We’ve been called entitled and sensitive; we've been categorized by our constant need of positive feedback; we've been labeled as only able to work in collaborative environments where we can share our ideas and voice our opinions. Many call us snowflakes and we have been ridiculed for our politically correct approach to, well, everything and everyone.
But I think the truth is that Millennials are finding themselves in an interesting position socially. And as one, I may argue that we are one of the most hated age demographics currently in the workforce — and we are well aware of it. However we are also the most aggressively humanitarian and environmentally conscious, fighting everything from systemic racism and misogyny to the ethics of plastic straws.
This dichotomy is causing us to feel alienated and disconnected from potential mentors and influencers in our immediate social circles. We need support, and this can be a difficult reality for us to grip, especially when you've been telling yourself for months that you've got things under control. As a group, we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders.
So I am asking on behalf of many of us for help. Help us lift the weight of these assumptions and allow us to show you who we really are. So, here are five things to keep in mind when working with Millennials as mentors, contemporaries and, hopefully, advocates.
Stay open-minded. Set aside the inflammatory articles you've seen, most certainly the Twitter rants about Millennials forgoing purchasing homes to buy artisan toast. For many of us, student loan debt and stagnant wages are very real roadblocks impeding us from certain financial freedom. And this is just one example of a harmful idea deepening the intrinsic generational differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers. All we ask for, from mentors and superiors, is an understanding that we want to live full and happy lives — and our inability to do so isn't necessarily due to an addiction to expensive restaurants. Approach Millennials with understanding, not prejudgment.
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Take interest. I'll admit that even I have difficulty pivoting to the next trend or keeping up-to-speed with the latest humanitarian effort of my peers. But this intensity that Millennials posses for activism comes from a good place. Don't take offense that we're no longer using plastic straws, embrace it. Don't worry that our Instagram is keeping us constantly up-to-date on the latest brand to boycott, simply ask us about it. We're very passionate, and we'll tell you what's on our mind.
Be relatable. Whether we're on a social media platform or meeting for drinks, Millennials share their experiences with each other constantly and in very honest (occasionally hyperbolic) ways. But echo-chambers are notoriously bad at broadening perspectives and creating unconventional connections. We need Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to share their experiences with us in order to better relate and diversify our approach to solving problems. Your vulnerability and enlightened perspective will go a very long way.
Hold us accountable. We thrive on feedback and while this often gets skewed as a need for only "positive" feedback, I'd like to raise an alternative view. Remember, we're entrepreneurial. More than a quarter of Millennials are self-employed. Many own their own businesses on average at age 27, almost a decade earlier than previous generations. Lean in to our inclination toward entrepreneurship by giving us clear direction and feedback. If you make us aware of the areas we lack knowledge and experience, please steer us in the right direction. We'll take it to heart and adjust accordingly.
Embrace who we are. Since we were children, our parents reinforced the notion that we could be whatever we wanted to be. And many of us are still taking this message to heart at our 9-5 jobs or on weekends as a side hustle. Having fun and embracing our dreams will always appeal to us, so keep a light approach — not everything needs a stuffy overtone or synthetic layer of professionalism. This will help us lower our guard and, in turn, be more receptive to your guidance.
That all said, I acknowledge that broad, sweeping claims and over-simplification can be misleading and, therefore, everything should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. But it is this very phenomenon that has heavily contributed to many of the misconceptions about Millennials' characters.
As the workforce shifts we owe it to ourselves to put those preconceived notions aside and learn, in real time, from the individuals we encounter. Ultimately let's all commit to continued improvement and support of one another.