t sit in a cubicle from 9-5 anymore. Give us flexibility to work from home and walk our dogs, to start at 10 but work until 7, to leave early if the work is done. Companies that create this work environment that blends work and life often have higher employee retention and increased productivity according to Forbes.
3. Millennials are afraid to grow up.
Clearly everyone who came before us had it all figured out at 25 right? And sure, we may live at home for a while after college. I won’t even mention those “other” generations who created an economic recession that made it impossible for us to move out on our own. I’m too grown-up for that. But we may be looking for more guidance and support in learning our roles in the workforce. Many of us had involved parents and additional support. Consider your company’s development programs, mentoring opportunities, and continuing education. Instead of bemoaning that we want more help to be excellent, provide resources and then hold us accountable in being excellent.
Most importantly, we’re the largest generation in US history. We’ll soon flood the workforce impacting how business is done, who consumes products, and how society evolves. Millennials – don’t let age determine your worth. From where I’m sitting (earbuds in, drinking overpriced coffee, checking three apps on my iPhone), it makes more sense to bring us to the table than to tell us to wait our turn. From what I’ve heard, we’re not a very patient bunch.
THE MESSY MILLENNIAL is just a girl, standing in front of the world, asking them to love her. Just kidding (but only a little). We’re a platform advocating for, communicating with, and (on a good day) making the lives of Millennials a little bit more awesome. Need generational diversity consulting? Looking for tips and tricks to kick butt without apology? Craving a space to build skills to advocate for yourself or Millennials you love? We’ve got you covered like Netflix on a Sunday morning. Got questions? Find us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on IG @themessymillennial or on Twitter @mess_millennial.