Today’s Federal workforce is a diverse and multi-generational one. People from every age, who are at different points in their lives are converging and working in government A recent survey showed that 46 percent of Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964 – make up the workforce and Generation X and Y-ers—people born 1965 or later—make up about 53 percent.
For millennials entering the workforce, this means that different ideas will emerge, along with some misconceptions. But with a multi-generational workforce, it’s important to understand the different stereotypes and myths that are associated with each generation in order to combat them.
As part of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) Internship Program, GovLoop’s Senior Technology Editor Nicole Blake Johnson and Staff Writer, Francesca El-Attrash led a discussion that addressed the common myths surrounding millennials and gave tips on how to combat these stereotypes.These are some of the top millennial myths:
- Myth #1: Millennials are entitled. Millennials are often associated with the idea that everything is handed to them on a silver platter and that they are focused only on their own personal success. In reality, millennials want to serve more than ever. To combat this myth, you want to show that you are willing to learn and work hard. “To be valued, demonstrate your value,” El-Attrash said. Reframe your “demands” as potential areas for growth when talking to coworkers and managers. Invite constructive criticism. Once you show you are willing to make an effort, it is easier to make demands.
- Myth #2: Millennials are “job hoppers.” Millennials are said to not stick around very long when it comes to employment. However, many workers follow this trend—not just millennials. “Everyone’s looking to innovate,” El-Attrash said. “Career development has really changed.” Instead, aim to stay at least two years to provide a feeling of consistency and assure employers you care about your job.
- Myth #3: Millennials don’t care about performance. Millennials are often associated with putting in the minimal amount of effort. This includes behavior like always being late, showing up underdressed and being too casual. To show that you care, aim for punctuality, overdress and overperform. Help others with projects as much as possible and show a willingness to contribute to the team.
- Myth #4: Millennials are terrible decision makers. Millennials are often characterized as being needy and dependant on others. In reality, every generation asks for advice. Combat this myth by being proactive about asking what decisions you should make by yourself and what you should consult others on. “It’s not a bad thing to get input,” El-Attrash said. Always aim for clarity and talk to your supervisors. “Establishing a level of clarity helps you move forward and accomplish tasks successfully,” Johnson said. Mentorships also allow for you to have someone you can turn to for advice.
- Myth #5: Millennials are too inexperienced for government. While there is a skills gap in government, millennials do have experience when it comes to soft skills such as communication and work ethic. Build on hard skills like critical writing, statistics, research analysis and data-driven tasks. “Look at what different agencies are offering and seek out unique certifications and online training,” El-Attrash suggested. These will give you a leg up when it comes to job searching, making you stand out from the crowd.
While these stereotypes apply mostly to millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers carry a few stigmas. Johnson addressed these myths as well:
- Myth #1: They are not open to innovation. The older generation has often been viewed as unwilling to make changes whether through modernization or work practices. However, it was found that people are actually more innovative as they get older, where the median age of innovators is 47. To combat this, first understand your agency’s current processes and culture so that you can make suggestions and changes that will end up being beneficial for everyone.
- Myth #2: They are boring. Boomers and Gen X-ers like to have fun and actually have the money to do it. “Be mindful that everyone is at different places in life,” Johnson said. Find ways to connect with your colleagues, regardless of age and you’ll find there are more similarities than you thought.
- Myth #3: All they care about is retirement. While the older generation seem like all they want to do is get out of the workforce, many seasoned professionals are delaying retirement. For these professionals, look for opportunities to share knowledge before they leave. Sharing knowledge can be done in many ways, from having coffee with a coworker to exchanging information during meetings.
- Myth #4: They don’t use technology. Just because people use technology in different ways, doesn’t mean they don’t understand it. “A lot can be misunderstood through tech,” Johnson said. Boomers and Gen X-ers live digitally connected lives. In today’s workforce, digital transformation is a trending topic, where everyone—no matter what generation—is onboard and learning how to transition. Collaborate with colleagues to find ways that tech can enhance projects and boost efficiency.
- Myth #5: They have all the answers. “No one person has a monopoly on knowledge,” Johnson said. Professional experience and length in the workplace does not equate to knowing everything. Everyone can contribute. Anyone at any age can be mentored and learn new skills.
Across all generations, combatting these myths can lead to a more cohesive and functioning workplace. Remember the mission of your organization and don’t let yourself fall victim to making assumptions about people’s work abilities and knowledge. Being open-minded and willing to learn and connect with others can guarantee a successful multi-generational workforce.
This post is part of GovLoop’s millennial blog series, First 5.