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15 Most Common Myths About Millennials

by Staff Writers

Also known as Generation Y, the Millennials’ coming-of-age certainly weighs on the mind of their parents, professors and potential employers, not to mention ever-looming profiteers. Like pretty much every age demographic, this one suffers beneath the weight of its own labels and myths. Some spiraled out of a small nugget of truth, while others are just patently false.

Do keep in mind that one of the research listed here replaces the big, scary prospect of actually talking to Millennials themselves. Most would probably be willing to open up and share their opinions and experiences, provided nobody approaches them in a manner embracing unfortunate youth culture stereotypes. Education and exchange remains the only viable strategy for bridging gaps and shattering misconceptions and prejudices.

  1. They’ve got severe entitlement complexes: Probably no (or not much) more than any other age bracket in a capitalist, hegemonic society, anyways. At a 2008 YPulse Youth Marketing Mashup East panel regarding Millennials in the workplace, Brazen Careerist co-founder Ryan Healey suggested that older generations may confuse their general overconfidence — a result of having the "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT EVER" mindset rammed into them very early in life — with entitlement. Saaret Yoseph, an editorial assistant at The Root, supplemented the statement by pointing out that Millennials work exceptionally hard for what they have. At least, she says, most don’t complain about giving up nights and weekends to earn their rewards.

  2. They don’t care about real social and political issues: Which, of course, is why 91% of Millennials are registered to vote, 68% participate in community service and 53% consider themselves politically active. The perception of the generation as wholly self-centered and entitled naturally fuels this myth, but growing up with ceaseless news cycles apparently engages more than isolates. In 2008, most of the youth polled admitted they follow the current political climate "somewhat closely" — far more than the apathetic and passionate combined. Nearly 60% of American college students watched the first 2008 presidential debate, and a little over 50% did so for the vice presidential equivalent.

  3. They only listen to celebrities: Only 10% of college students turn towards celebrities when looking to form cogent political opinions. Sixty-seven percent preferred parental guidance, and 70% claimed the family as their most influential institution. As much as the general public tends to tout Millennials as obsessed with fame, in reality they value the social and political input of pretty much everyone else first. For example, when it comes to inspiring individuals, 50% trusted classmates, 49% trusted professors and 47% preferred their best friends. After the family, college (58%) was the group they considered more influential. Sure they may find fashion cues in their favorite overblown, overexposed egos, but when it comes to politics, far more Millennials place their faith elsewhere.

  4. They consider themselves post-racial: The very same YPulse Youth Marketing Mashup East panel talked quite explicitly about the perception of Millennials as progressive in its racial politics. Many commentators cite their essential role in electing Barack Obama as evidence, but panel participants such as Saaret Yoseph think considerable progress is needed before slapping the "post-racial" label on a generation. She believes more Millennials hold an interest in "cultural tourism" and don’t always grasp serious social issues and subtle, institutional discrimination. Contemporary feminism, for example, wants to de-stigmatize rape and sexual assault victimhood through the SlutWalk movement. A thoroughly laudable, undeniably necessary cause, but one that doesn’t always consider the slur’s relationship to minority women. This does not mean that such a diverse demographic hasn’t considerably improved upon some of the race-based sins of its predecessors, however.

  5. They really know their way around technology: Believe it or not, Millennials are not as tech-savvy as their elders (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, peers) might think. Growing up amongst computers and rapidly evolving innovation render them generally more comfortable with accepting machines and gadgets, but not necessarily fluent in their inner workings. A study conducted by Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, covering 12 schools worldwide, revealed that the average Millennial is just as stubborn with new user interfaces and unknown design elements as anyone else. Only those with an already intimate knowledge of technology, such as a computer science professional or major, display the sort of savvy usually attributed to the generation.

  6. They tend to fall for the flashy: Jakob Nielsen’s study focused mainly on website design, but his ultimate findings easily apply to Millennial marketing strategies in general. Although they are aesthetically discerning (just like pretty much anyone else), the generation typically craves streamlined, informative, user-friendly simplicity over the big and the bold. This partially ties in with the myths touting Millennials as boasting an exceptional level of technical prowess and particularly susceptible to all things glitzy and glamorous. While they do enjoy multimedia, that doesn’t exactly mean they’ll flock to videos and music everywhere, anytime.

  7. IT’S ALL ABOUT FACEBOOK, Y’ALL: Despite the prevalence of businesses and ads on Facebook, Millennials prefer keeping the juggernaut of a social networking site personal rather than professional. To them, the spaces really are "social," not corporate. While they’ll occasionally seek out their favorite companies for the promised discounts and special offers, Jakob Nielsen found that the majority prefer gleaning detailed product and service information from official websites. Anyone hoping to reach this demographic would do well to NOT make their Facebook pages the main web presence.

  8. They slack off. A lot: The Families and Work Institute points out that a "24/7 world of business" is to blame for the generation’s seeming laziness, not an inherent aversion to work. Millennials are expected to extend their personal lives beyond the office if they hope to succeed, but this often forces them to make family second priority — a common mistake many of their own parents committed. Today, 13% fewer employees under the age of 29 genuinely desire more professional responsibilities if it means more time engaging with their workplaces. National Study of the Changing Workforce noted that men of this generation spend 4.3 hours a week with their kids; women average 30 more minutes per weekday. Men in 1977 only offered their children 1.9 hours. So asking for time off and happily taking vacation days may not necessarily indicate slacking. It might very well mean the employee in question is starting to burn out on a swelling work load. Or that his or her priorities have shifted to embrace family over career. Or, more likely, a combination of the two.

  9. They are easily distracted by social media: A positive side effect of growing up amongst high technology and social media is the ability to multitask. More comfortable (but remember — not necessarily more knowledgeable) with devices and new media than their predecessors, they are able to better see their professional potential. A Millennial logged into Twitter might not be screwing around talking about his or her lunch. He or she might very well be exchanging ideas with fellow industry professionals or wooing potential customers. The Technology Gap Survey conducted by LexisNexis found that 2/3 of Baby Boomer members blamed gadgets and other new technological developments for their peers’ perceived rudeness. Millennials considered both just part of the job. So it’s easy to see how such a disconnect, however wrong it may be, eventually fell into place.

  10. They lack loyalty: Just looking at the statistics regarding Millennial engagement with family debunks this common business myth. Authors such as April J. Perrymore, Nicole A. Lipkin, Bruce Tulgan and Jason Dorsey shoulder the blame onto the economic downturn in the late 1990s. Millennials watched Boomers and Veterans lose their jobs despite of dedicated decades, learning an early lesson in the role loyalty really plays in the corporate world. They are not incapable of the concept by any stretch of the imagination; rather, most are conditioned to approach corporations and other hierarchies with skepticism and discernment. They ask more questions and approach with more caution than their parents and grandparents, but that does not render them wholly self-centered. Many would rather bestow their fidelity onto individuals rather than institutions as well, trusting their boss without necessarily placing such faith in their own corporations.

  11. They won’t pay their professional dues: Along with slapping the "lazy" and "unmotivated" label onto Millennials, many assume they don’t really want entry-level jobs or training. They’d much rather start off in the workforce enjoying powerful positions when, in reality, such an ideal is not exactly unique to one particular age bracket. In Bruce Tulgan’s Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, he portrays this misconception as the understandable result of a generational misunderstanding. Millennials display just as much willingness to work beneath their skill and education level — the difference lay in wanting recognition for it. They don’t exactly desire perpetual praise, merely a bit of validation every once in a while that their performance and dedication are sufficient. And, of course, consideration for future promotions and responsibilities.

  12. They don’t give a dadgum about privacy: What with the posting pictures of themselves drinkin’ on the Facebooks and tweetin’ about their sexy times and all. Which is exactly why Pew Survey discovered that 71% of 18- to 29-year-olds using social media sites actively alter their privacy settings to protect themselves. Compared, hilariously, to 55% of users between the ages of 55 and 64. 44% of young internet denizens take precautions when posting up their personal information online. Despite the frequent horror stories of a young professional kicked to the curb for a racy photo or two, the majority of Millennials keep their private life private.

  13. Their age grants them an advantage in the workplace: Today’s unfortunate economic climate is not impacting older generations plagued with layoffs the worst, surprisingly enough. While such measures are indeed unfortunate, Millennials remain the demographic on the receiving end of the most negativity. Age discrimination in the workplace, according to AOL Jobs, actually favors workers over 40 rather than their peers under 30. Unemployment over 40 has risen 2.9%, compared to a 4.7% increase for the under 30 set. The study attributes this to the perception that Millennials have yet to really prove themselves in the workplace — unfortunate, really, as most would easily do so if given the opportunity. Employees age 40 and over, however, have spent enough time in the workforce to be considered reliable and worth keeping. Not to mention the fact that The Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 only protects this demographic. Anyone under 40 can forget about this legislation ensuring their rights, though some states have started helping them out as well.

  14. They want an overabundance of validation. And they want it yesterday: Obviously, such a myth inextricably ties in with the idea that the Millennial generation possesses some serious entitlement issues. Along with material rewards, they also allegedly require a bevy of praise from parents, employers, teachers and pretty much anyone else above them. While it’s true they thrive on positive feedback, claiming they require a steady stream in order to get anything done is patently absurd. Bruce Tulgan does acknowledge some degree of "high-maintenance" behavior, but notes that "the most high-performing workforce in history" would be the result. Rather than symptomatic of severe selfishness, some can easily make the argument that emphasis on positive regard (though not unconditional) marks a more humanistic turn in the corporate world — as opposed to one focused exclusively on profits.

  15. Their expectations are unrealistic: Like many myths listed here, this one does contain some kernel of truth. On the surface, it probably does seem as if many Millennials nurture some high standards and idealistic perceptions of the workforce. But this has little to do with entitlement and overestimating their importance and talents. Rather, it all boils down to education. Today’s emergent employees typically have excellent educations — regardless of whether or not they went with a community college or an Ivy League — and more training than previous generations. Such grand opportunities lead them to believe they might very well start right where higher education left them. In reality, they’ll probably start lower than that. So while many might harbor bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed outlooks regarding their future, there’s actually an understandable reason behind it.