Breaking the Stereotype – How I Overcame the Bad Rap Against Millennials in the Job Market

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I’m not sure if you’re sick of articles criticising millennials yet – because I am. Countless articles have been written about millennials and the many (bad) traits associated with those born between 1981 to 2000 – namely a sense of entitlement, a tendency to overshare on social media, excessive frankness, bad financial management, job-hopping, and more.

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’ll share this. By definition, I belong to this millennial group, but I never knew I was one until I googled the age group. *insert see-no-evil monkey emoji*

I was born in 1988. I feel anything but young, and I never knew that someone in their late 20’s, let alone 30’s, would qualify as a millennial.

I’ve been hearing a lot of bad rap against millennials, and I thought it was about “those kids born in 2000 onwards”. Imagine my shock when I found out that these articles were saying that *I* possess a sense of entitlement, excessive frankness, bad financial management, etc.

I look at these four myths surrounding millennials and don’t feel like I can relate at all. In this article, I argue that maybe, it’s our current environment which propagates these myths.

1. Job-hopping

To say that millennials are the ones who are job-hopping and not serious about their jobs isn’t a fair statement.

According to data from Pew Research in Forbes (January 2018), its research implies that “millennial turnover and employer loyalty is comparable to, if not slightly better than, at least one generation that came before them – as long as you compensate for the age discrepancies”.

Besides, what qualifies as job-hopping is subjective. For some, leaving the job after 6 months is considered job-hopping, while for others, it’s only once you leave after 3 years!

Personally, my experience tells me that you’ll be able to learn everything in your role within half a year, master it within a year, and then make adjustments or mentor people of similar roles from the second year onwards. Once someone completes this cycle, it’s natural for them to move on – driven by the desire to learn something new and push themselves more.

Millennials have also been accused of job-hopping for the money. This, I believe can be true of any employee – not just millennials. For example, I took a pay cut at one of my past jobs because it offered me the flexibility that other jobs don’t. It was worth it for me. It’s not always about the money.

I’ve been working for more than seven years now, and I’ve never stayed less than two years at any job I’ve held. I don’t consider that job-hopping since I do believe that moving on to other opportunities is a personal choice that is usually governed by every individual’s convictions, priorities and lifestyle.

2. Living on credit

Can you guess which generation is struggling the most with credit card debts? It’s not the millennials.

A report in USA Today showed that the generation with the worst credit score is Generation X (ages 35-49). In fact, according to another CNN report, less than a third of millennials own a credit card, stigmatised by the damage they’ve seen caused by debt.

Although the statistics are based on American data, most articles written about millennials are not localised anyway. They’re implied to apply to all millennials from every tribe and nation.

The recent research by the Asian Institute of Finance reported in The Star that Malaysian millennials’ have poor financial management. However, the report doesn’t account for the millenials’ older counterparts – with research respondents being mainly millennials themselves. This makes the report a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Based on research alone, it isn’t true that millennials are the only ones who live on credit or are overspending. I think that financial management is something everyone struggles with, whether you are a millennial or a Gen X.

Personally, I’m thankful that I had a first job which required me to spend 25% of my take-home salary on fuel and tolls (I was working 50km from home). It forced me to manage my money wisely. This is on top of my loans, my personal expenses, and money for my parents.

But I never lacked anything. I tried my best to ensure I never spent on what I could not afford or using “future money” because I know that it’s a trap I’ll fall for every month if I were to always use next month’s salary as an excuse to spend.

3. Oversharing on social media

This is perhaps one of the biggest problems today, and I won’t deny it. But again, to single out millennials and say that they’re the only ones hooked on social media as opposed to previous generations isn’t true.

I know older people who can’t stop sharing their experiences because they’re so intrigued by the wonder of social media.

At my last job, a regional tech start-up, the CEO was my age, and the average employee was 27 years old. This means that most of the employees are millennials.

But I’ve seen how they maintain professionalism and are not overly obsessed with their phones. It was always work over checking their social media feeds, and their experience with social media was just to complement their knowledge of the target market.

4. Frankness verging on subordination

This is a tough one because I struggle with it too. I think even those born from the 1950’s to the 1970’s would have been called “too honest” at some point, even if they were just speaking their minds.

While I’m a firm believer in earning respect by showing respect, the fact that different companies operate with different work cultures add to the confusion.

For example, if a company culture thrives based on the philosophy that “everyone’s opinion matters”, then any opinion is welcomed. However, if the company culture is top-down and is not very open, then frankness can be seen as rudeness.

The key here is balance and sensitivity. Just because the company says that you can say anything, doesn’t necessarily mean you can speak without restraint. Nobody likes being spoken to rudely. Use common sense before saying what you need to say.

Leadership and authority are important for order in any organisation. Imagine if the country had no laws or law enforcing officers – what would happen?

In my last two jobs, I’ve been blessed with inspirational and helpful bosses. Although they were intelligent and experienced, they often sought my opinion and made me feel valued.

I felt like I could make mistakes, and yet I made sure I didn’t, motivated by the trust I received. But just because the communication lines were open didn’t mean I should abuse it. I respected them as fellow human beings, and when I needed to tell them something I thought they did wrong, I did it with love and politeness. I wanted them to understand that I shared it for their good. They accepted feedback positively, and I did the same.

***

I hope you realise by now that I don’t disagree that millennials do struggle with these traits. However, it’s not fair to single the millennial generation out.

Much of the research which makes these claims don’t do a fair comparison. To be able to definitively say that millennials are worse than the previous generation – well you’d need to compare them while accounting for the age-bracket, time-period, and economic conditions. Only then would it be truly fair and accurate.

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