You’re probably tired of hearing stereotypes about your generation, and so am I.
Related: Why Millennials Aren’t Really Lazy
Frankly, in interviewing candidates at my company, I’ve seen just as many people who disprove Millennial stereotypes as individuals who embody them. And in my experience working with members of this generation, I found that Millennials are actually some of the smartest and hardest-working people out there.
These stereotypes still persist, though, and as a Millennial, you’ll have to combat them one way or another.
The Millennial generation, which includes anyone born between 1980 and 2000, has been hit hard by the recession. Many Millennials entered a poor job market at graduation, and their income has fallen 8% since the recession began. That’s more than double the drop in salaries for the entire U.S. population.
All of this means Millennials have to fight extra hard to get and keep the jobs and lifestyles they want — including combating employer biases built on stereotypes about their generation.
Here are the stereotypes today’s young professionals are up against:
Millennials feel entitled.
Common rhetoric says Millennials have a strong sense of entitlement. They see telecommuting, flexible work schedules, a private office, and other perks from their employer as rights — not privileges.
They need constant affirmation.
Due to a trend in childrearing that emphasized constant positive reinforcement, Millennials require constant feedback, assessment, and recognition for their work.
They change jobs frequently.
Because of these expectations and the need for a fast-paced job environment and immediate opportunities for career advancement, Millennials are unlikely to stay at one job for more than a couple of years. This stereotype says that Millennials are impatient because they’ve grown up in a tech-soaked, instant-gratification world.
These images paint Millennials as a self-focused, impatient, and disrespectful generation with an overinflated sense of self-importance. As we all know, these stereotypes are simply not true across the board, but misinformation can affect your chances of landing a job and advancing in your career.
So, how do you present an image that refutes these expectations? First, by being aware of them, and then by intentionally behaving differently.
These are a few suggestions to specifically address stereotypes in a productive way:
1. Get a mentor.
Having someone on your side to give you advice and an outside perspective can make all the difference in your career. Mentors who’ve been where you are can help you work through complicated situations, and your employer will appreciate your dedication to professional growth.
2. Get a job, and stick with it.
One of the most important questions I ask potential job applicants is whether they’re seeking this job for the long term or if it’s just a stepping stone to something bigger. No employer wants to cultivate a great employee who will take off after one or two years. Be clear about your intentions from the start.
3. Set goals and achieve them.
Employers love seeing candidates who set career and personal goals and achieve them. This sends a strong message that you’re focused, goal-oriented, and capable of accomplishing what you set out to do.
4. Be humble.
No matter what successes you’ve had in the past, be unassuming as you enter the workforce. It’s better to be humble and demonstrate results than to enter with pride and achieve less than expected. Let your actions speak for you, and embrace new successes with grace.
5. Be patient.
Personal and career growth takes time. Make it clear to your employer that you’re interested in growing over the long term and contributing to your organization. Your career advancement will happen organically as you prove yourself and improve your skills.
6. Don’t take perks for granted.
Don’t assume you’re going to get all the perks you seek in a good job. Employers recovering from the recession want to use excess funds to build up cash reserves. Communicate your intention to support and build the company, and you might get more benefits in the future.
7. Be honest.
Employers want workers who are open about their achievements, failures, and intentions. Transparency goes both ways for both leadership and staff.
8. Work hard.
Put your whole heart into whatever you’re doing — no matter what part of your career you’re in. Don’t take shortcuts or over-delegate simple tasks. Work smart, and work hard.
Whether you’ve got a job or you’re looking for one, the best defense against getting pigeonholed by expectations is to be a person of integrity and to let that shine through. If you’re even half as tired of hearing these stereotypes as I am, why not actively work to change them? You’ll surprise your future employers and be more successful in your career.
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