In case you hadn't heard, the world is obsessed with millennials.
Companies pay millions to market to them as their core consumers, while hiring managers and corporations are adapting their culture, benefits, and management style to better understand and cater to this specific generation.
Millennials have taken a lot of flak and earned a reputation for being entitled and lazy; basically, the idea is that "they expect a lot without putting in the time or hard work." Millennials this, millennials that. Honestly, I've heard and read so many comments about this generation — my generation — that have been so completely off-base that I've been left shaking my head in disbelief. I also find it ridiculous that an entire generation that spans roughly 18 years is placed into a tiny box and assumed to be exactly the same.
I am the unicorn of the bunch — an old millennial at 36 years old (and according to this article, I wouldn't even qualify unless you're using Pew's definition). I'm young and in it enough to know most of what I am required to know as a member of this secret society, but occasionally find myself completely clueless with certain new apps or slang terms (Urban Dictionary ftw — that's for the win, btw). I also find that I identify with both Gen X and millennials on different issues. I am smack dab in between the two.
Apparently I wasn't the only person to recognize this, as a new term was recently coined: I discovered I am now a Xennial... simply put, it's a more polite way to say hey, hi, yes — you're an old millennial.
Great, another box. I imagine I am not the only one frustrated with the need for all these classifications. So, let me share some insider information about what I do know about millennials — and what I know about Gen X when it comes to the workplace. Because as a Xennial, I am a little bit of both, and I'd like to set the record straight.
1. Millennials are lazy.
First, can we talk about the lazy thing? This generalization alone burns my britches as nearly every millennial I know is hustling hard (including me). I have a full-time day job, freelance on the side, and serve on the board of an arts nonprofit. Oh, and did I mention I am also a single mom? I say this not to toot my own horn, but the fact is, though the situations differ and circumstances vary greatly, I don't know any millennials — young or old — who aren't planning and trying to further their careers, lives, and/or overall financial well-being.
2. Millennials are entitled.
As I mentioned, millennials are ambitious and willing to work hard to further their careers and professional success, but our approach is what differs. Gen X had/has a healthy respect for their superiors — they believe that job title and experience demands said respect, and will usually complete a task without questioning it, whereas millennials are more likely to discuss why they are being asked to do a task (to better understand the overall process). However, this is not to say respect is not given to our managers, we just give and expect more of an open dialogue.
3. Millennials expect their hands to be held instead of just doing their job.
Millennials are more likely to question the status quo. However, this is not out of insubordination, but curiosity for the process and desire to be coached/mentored. With that being said, we don't expect special treatment or hand holding; we just want to do our jobs to the best of our ability, and we crave growth. Millennials often get a bad rap because they expect more collaboration and mutual respect, which is still a new idea in a lot of companies.
4. Millennials aren't easy to manage and think they're smarter than everyone else.
What I see (and love) about my generation is that it's become more acceptable to fail and then get up and try again. In fact, millennials are some of the most resilient people I know. Being willing to admit mistakes or when they are at fault makes them much more open to change and innovation. It goes without saying that millennials are extremely adaptable and hungry to grow, and just hope for the guidance from their manager in order to meet their goals.
5. Millennials are job hoppers and not loyal employees.
More than any generation before them, Gen Y is more about working to live, as they search more thoroughly for personal fulfillment in their career, dualized with the ability to give back to society as it applies. We have options and we know it, whether it comes down to benefits, flexibility, or salary. Knowledge is power, so why are we wrong for researching and putting it (and the resources available to us) to use as it benefits us?
While the generalizations made for millennials do not represent my reality, for others they may present some truth. I believe that overall it is irresponsible (and maybe even dangerous) to assign a broad statement to any group or generational class.
The underlying theme here is that millennials have expectations and desires for their careers, and we know we have a choice as we lay the foundation for our professional lives and happiness. Millennials are often faulted for it and looked upon in a negative light, but I see it as a positive that we are doing our research and arming ourselves with the power to shape our careers as we see fit.
Karen Schneider works for bareMinerals in Global Packaging + Creative Services and has worked in a variety of industries over the span of her career, including digital media, fashion & apparel, and wine & spirits. She is currently a contributor to The Muse and Career Contessa and has been featured on Business Insider and Harvard Business Review for her career advice. She's obsessed with learning, life, and career/self-improvement.