Millennials seek to dispel misconceptions

Millennials who work for local nonprofit and private companies say they strive to dispel negative stereotypes and affirm the positive attributes of their generation.

"We are seen as innovators who really want to make things different," noted Rene Torti, a Mexico native who works as a project controls administrator at The Pike Co. in Rochester. "We don’t like the common processes, and we are constantly looking for solutions to make things easier."

According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, there are several key differences between millennials — people born between 1981 and 1997 — and their grandparents’ baby boomer generation.

The differences include more educational attainment by millennials, a higher percentage of working women (63 percent vs. 13 percent for baby boomers), a greater likelihood of not being married, and a greater representation of racial or ethnic groups, according to the Pew report at http://pewrsr.ch/1x4rsjT.

"As a Latino millennial, I believe our greatest strength is our understanding of multiple cultures and societies," said Mackenzie Malia, a 2014 Cornell University graduate who now heads up the AAVia Foundation, which supports children’s health in Bolivia. "Personally, being bilingual has been extremely beneficial to my career and has played a large role in my work. My knowledge of Latino culture means that I have a more worldly view, which is valuable in today’s interconnected society."

Latino millennials are unique among their colleagues because of their strong work ethic, Torti wrote in an e-mail. That work ethic stems in part from the challenges many millennials have faced upon entering the work force following the country’s economic downturn in 2008, he added.

"We know how difficult is to find a job, and we appreciate having one, so we are willing to give 110 percent to keep it and succeed," Torti said. "Also, we like to build a sense of community around us even at the workplace. Latinos are constantly trying to make new friends and build relationships, which creates a good work environment. If you like the people you work with, you are going to like your job and you will perform better."

If they don’t like their jobs, millennials also are willing to take risks and switch careers to find work they are satisfied with, an attitude not always appreciated by employers, he said.

"Millennials don’t mind trying different careers; we are very adaptable and don’t fear change," Torti remarked. "Some employers like it, others see it as a lack of loyalty."

As a member of what she views as a career-orientated generation, Yversha Roman said she also has interacted with many millennials whose work ethic is unmatched. Because of those experiences, some of the labels placed on millennials perplex Roman, a senior relationship manager and Latino leadership development coordinator for United Way of Greater Rochester. Before taking on this new position, she worked 11 years at the Center for Youth Services, Roman wrote in an e-mail.

"We encounter the preconceived notions that we are lazy, lack an ability to settle down or secure a home, are entitled, are easily sidetracked by technology and are job hoppers," added Roman, who graduated from Nazareth College in 2006. "Ageism, just like many ‘isms,’ is still a very real reality for people like myself."

When it comes to ageism, Malia said she confronts assumptions about her role at the AAVia Foundation when clients mistake her for an employee when she is accompanied by her father, the foundation’s medical director.

"We often meet with companies or give presentations together," she added. "My father is often thought to be the boss until we explain otherwise, and I have found that I have taken a more prominent role in our presentations as a result."

Younger millennials do benefit from mentorship and seek the positive influence and guidance of people who can show them the ropes and offer advice on overcoming barriers, Roman added.

"Secretly, we yearn for that help (from mentors)," she said. "Unfortunately it’s that lack of intergenerational influence that causes these misunderstandings."

Misunderstandings between generations regarding technology also pop up and pose a potential hindrance to success, acknowledged Torti, who graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2016.

"People think that most millennials just spend their time at the office texting or visiting their social media accounts, which honestly I think sometimes it’s true," Torti explained. "We struggle with the transition from college jobs to the ‘real world’ ones. While in college jobs you are in charge of the front desk of the gym with your smartphone next to you. In an actual job, there is no time for (distractions). You are currently working on a task and other people depend on you."

On the other hand, companies are paying attention to millennials’ reliance on technology and are using social media to gain their attention, Malia said. Growing up in the digital age also makes most millennials media savvy, she added.

"Over the last several years I have noticed many companies, both large and small, adopting large-scale social media campaigns, focusing on social connections to move beyond standard marketing," Malia said. "Millennials are a major part of this shift and are taking lead roles in shaping how these companies interact with their customer base. The benefits of growing up with computers mean that for many millennials, the navigation of social media comes naturally."

Whatever perceptions employers or other generations have about millennials, Roman said she hopes her cohorts will eventually be appreciated for being the individuals that they are.

"I believe millennials in the workplace add creativity, energy and an ability to make those around them re-evaluate how work has been done in the past," she added. "I appreciate the grind of a millennial. We are in a special time in our lives, as we … are in the process of establishing ourselves, our personal brand and career path."

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