Millennials in the workforce respond to generational stereotypes

Westminster College millennials and local business representatives met at an event called Millennial Corporate Dialogue on Feb. 22 at Westminster on the Draw. The event  was intended to break stereotypes about millennials in the workplace through dialogue between millennials and local businesspeople. Photo by Summer Shumway.

Westminster College millennials and local business representatives met at an event called Millennial Corporate Dialogue on Feb. 22 at Westminster on the Draw. The event  was intended to break stereotypes about millennials in the workplace through dialogue between millennials and local businesspeople. Photo by Summer Shumway.

Though students across the nation respond to the stereotypes associated with the millennial generation in different ways, many said they use them as motivation and an opportunity to learn.

Millennials (Generation Y) are typically considered individuals born between the early '80s and early 2000s.

Austin Johnson, the manager/operator of American Auto Group and a millennial, said he's noticed some of the negative stereotypes while on the job.

"Many times when I'm working a business deal, I notice people are hesitant when they notice my age," Johnson said. "I think they sometimes think you are entitled or arrogant simply because of the stereotypes around millennials."

However, not every stereotype associated with millennials is negative.

Jordan Pryor, a Westminster College alumnus, is the owner of Reach Socks and a millennial. Pryor said he has noticed the good side of stereotyping while working various jobs and has particularly benefited from the idea that the millennial generation is tech savvy.

"They would look to me for fresh ideas and my input on tech-related ideas," Pryor said in an email. "I have not experienced being stereotyped in a negative way in the workplace yet."

Whether the stereotypes about millennials are positive, negative or both, the generation has sparked plenty of interest.

Westminster hosted its third annual 'Millennial Corporate Dialogue' on Feb. 22, an event created by business professor Michael Pacanowsky where students and businesspeople can come together to talk about the role of millennials in the workplace.

Austin Johnson, the manager/operator of American Auto Group, goes over a recent transaction. Johnson is a millennial and said he uses stereotypes that his generation are lazy and entitled as a way to stay motivated and work harder. Photo by Marcus Dahle.

Austin Johnson, the manager/operator of American Auto Group, goes over a recent transaction. Johnson is a millennial and said he uses stereotypes that his generation are lazy and entitled as a way to stay motivated and work harder. Photo by Marcus Dahle.

“This subject is something that people are interested in learning about,” said Susan Arsht, a visiting assistant professor and an associate at Westminster's Center for Innovative Cultures. “Specifically older folks are interested in learning about millennials. They want to know what millennials want in the workplace.”

About 65 people attended the event and around half were millennials—many of them first-year students at Westminster. The other half were individuals from other generations who attended on behalf of local businesses in an attempt to learn more about millennials.

At the event, millennials and local business representatives watched videos and slide shows on the topic and mingled in back-and-forth round table dialogue.

Though the discussions attempted to bridge generational differences, some people maintain the stance that the attributes associated with millennials aren’t completely off base.

Several local businesspeople at the event said they have noticed impatience is a prevalent trait among millennials in their organizations.

“The comment and frustration is that these companies have great millennials but the millennials are oftentimes too impatient to move up,” Arsht said.

However, not all local businesspeople said they see impatience as a bad quality and said it's something they are willing to work around.

Michael Zavell, an associate at the Center for Innovative Cultures, said another distinguishing trait of millennials is their desire to have jobs that matter.

“I’ve seen people where their ambition takes kind of a secondary position,” Zavell said. “A lot of the discussion at our table was millennials being willing to pursue a career that potentially pays less money as long as it’s something they are passionate about.”

The Huffington Post recently published an article about the necessity of inclusion toward millennials in the workplace. Arsht and Zavell agreed that some pieces of the narrative about millennials may be accurate but needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Brianna Koucos, director of Westminster's Career Center, said the college's millennial alumni successfully integrate into the workforce after graduation.

“Westminster millennials are open to learning and experiencing,” Koucos said. “They work really hard and apply what they learn.”

Koucos said employers around the state have told her they want more students from Westminster, citing the success they've had with the alumni from the college.

Data back up the idea that many of the stereotypes—like the idea that millennials are lazy and unemployable—aren't accurate.

The Pew Research Center provided statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that dispute much of this narrative. The data show that millennials are now one of the largest generations in the workforce and make up the largest labor force at 53.5 percent.

Pryor graduated from Westminster in August 2016 and fits into that 53.5 percent. He is a business management major and worked several jobs before becoming an entrepreneur.

“I’m currently running my own business, Reach Socks,” Pryor said in an email. “I’ve tried sales jobs and spent some time as a recruiter and neither were for me.” Another common millennial stereotype Pryor said he has noticed is that the generation is overeducated and under employed and place an emphasis on education but are unwilling to work hard or get job experience.

However, Pryor said he thinks job experience and hard work are as important as an education.

“I have found that most employers care more about experience rather than education,” he said. “Unless you have a connection of some kind, good luck landing a solid job out of college with a business degree.”

Johnson, the manager/operator of American Auto Group, recently graduated from the University of Utah with a business administration degree and said hard work has been the key to his successful career.

“In my career personally, hard work has been by far more important than the education I received,” Johnson said. “The will to drive yourself, take risks and being able to put yourself out there is much more important than my education was.”

Johnson said he uses the millennial stereotypes as motivation to work harder.

“Personally, I understand where the millennial stereotyping comes from," Johnson said. "Most my friends are educated, but they are successful because they are willing to work extremely hard. The idea that millennials don’t work hard just isn’t true and it seems to be an outdated misconception.”