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Posted by on Dec 8, 2015

Millennials: Are We Really Any Different?

Millennials: Are We Really Any Different?

Millennials, Generations working togetherI’m a Millennial. There, I admitted it…but just barely. As most determine this generation to be born roughly after 1980 and brought up in the new millennium, I was born in 1983 and I’ll be honest, it’s not always great to be looped in with kids who were texting at 10. My favorite toy growing up was called playing outside. If a teacher called home, you better believe my mom did NOT give her the third degree about unfairly blaming me for something. I spend my teen summers working (mostly internships, but I also did my stint in character-building retail). I worked hard in college, graduated with a job, and spent the first two years of my work life putting in massive hours at a PR agency. I was one of the first ones in, and often one of the last ones to leave. Did I want a promotion? Sure. But I was entry level, paying my dues, just getting started.

After a few years, I noticed the new employees starting out didn’t quite have the same motivation my friends/co-workers did. Without a doubt, they seemed to exhibit the characteristics – or perceptions – Millennials can’t seem to shake: acting entitled, overly-confident, not being willing to take time to learn, etc. Was I immune to these behaviors? I’m sure I wasn’t. But, even I saw things where I just wanted to say: “Oh….come on guys!”

In July, I attended the Federally Employed Women (FEW) National Training Program. There, a colleague of mine, Jamie Neidig, presented a session titled “What All Feds Need to Know about the Workforce: Analyzing the Data.” Once the generational discussion started, I was a bit fearful as the majority of the room was self-identifying as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Sure enough, when participants listed attributes of Gen X we heard: Motivated, hardworking, go-getters…but we also heard yuppies, entitled, and safe. Millennials got: Impatient, entitled, spoiled…and educated, bright, and eager. See any similarities? What’s more, Jamie showed Time Magazine covers from the 90’s complaining about how awful Gen X was…and then showed a similar disparaging cover about the Millennial “me me me” generation. Her point? How a generation seems in their youth is not who they will grow up to be.

Already we’re seeing misconceptions of Millennials: A lot of that eagerness we have? It may be tied to the fact we hit the workforce during a recession; we want to do well quickly so we won’t be part of the unemployed faction of Millennials. In fact, Deloitte University Press debunked four myths about Millennials in the Federal government, specifically:

  1. Millennials have higher turnover rates than prior generations.

Nope. Well, yes, there are high turnovers, but not any more so than with other generations.

  1. Millennials are less passionate about their jobs in government.

Not really. “The perception that young government employees are less engaged may be an artifact of the overall decline in government employee engagement of all generations.”

  1. Millennials don’t stick around—they’ll decamp to the private sector in a heartbeat.

Most likely no…at least when asked their likelihood of looking for another job in the next year, fewer Millennials said yes than did Gen Xers at that age.

  1. It’s harder to recruit Millennials for public service than previous generations.

Well…The truth is, Millennials do have requests for their work environment. That’s what we’ve seen and heard is available. Should we demand it? Probably not. But for the time being, it seems we as a generation are more interested in the work we do than where we do it.

Truth be told there are young people in the workforce just completely epitomizing everything “wrong” with Millennials; but there are also those breaking through every stereotype and doing amazing things, earning respect from their older coworkers. From Jamie’s presentation, I realized, the youngsters in the workforce will probably always get the worst rap (accurate or not)….so right now, it’s the Millennials’ turn.

But who’s next, and what name will they get? Some suggest coming up we’ve got “Gen We” – aptly named for their wired and connectedness, but also as a backlash to the Millennial “Me Generation.” Others suggest “Gen 9/11,” noting anyone born after 9/11 would experience a world significantly different than anyone born before. There’s also the “Post Generation.” These all will experience life post Facebook, smartphones, and Obama. And while the “Millennial” name quickly took over our original name – “Generation Y” – the newbies coming in could make up “Generation Z.”

Either way, I bet in their early twenties everyone else will find them overeager and not willing to pay dues. Sorry, kids, it’s your turn…


  1. Young people are often get unfairly labeled…and that’s true of each and every generation. If you’re under 30, everyone older than that looks at you as someone inexperienced with nothing to contribute but to do the job you were hired to do. When I was in that under 30 crowd, that’s how people treated me. I see the same when my colleagues interact with millennials. Furthermore, I think those things people say about millennials are not true for all. Some do stick around for a while. Some are very passionate about public service. Some are eager to learn and want to be the best they can be. Some do cherish their government job and many seek out a position in public service and are recruitable. Sure, some millennials aren’t interested in a career in public service and some of those tho choose to accept a government job only do so to hang their hat until something better comes along. But it’s been my experience that those aren’t the norm; however, all of the millennials get lumped in together and get treated the same. I guess that’s the very essence of any type of discrimination: formulating judgments and opinions about people based not on their individual merit but on their membership in a class with assumed characteristics.

  2. In my workplace dealings with millennials, I have often been impressed with their ability to understand their environment and adapt to it. My Baby Boomer generation did not possess the open-mindedness and willingness to deal with an incredibly diverse world as we see today (even though they initiated many changes). Yet millennials seem to embrace change more readily and exhibit a courage and confidence to navigate the choppy waters of changing values, social media, more restrictive (and abundant) laws, the environment and other barriers that were not present in the “good old days.” It may be that as they age, they will approach life differently but time will be the test in this fast-paced, incredibly dynamic world we see now. They do not seem to chain themselves to the notion of loyalty as in past generations but pursue an alternate path where the greater good is better served. Say what you like, but I feel that the millennials are just the thing that the world needs – I love them all!

  3. It’s so great to hear others outside of the Millennial age group commend individuals they’ve worked with that act contrary to these perceptions. It can be frustrating at times to hear all the other generations in the workforce negatively stereotype anyone in that “Millennial” bucket, so I appreciate people speaking out on their positive experiences!

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