What To Do When You Feel Generationally Typecast
I experienced the oddest sensation a couple of months back. I was watching the news, which featured a report on the so-called Millennial Generation. Don’t quote me on this, but it went something like this: Research shows that Millennials have impaired social skills since they’re always nose-deep in their smartphones and this can impact them in the workplace. What?! Who are these Millennials being interviewed to ascertain such conclusions? I don’t view myself or the other women I know in this age range this way. What gives, News People?
It was then that I decided to go digging.
I scoured news articles and noticed that they were all pretty much saying the same thing- making sweeping generalizations about those of us born between 1980 and 1996. A sixteen-year gap. Those of us born on the earlier end of the range were old enough to see Communism fall and use cassette tapes. Those of us born on the later end grew up on Twitter and where the next logical step in the long march of progress was to have a black president. Huge. Gap. Yet we’re all lumped together under sweeping generalizations.
Shortly thereafter, I linked up with my friend Dr. Joan Ball of St. John’s University who has been researching this phenomenon. Apparently many millennial people, particularly women, have been scratching their heads over what the media, culture and other people say is their ‘issue’, and such messaging doesn’t resonate with many of us at all!
I don’t think I need to tell any of you reading this that this has major implications for Millennials’ careers, personal development and relationships. Like, huge.For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the implications on careers. Raises, responsibility, the degree to which you are taken seriously by others and the credibility you are given if starting your own business are all on the list. There are dozens of others.
So, what can you do if you feel typecast by this phenomenon?
- Really Know & Feel That You’re Not Alone. And I’m not saying that in a life coachy way. You’re really not. Joan’s research and my conversations with the many women in my network and whom I coach confirm it. Women on both ends of the 1980-1996 spectrum feel boxed in by the perceptions of them. It’s completely normal to feel the way you feel, PLUS there are legions of women feeling it right along with you.
- Link Up With Resources. Depending on where you live, resources can be plentiful or a little more difficult to come by, which is why they invented the internet. There are dozens of women’s networking groups and ‘circles’. Check out Lean In Circles, popularized by Sheryl Sandberg’s book of the same title. Lean In Circles are springing up around the world. I’m a member of a thriving NYC Lean In Community that provides support and a constructive place to talk about this and many other issues facing women. From here, you can discuss career progression and advancement and what that path looks like to you, for example. Or you can discuss how your Millennial Persona may be being misinterpreted in the workplace.
- Know That Knowledge Is Power & Go Out and Find It. I’m talking about two distinct types of knowledge. Keeping yourself apprised of how your generation is perceived in the workplace is key to being able to handle said workplace (unfortunately perennially chalk full with politics), appropriately.
Equally important, however, is defining the issues for yourself. In other words, if the Millennial Persona I described earlier with the ‘communication issues’ isn’t your issue, what is? What makes you tick? What holds you back? What do you value? This kind of knowledge- about yourself- can’t be understated. To have this kind of conversation with yourself on the regular is critical to helping you determine where to go next, rather than going where popular opinion/media/your family think you should be going. This kind of knowledge about yourself prevents a lot of the swaying wishy washiness that ironically is a ‘characteristic’ of Millennials!
Two questions you can ask yourself to start to figure out what some of these answers might be are: “When I have ____ I feel at peace with the world around me,” and “If ___ was missing from my life, I’d be totally miserable.”
- Maintain Your Authentic Self While Being Professional. Nobody wants to become a robot- at least I don’t think so. The answer is not to stifle your creativity and personality in the office to ‘fit in’ or make those stereotypes go away. The answer is not to overthink it. Maintain what makes you uniquely you, and do it with confidence and poise and earn the respect of your colleagues by the ideas you contribute and the poise with which you do it.
So there you have it. Follow those four steps above and you won’t be generationally typecast! KIDDING. But what you will have, however, is some clarity around this issue that is defining us without our permission. And you can begin to take steps to create the path you want to create for yourself because you’re in control.
Jill Ozovek (www.jillozovek.com) is a certified professional coach who works with millennial women and 30-something women with demanding careers and busy lives get real with themselves and figure out how to take the next big step, whether it be a career change or a personal development goal. She does this while ensuring her clients maintain alignment with their values and feel fulfilled in the process.
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