Time Magazine dubbed us “The Me Me Me Generation” claiming that “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” In the beginning of my telecom career, I am loathe to admit I could have easily served as the poster child for these accusations. Simply put, I was a princess and felt that everyone should hear my ideas because someday I would rule change the world! I shot off metaphorical flares seeking attention and, at times, I even considered answering people by way of interpretative dance just so they would notice me. You can probably guess that I didn’t have much success those first few years, I definitely hadn’t impressed anyone and, to top it off, I felt stuck on the hamster wheel and going nowhere fast. As a kid my parents often asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The truth is, I had no way of knowing what I wanted to be and I definitely didn’t know that the early stages of a fantastic career might not feel fantastic at all. As Gen Y’ers, we must rise to the challenge and overcome our stereotypes.
Here are some of the most common terms used to describe Generation Y:
- Trophy Kids – Over-praised, awarded just for participation, requires constant positive feedback
- Gen Why? – Questions everything
- Gen Now – Having very little patience for accepting things the way they are, will quit if they don’t like something
- Peter-Pan Generation – Unwilling to grow up
- Net Gen – Born into the rise of the internet
I spent two years trying to get back into telecom after I made the colossal mistake of leaving in the first place. If only Sheryl Sandburg would have been around back then to tell me to “lean In” and not jump ship. I didn’t know it at the time, but the ensuing two years outside of this industry were probably the most important two years of my life. During that time I learned how to avoid becoming a Gen Y cliché. Here’s what I learned:
- Do the work, even if you don’t like it. It will help you determine what you do like.
- Let the word “No” motivate you. Not every idea you have will be brilliant, keep trying.
- Be Proactive. Ask how you can help, bring your own ideas to the table and don’t forget to listen to what others have to say too.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Avoid distractions and be true to you, when you know what you want give it your all.
Gen Y was born into the “Follow Your Passion” era – taught to take our extra-curricular activities seriously and encouraged to show our creativity. That is how I managed to find a career that I love within a company I believe in. No matter what stereotypes you might be faced with or challenges along your path, these are principles that anyone can adopt and implement and hopefully your results will be just as powerful as mine have become.