How the Media Portrays Millennials

4 Stereotypes Gen Y May Encounter in the Job Market and Tips for Making the Best of Them

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Adrienne Waldo
Adrienne Waldo
There's been a lot of discussion about my generation, known as Gen Y or the Millennials, over the past several years. As we enter the workforce, we seem to have a polarizing effect and the conversation is sometimes tense. I think it's important for us to be aware of how we're portrayed by the media so we can highlight our positive qualities on the job and disprove the negative stereotypes. Below are some of the buzzwords used to describe Millennials and my suggestions on how to handle them.


  1. Tech Savvy: As we grew up, technology grew with us, and now one of our most desirable qualities is our intuitive knowledge of how it works and our ability to adapt to it.

    Suggestion: Live up to the hype. Always be knowledgeable about the latest technology, because you will be expected to know how to use it at some point.

  2. Socially Conscious: This one always surprises me because I don't really think of myself as an especially charitable person, and yet it's used to describe Gen Y in almost everything I read. It occurred to me that I actually am socially conscious, and I just don't think about it because it's how I was raised. From middle school all the way through college, community service was a requirement for just about everything -- student council, extracurriculars, scholarships, and the list goes on. We were rewarded for community service our whole lives, so it makes sense that we would continue it into adulthood without giving it a second thought.

    Suggestion: Bring your civic-mindedness to your job. Volunteer for your company's charitable events, start a recycling program, recruit people from your office for a charity sports team. Get creative. It shows initiative and provides a valuable service. Your company will love you for it.


  1. Entitled: As a whole, we were raised by supportive parents who told us we could do anything--and we believed them. We see ourselves as driven and confident and we take pride in that, but the generations before us want us to slow down and pay our dues. I've never been a big believer in paying dues in the traditional sense, but I do think we owe it to our leaders to earn their respect by learning from them and producing good work.

    Suggestion: Take the time to really learn your job. Don't insist on a promotion just because you've been at the company for 6 months. Earn the promotion by working hard and becoming excellent at your job, then present your managers with the tangible reasons you deserve it.

  2. Lazy: If there's one label I really abhor, it's "lazy." Gen Y -- the generation that's expected to balance full college course loads, part-time jobs, community service and internships, the generation that's forced to live with their parents so they can pay off their massive student-loan debt, the generation that's putting off marriage and children to save money -- is lazy? Excuse me? I thought about it, and I can see where they get the idea, but it's on a very superficial level. We want to dress comfortably in the office. We have myriad commitments after work, so we can't always stay late. We listen to our iPods to drown out the overwhelming noise of working in a cubicle environment. You can see how these things could be misconstrued -- sloppy, lazy, unfocused.

    Suggestion: Once you've mastered a task, volunteer to take on additional responsibility. Don't just sit around and wait for new assignments. Ask for them. Your supervisors will have no valid basis to call you lazy (even when you wear flip-flops and listen to your iPod) if you're enthusiastically putting out quality, timely work and always going back for more.

We are an incredibly diverse generation, and I recognize that it's impossible to lump all 60 to 80 million of us into four general terms. But it's important to be aware that this is how the media portrays Gen Y, and (fair or not) it may affect you in an interview or as you start a new job. Prepare yourself for the possibility that you might be underestimated, and if you are, do yourself (and your generation) a service -- prove them wrong.

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