Millennials: Here’s How to Rise Above Unfair Stereotypes at Work
More than ever, workplaces are seeing a wide range of ages working closely together. Baby Boomers are postponing their retirements, Gen Xers are at the height of their careers, and Millennials are rising to prominence, particularly when it comes to careers or positions that involve technology. By 2020, Millennials are projected to account for 50 percent of global working professionals. Unfortunately, there are numerous negative stereotypes about Millennials that make it difficult for them to be accepted by older colleagues. Whether it’s a colleague who doesn’t like the way you dress, or another who resents the ease with which you work with technology, being a Millennial in a workplace with older colleagues has its tough moments.
The good news is that you can navigate these difficulties and advance your career at the same time. If you’re a Millennial who feels like your generation gets a bad rap at the office, check out these ways to rise above them.
Stereotype: Millennials are entitled.
There’s a nasty notion that Millennials feel like they deserve more than they actually do. They are believed to want instant gratification, including the corner office, a pay raise, and more vacation time, before they have earned it.
Tips to rise above: Show that you’re a team player. Put the needs of your coworkers above your individual wants and ambitions. Offer to help a colleague meet her deadline, ask a more experienced co-worker to review your report, or simply bring donuts to a morning meeting and listen thoughtfully to the ideas of others. The best way to show that you are willing to pay your dues, just like the older generations, is to pay them. Accept and understand that it will take some time for you to get experience and make the career advancements you desire. If you find yourself in a position of authority, with older colleagues under your supervision, take the role seriously and earn their respect by working hard and appreciating their hard work.
Stereotype: Millennials are praise hungry.
Because of so-called helicopter parenting and the so-called participation trophy mentality, Millennials are thought to need constant affirmations of their work.
Tips to rise above: Ask your manager, as well as older teammates, for feedback that includes constructive criticism. Explain that you want to make sure you are pulling your weight and meeting their expectations. Have a mentor. Being able to take advice from someone older and wiser has many benefits. A mentor can also help you navigate parts of your career that aren’t work-related, like the office social circles and actions to avoid if you truly want to get ahead. Be willing to share some of your own insights and expertise with your mentor, too. Not only will you show that you have goals, but you will also show that you can work with others in an assertive, yet humble, manner.
Stereotype: Millennials are tech obsessed.
Millennials are so distracted by social media and selfies that they can’t focus on their work. Instead of doing real work, they spend their time in Snapchat and Instagram.
Tips to rise above: Show how your use of technology is actually helping you with your work. Tell your colleagues that you just read an awesome article that a competitor tweeted, for example. Even if they don’t admit it, understand that Baby Boomers and even some Gen Xers are most likely intimidated by the fact that you know how to use this technology. To help form relationships and build mutual respect across generations, show your older colleagues how to create their own Instagram accounts and post a group selfie at the office party. Make technology an empowering part of your job, not a distraction. That means, of course, to only use it for professional purposes when you are working or at work functions.
Let’s face it, these stereotypes are present, but they don’t have to define the Millennial generation and they certainly don’t have to define your success. There are so many Millennials that already rise above these stereotypes, and so can you. Just like your older colleagues, being stereotyped into a particular generation isn’t always fair and can sometimes feel hurtful. Instead of letting the generational gap get the best of you, embrace it, and show your colleagues what you bring to the table, not just as a Millennial, but as a co-worker.