Unfortunately, if someone asked you to guess what these words were describing, you probably wouldn’t have to think very long before you guessed “millennial.” Though the tech-savvy stereotype might be positive, most of the associations put upon millennials are less positive. If you’re a millennial, you’ve almost definitely experienced the negative effects of these associations, whether it’s just a casual eye-roll from an older family member or a rejection from a job because of an employer’s assumptions. These associations can be frustrating, insulting, and often just blatantly untrue. But there are things you can do to make yourself feel better about the label, to engage people in productive conversations about it, and to represent yourself well in a professional setting to counteract it.
1.) Do your research.
Even though both millennials and non-millennials alike seem to be wearying of the label and all the stereotypes that go with it, many resources – even respectable news sources – keep turning out stories about the group as a whole. If you google search “articles about millennials,” some of the first results you’ll get (as of this writing) are titles like “The Millennial Obsession with Self-Care,” “I’m a millennial and my generation sucks,” and “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” The thing is, though, some of the studies that lie behind many articles claiming to speak about all millennials are better- founded than others. For instance, Jessica Kriegel, author of Unfairly Labeled, explains that many of the “studies” conducted to generate clickbait-y article titles about millennials have very small sample sizes and are funded by companies with vested interests in the results. Therefore, not every article headline that you see about millennials is something you should internalize as definitely true.
2.) Challenge the label!
This is a step you can do just privately within yourself to adjust your own point of view, or when in conversation with someone who you think would be receptive to it. The idea is to think about the millennial generation the same way you would about any other huge group of people. If someone just made a sweeping generalization about a race, gender, or sexual orientation, you would probably think that it was absurd and even offensive. So why accept this kind of stereotyping about a generation? Some millennials are great at tech, but others are quite uncomfortable with it. Some are self-absorbed, while others are incredibly generous. If you wouldn’t believe a stereotype about any other kind of huge group of people, why should it be okay to say it about millennials?
3.) Don’t beat yourself up for things that aren’t your fault.
The longer that the millennial label proliferates, the more that some people are pushing back against it and pointing out how it often attributes characteristics to millennials that have nothing to do with their personalities and everything to do with current economic conditions. This video describes ways in which millennials face harder economic conditions than their parents did in many cases, thanks to factors like, for example, the student debt crisis: This isn’t to say that nothing bad that happens to you financially is your fault if you’re a millennial, or that you should throw in the towel now because you’ll never succeed. But it does mean that you should think twice before automatically accepting someone’s valuation of you as “lazy” or “entitled” just because of your age.
4.) Observe rules about polite communication.
One of the stereotypes about millennials is that while they may be great at technology, they use it very informally. Everyone knows employers are on the lookout for “good communication skills,” but this doesn’t just mean in face-to-face interactions. A millennial who can write an actual business email will often stand out to an older employer as respectful-looking and competent.
5.) Have a “growth mindset” attitude about criticism and feedback.
Another way to stand out in the professional world as a millennial is to grow a thick skin when it comes to criticism and feedback. Older employers might expect you to take feedback poorly because of stereotypes about millennials needing to be coddled and praised. Writing for Inc.com, Emily Richett says, “Show your boss and colleagues that you are not only open to constructive criticism but that you welcome the opportunity to improve. Regularly ask for feedback and make sure to implement the advice.”
6.) Don’t let the internet discourage you.
As long as articles about millennials generate traffic – which they still are doing, for now – websites will continue to publish them. Limit your intake of such articles. Often, reading them is just going to bring you down rather than open up your mind to possibilities and opportunities. Look for an article that sounds like they’ll offer positive, helpful content and ignore the rest.
There are lots of reasons that being a millennial can feel overwhelming and confusing, some of which might be related to your age and others of which might be completely unrelated to your status as a “millennial.” We specialize in working with this age group, so if there’s anything you want to talk more about you can call call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult
Envision Wellness is a private practice that offers psychotherapy, psychological testing, and life coaching in Miami, FL. Our team has a passion for helping others achieve happy, fulfilling, and change-making lives that make the world a better place. Each therapist has their areas of expertise. Not sure who you’d like to work with? Click here to schedule a free 20-minute phone consult to help you decide.
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