By now you’ve seen – or read about – the Millennials skit on Saturday Night Live. Maybe you thought some of it sounded familiar. Maybe you thought it completely missed the mark. Maybe you even laughed … a little.
When it comes to Millennials, who now make up the largest workforce demographic, there are still a lot of misconceptions. The SNL skit, portraying a “workplace drama” centered on “beautiful twentysomethings trying to find the success and love they’re entitled to,” hit on a few of the most common knocks on Millennials. You know which ones: hoodie-wearing, tech-addicted, entitled kids who are just generally super annoying.
Truth be told, Millennials may face more stereotyping in the workplace than others, and experts say this can potentially impact their goals and futures. Especially considering that many of the stereotypes simply don’t hold water. For example, Millennials aren’t all 22-years-old; the oldest among them are in their mid-30s.
“What I find interesting is that it is such an intensive stereotype generation and they are entering the workforce with a reputation already in place which makes it very hard for young people starting their careers because they’re starting by having to overcome a series of negative stereotypes,” says Lauren Stiller Rikleen, author of You Raised Us - Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams, and president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.
We caught up with Rikleen for another round of Millennial myth-busting. Here is a look at five assumptions we’re still getting wrong about Millennials.
- Myth: They’re Not Parents
Fact: Data shows that the average age of women giving birth for the first time is rising, and it’s true that the number of American women having kids after age 35 is on the rise. But this doesn’t mean Millennials aren’t starting families. In fact, nearly all new mothers – about 90 percent – were Millennials last year, and overall Millennials account for 80 percent of new parents. In reality, there are Millennial women who are “opting” out of parenthood. Recent studies by Pew and Harvard Business School revealed alarming trends about how Millennial women are viewing their work-life prospects. However, this data may suggest Millennials are simply approaching parenthood more cautiously after having seen their own parents struggle with unexpected work-life conflict. “Even if they’re having children a little bit later, they are thinking about work-life integration long before they have kids,” Rikleen says.
- Myth: They’re Not Loyal
Fact: This myth is related to the job-hopping stereotype Millennials have been saddled with since the oldest among them entered the workforce a decade ago. In this new world of work, people simply aren’t spending decades with one employer anymore. The median employee tenure for all wage and salary workers was 4.6 years in January 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment tenure trends are more a product of the times than they are a legitimate critique of Millennial loyalty. In fact, Millennials are very loyal, but they tend to be loyal to individuals rather than institutions. “They will be intensely loyal to their superiors, their boss or manager they perceive has their back and cares about their career growth and development, but there is no particular loyalty to the organization for the sake of the organization,” Rikleen says.
- Myth: They’re Lazy
Fact: The “lazy” label definitely doesn’t fit Millennials, according to Rikleen, who conducted a survey of Millennials when doing research for her book. By a huge majority, she found Millennials to be “absolutely, very committed” to their jobs and they do see themselves going above and beyond. They do embrace the “work smarter, not harder” mentality, she says. “It’s a generation likely to work to live rather than live to work.”
- Myth: They’re Entitled
Fact: Entitlement is the classic example of the you-raised-us-now-work-with-us conundrum Rikleen explores in her book. The issue of entitlement continues to crop up as Millennials advocate for themselves and have the audacity to expect more than a paycheck from their employers. This is a generation that was raised to be self-confident, built up with constant affirmations (participation trophies, anyone?) and inspired to “Lean In” in the workplace. The problem, Rikleen says, is that self-confidence can be misread as entitlement.
- Myth: They’re Praise-Seeking Missiles
Fact: It’s not praise, but feedback that Millennials really crave is feedback. They want to learn on the job, and want to learn from their assignments. When it comes to feedback, they do want to receive it more than once a year in a performance evaluation, but they aren’t looking for everyday acknowledgment. “The myth is they always want to be told they are doing well. That’s not accurate or fair,” Rikleen says.
Now, as far as the social-media addiction goes... Can't argue with that Pete Davidson selfie spot.