I’m a millennial. I’m a 22-year-old recent college graduate and I cringe when I read articles about millennials in the workplace.
An Urban Dictionary post says: “At work, millennials believe themselves to be overachievers who just aren’t understood by their loser bosses.” TIME dubbed millennials as the “Me Me Me Generation.” The Atlantic called us “The Cheapest Generation.” Ouch.
A recent Burlington Free Press Article titled “Are millennials a problem? Depends on the boss” caught my attention when the company I work for, SunCommon, posted a response on Facebook. SunCommon’s co-founder Duane Peterson wrote:
“About half of SunCommon’s employees are millennials, and we couldn’t be happier. They bring great personal passion, professional eagerness, desire for fulfilling work, sincere collaboration and wonderful energy. Sure, they don’t sign on through retirement. But while here, they help build our values-led business and gain great experience for themselves, before heading off to their next great adventure — with our blessing. And these comings and goings mean we access fresh energy, diverse backgrounds and new thinking. Millennials, like all other employee groups, are most productive and fulfilled when employers respect their attributes and meet their needs. Millennials rock our workplace.”
I’m proud of where I choose to work. Duane’s posting reinforced that. But, there’s an opportunity for a larger conversation here. I felt that it would be worthwhile to address some of the common misconceptions about my generation in the workforce – and let the readers of the DailyUV get to know me a bit better in the process. So hello! I’m Becca.
Understanding Millennials in the Workplace
Q So Becca, you’re a 22-year-old in the workforce. Why did you choose to work for SunCommon after college?
A I was really drawn to the mission-based work that we do. Not only is SunCommon a solar company working toward building a clean energy future but we are a Vermont Benefit Corporation and certified BCorp which means we attend to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. SunCommon chose to be legally bound to put employees, our communities and the habitat that sustains us all on equal footing with making a profit.
When I was getting ready to graduate from the University of Vermont I knew I wanted to live back home in Hartford and be able to work somewhere that improved my community. This job was really a dream come true. I, like many millennials, am very civic-minded. According to William Strauss and Neil Howe, the creators of the term “Millennial”, “each generation has common characteristics that give it a specific character.” According to their theory, Millennials have a strong sense of community, both local and globally, much like the earlier G.I. Generation. I feel like most people my age are more interested in why they work somewhere rather than what they are doing.
Q Okay, so there is a commonly held belief that millennials can be difficult to work with and have been described as “acting entitled.” How true do you think that is?
A Well everyone is different and you can be rude no matter what age you are! But, my age group is in a unique quandary. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 95% of Vermont millennials have achieved a high school degree or higher yet we’re struggling to find employment that provides a livable wage. As the children of the Baby Boomer generation, millennials are the largest living generation meaning we need a lot more jobs to employ us. According to Forbes, by 2020, millennials will be nearly half of all workers.
Knowing this, I imagine most millennials are just frustrated that they are in debt but not making enough money at work to offset their student loans. I can see how that frustration would breed some resentment and a sense of entitlement.
Q Sure, but doesn’t it seem like twenty-somethings are ALWAYS on their phones or fiddling with social media? Are they ever working?
A I know I have to be careful about using my phone at work by keeping it out of sight so I don’t distract myself. But, I think the phone is as distracting as staring out the window or just spacing out. For me, I use my phone for work. As a Solar Organizer, I work out in the community by hosting educational presentations, fun events and solar home visits. Because of this my phone is my lifeline. Whether I am GPSing my next location, checking on the status of my events, skimming my emails, or texting coworkers to figure out logistics, my phone is really just a mini computer.
Q What’s one thing you wish you could change about people’s perceptions of millennials in the workplace?
A I’d change the perception that we won’t work hard, or that we need to be treated with kid gloves. I love my job, and I take it seriously, but yeah sometimes I need to be told there is a better way to do my job. I need feedback and constructive criticism. I wish more employers were like mine and understood that millennials are valuable employees no matter their age.
Q How often do you get asked to fix someone’s computer or phone?
A Ha! Not often at work, but when I was first elected to the Hartford Select Board I felt like when a tech glitch happened a lot of eyes turned to me. Luckily I am blessed with two great IT guys, one at work and one for the town. Phew!
Q How has social media impacted your work life?
A I am pretty good at keeping a low, uncontroversial profile on Facebook. I try to be careful about what I post because I know it reflects not only on me but my employer, too. I like working with social media. I mean, who doesn’t love taking a great selfie next to an electric vehicle and tweeting about it?!
Q Last question, why do you think millennials get a bad rap by employers?
A My millennial generation is not entirely different than older generations. Research shows that “millennials change jobs for the same reasons as other generations.” We want more money and a more innovative work environment. Additionally, millennials look for versatility and flexibility in the workplace, and strive for a strong work–life balance in their jobs. I think it is just the classic “younger people don’t get it” mentality that can happen with each new generation. Baby-boomers felt it with their parents, and I know with my mom when she was in her twenties she had trouble fitting in with elders at her jobs. And to take some of the blame, we millennials probably take too many selfies.