3 Stereotypes About Millennials That Are Totally False

Do you find yourself arguing with the media about how you are portrayed? As professors, we see firsthand the difference between what people think about millennials, and what is actually true.

1. Millennials are not as entrepreneurial as previous generations.

A recent study found that there are about a third as many millennials who are entrepreneurs as their parents. Thankfully, a snapshot in time is not cemented in stone. While the recession has made some millennials cautious about striking out on their own, there is evidence that millennials have that entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it is Air Force Pilots starting a social business like FlyingScarfs.com, introducing new technology, or launching a new music service, millennials are definitely entrepreneurial. The Air Force pilots who started FlyingScarfs.com, served in Afghanistan and are wonderful examples of seeing a problem and running head first into it to help to solve it through developing a social business. They are employing women in Afghanistan who would not otherwise have an opportunity to earn money for their families, by buying their beautiful scarfs and selling them here in the U.S. 

This past week, Aneil got to witness entrepreneurship in action at North Carolina Central’s School of Business, which he joined a month ago. Through the School’s The Eagle Soars New Venture Challenge, two finalist teams competed in front of a panel of venture capitalists and serial entrepreneurs. Prior to the final competition, each team had been coached by EntreDot which “helps entrepreneurs create, launch, and operate their businesses by providing mentoring and business education.” 

Each team made a roughly 30-minute presentation, and then the real fun started as each team was grilled by the panelists about every aspect of their proposals, including marketing, distribution, financials, and executive talent. At the conclusion, individual and team awards were announced. One of the analysts received a $1,000 cash award for the excellence of his work in helping develop his team’s presentation.  Each team made a compelling enough presentation to be awarded three months at a local incubator where they will be given additional guidance in getting their ideas to market. Given that this was the very first year for the Venture Challenge, their performance was all the more impressive. 

2. Millennials don’t know how to sell themselves in an interview.

A recent article lamented that fact that millennials just don’t know how to translate their skills and experience into a meaningful conversation during a job interview.  There might be some students who have a hard time expressing themselves — but only if they haven’t spent enough time preparing for an interview.

If colleges help them learn how to translate their skills and talents into a story about who they are and what they have to contribute, millennials will be able to tell a story that gets them hired! One of Karen’s former students has done a fantastic job taking his work experience with Apple, parlaying that into a new tech job at General Motors.  He was able to do this by telling a story about how his experience, skills, and goals all were relevant and would help GM achieve their tech goals.

3. Finally, millennials care only about getting rich.

A recent PolicyMic article discussed this very concept and observed that it is not about just getting rich. They have had to witness our generation lose jobs, lose the value of our homes and even lose our retirement savings. They have had to worry about money, if only because the recession has forced them to. Fortunately, if our kids and their peers are any indication, this generation is well-equipped to give back.   Friday was Special Olympics day at our kids’ high school. They helped with face-painting and were paired up as buddies to the younger athletes. Their high school has been doing this for 28 years, which is a good indication that this is a timeless  way to give back. My college students are giving back during finals by writing marketing plans for local nonprofit organizations. Non-profits cannot always afford to hire marketing folks, so this is a way for my students to learn marketing as well as for them to give back to the community our college is in.

As the recent PolicyMic article hinted, it is easy to lump all millennials together to make snap judgments, “But missing from these discussions is the nuance within the generations themselves that lead to very diverse experiences.”

What experience do you have that disputes these myths? While it is tempting to share the negative stories, we need to focus on the positive ones. 

Aneil and Karen Mishra are business school professors and authors of Trust is Everything (2008) and Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012).