Millennial Myths

by Sue Hawkes

Millennials get a bad rap, but are they really that different from any other generation of people? When I stopped to think about the common millennial traits we hear about so often, I realized how many of those same traits are also prevalent with entrepreneurs. How we outwardly demonstrate these traits may look different, but at the core, our values are shared. I believe this is an opportunity for tremendous results if managed from a place of shared values and effective communication. Too often, I believe we get bogged down by the way we’ve categorized others – in this case an entire generation. As a result, the differences become all we see. If instead we begin from the common ground we share, while still acknowledging and appreciating the differences, only then will we begin to gracefully communicate through the tough stuff and fully realize the value we all bring to the table.

Listed below are the top five commonalities we found between millennials and entrepreneurs; imagine beginning your exploration from one of these vantage points:

  1. They desire to change the world: Both millennials and entrepreneurs are driven by a higher purpose. They want to change the world and are concerned about issues facing our communities and the planet as a whole. Because they have been globally connected their entire lives, millennials are aware of the challenges that need solutions; they are civic-oriented. Like entrepreneurs, they want to make a big dent in the universe and believe they have the ability to do so.
  2. They want to design life on their terms: Millennials often get labeled as entitled for desiring to set their own hours, have flexibility to work from home, and to be judged on results, not the time spent doing their work. They do not believe in a clear distinction between work and home life, instead choosing to integrate the two. They bring their lives to work and their work back home to their lives. Entrepreneurs also function this way, wanting the freedom to make their own rules, set their own schedule and the ability to create a career that fits the way they want to live their life. What entrepreneurs know that millennials may not yet, however, is that this lifestyle is not easy. People who design their own lives will often work longer and harder than people who choose a more standard 8am-4pm corporate career. Both groups do so willingly because they desire freedom – or the illusion of it!
  3. They value relationships: The best business is done with those we know well, enjoy spending time with, like and trust. Millennials and entrepreneurs realize this, and often do business with friends or become friends with their clients. Again, there is no separation between “work colleagues” and “friends;” the lines are blurred and business is easier because of it. They also value the importance of relationships and enjoy investing in them. For most millennials and entrepreneurs, relationships are placed above money or being right. Millennials are team-oriented and build relationships with colleagues; entrepreneurs are expert networkers and connectors of people and opportunities.
  4. They don’t accept the status quo: Neither millennials nor entrepreneurs enjoy following rules just for the sake of following rules; especially if they themselves didn’t make the rules. They will ask why things are done the way they are, how things could be improved, and often challenge the existing structure if it doesn’t make sense to them or move to innovate a new, better solution. Neither are satisfied with the status quo, and both dislike rules if they don’t see the meaning behind them. Both groups are progressive thinkers, work to make things better, and see opportunities where others see obstacles.
  5. They have an insatiable hunger to learn: Millennials are the most educated generation in history, and entrepreneurs are life-long learners. Both groups are eager to learn new things and master new skills which will help them improve and succeed. Appreciation for non-traditional learning is also common in both groups, whether that be through travel, self-teaching methods or apprenticeships. By continuously expanding their knowledge and skill set, millennials and entrepreneurs use new learning to innovate, create new opportunities, and grow.

It’s apparent to me; millennials and entrepreneurs have many common traits. What’s different, however, is the communication around them and how they are expressed in action. In order to work better together and capitalize on this common ground, it’s important we focus on our shared values and move past generalizations and negative connotations of any group of people while remaining open and curious. We have more to gain working together than we do gathering frustration with how different we are. How can we move from seeing the barriers between us and move to a place of common ground and opportunity? It begins with conversations; courageous, open-minded, open-ended conversations expanding what each person brings and maximizing that in concert with the others present. This is how we begin to gracefully work through the tough stuff and drop our preconceived notions about others. We can change the world if we take the time to connect with each other and find common ground to begin the conversations.

Sue HawkesMillennial Myths