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Shattering generational stereotypes

Your older peers may have set perceived stereotypes of Millennials, but you can help change those notions. Here’s how.

You may have heard them before, in the media or even mentioned to you by peers: Millennials are self-centered, reckless with their money, and too busy texting during meetings to pay attention. In truth, you’re none of these things. But still, the stereotypes exist and can precede you to a job interview or other opportunity.

So in addition to paying rent, making new friends, and finding a job you love, you have a mission: Prove the stereotypes about recent college grads wrong. Here’s how.

Stereotype 1: You’re a job hopper

The average American holds seven jobs before age 29, and one-third of those jobs last less than six months. According to another survey, 44% of young professionals hope to leave their current job within the next two years.

Defy the stereotype: There’s a reason why Millennials choose to move around between opportunities. Wells Fargo’s 2016 Millennial Survey found that 63% of U.S. adults between ages 22 and 35 believe having a job they love and pursuing their passions is more important than a high income and benefits. When Millennials don’t feel passion or purpose upon arriving at a new job, many of us start looking for something that will help create those feelings — and will jump ship if a better offer opens up.

Some job hopping is inevitable, but over time it pays to stay. There’s no such thing as inherently meaningful or un-meaningful work. Meaning and passion aren’t products of the job itself but of our sustained commitment to it. If you’re thinking of leaving your current position, first try changing departments, taking on more responsibilities, or gaining new experience.

Each additional year a person stays with his or her employer corresponds with increased income, better retirement benefits, a more specialized skillset, and better reputation.

Stereotype 2: You’re financially irresponsible

Wells Fargo’s survey reveals that only half of adults between ages 22 and 35 have a routine for reviewing their finances or say they have a budget. Millennials also have a reputation for impulsively dropping top dollar on the latest tech product or fashion fad.

Defy the stereotype: Use a basic spreadsheet (or a tool like Budget Watch) to track your income and regular expenses. Big picture, it’s wise to purchase appreciating assets like stocks and real estate — not depreciating liabilities like cars. But what’s most important is budgeting your money on things you actually care about, which forces you to prioritize and establish long-term values. The same goes for saving: Saving just because we “should” is demotivating; saving toward a higher goal is empowering.

Additionally, facts also show that young adults aren’t as financially negligent as other generations assume. Despite rising education costs, Pew Research Center reports that the percentage of younger households with debt of any kind is the lowest it’s been since the government began collecting such data in 1983. Moreover, the average age of initial retirement contribution for Millennials is just 24 years old; Baby Boomers didn’t start contributing to retirement plans until 32 years old on average.

Stereotype 3: You’re entitled

Millennials are more likely than any other generation to agree with statements such as, “If I’m in a hurry, people should let me move ahead in line.“ Less than half of high schoolers in 1976 expected to be managers by age 30. Today, nearly two-thirds do. In reality, only 18% become managers by 30. Likewise, new grads expect to find their ideal job right after college. Yet only 29% of us are emotionally connected to our current place of employment.

Defy the stereotype: Combat narcissistic entitlement with humility. Surround yourself with people who are smarter and more experienced than you. Learn as much as you can and remember how little you know.

Mitigate idealistic expectations by preparing a back-up plan. Research shows that planning for failures (such as, “in the case of an emergency…” or “in case my expectations aren’t met”) may help people stay on task when challenged. Dream big and don’t forfeit your optimism, but supplement it with pragmatism.

Stereotype 4: You’re glued to your phone

A 2015 study found that the average person looks at his or her phone 46 times every day. Another survey revealed that 43% of young professionals won’t go to the bathroom without their phones, 42% said they’d skip the gym if they also needed to charge their phone, and 20% admitted that their phones are the reason they don’t get enough sleep.

Defy the stereotype: Technology improves our lives in innumerable ways. But too much of it makes us anxious (and annoying). Frequent cellphone usage is correlated with increased stress and depression, reduced life satisfaction, and low self-esteem.

Many of us waste an hour or two on Snapchat, Instagram, or Reddit every day without even thinking about it, only regretting the waste of time after it’s too late. Budget your phone time like you budget your money. Make it a point to keep your phone out of sight during activities that require your attention — a meeting at work, your spin class, or while you’re at dinner with a friend. You’ll be more focused on the task at hand, and those around you will notice.

While stereotypes about Millennials may be true, it doesn’t mean that you need to live up to them. Actively talk to your older peers and mentors about your performance at work (and outside of work) and try to figure out how to be the best version of you. By being conscientious and proactive, you can avoid being lumped into these classifications.

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