Millennials Anonymous: Can We Use Our Habits for Good?
At a family wedding this summer, I found myself cornered in a conversation with a relative. I was trying to tell him about the Venture for America fellowship that I’m doing the first two years out of school. He shook his head and starting comparing me to a new analyst at his firm. The analyst was fresh out of college and a “typical Millennial;” always on his iPhone, wanting constant mentorship, and expecting instant praise for his work. The relative went on, groaning about how all the kids my age are just too impatient and not willing to spend the expected time in the trenches.
I had no idea what to say. He was describing me perfectly.
There are a lot of valid reasons Millennials get a bad rap. We’re often described as narcissistic and lazy, dependent on technology and dangerously addicted to social media. In the professional world, there is a lot of talk about Millennial entitlement. We wait around withpassions in our pockets and waning attention spans. We want to change the world and make a lot of money and still have enough time to enjoy our successes.
These tendencies work to our detriment and may even explain theyouth unemployment problem. Instead of living in denial, I think it’s important that I accept them and own up to some of my generation’s habits. At Venture For America Training Camp this summer, I heard many of the perceptions that others have of my generation and me. In between skills training and challenges, the 2013 Fellowship class heard from multiple speakers on what its takes to be a valuable startup employee. Listening to their advice, I realized that a lot of our Millennial-isms could actually be harnessed and redirected for good, particularly for startups and growth companies.
Narcissistic > Understand personal branding
It’s true; we are concerned with our image and how we come off to strangers. This awareness makes us acutely attuned to understanding how quickly a reputation or brand can be tarnished (cough…Anthony Weiner). Our heightened sensitivity to brand image and perception makes us effective bellwethers for companies.
Lazy > Resourceful
Many things have been handed to us on a platter. We are unaccustomed to doing menial tasks and generally look for shortcuts for difficult tasks. Although we need to be willing to work hard, our laziness makes us highly resourceful. We uncover all sorts of tools and apps to make processes easier and share them freely with others.
Dependent on Technology > Digitally oriented
Growing up with constantly changing technologies, we are very comfortable adapting to new systems and technologies. We are confident in our ability to troubleshoot, making us self-sufficient IT problem solvers. Our orientation to all things digital makes us fearless in increasingly tech-heavy business settings.
Addicted to social media > Engaged in our networks
Our connectedness might seem self-indulgent, but when we need to acquire users or build a captive audience, our twitter lists and LinkedIn contacts will come in handy. Instead of sending out 50 requests via e-mail, we make 3 posts on social media platforms. Being keyed into our networks all the time also enables us to leverage and influence them when needed.
Passion in our pockets > Driven by our values
In addition to being the “Net Generation,” we are also “Generation We;” we are unwilling to work on things we don’t care about. While our interests and values may vary, we need to be tied to them. This quality drives Millennials to devote their time to solving the world’s biggest challenges, always looking for passion in their work. Purpose-driven team members will help amplify and reinforce the deeper mission of their companies.
Waning attention spans > Adaptive to information overload
Our attention is limited to 20-min lectures, 140-character updates, and 6-second videos. We are able to respond to mass amounts of information in short periods of time. Our brains are used to being time-efficient and working in multiple platforms simultaneously.
Hi, my name is Shilpi and I’m a Millennial, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.
Originally published on Perspectives by Better Weekdays in July 2013.