By: Jessica Ekstrom, Guest Blogger
One of the biggest mistakes I made starting Headbands of Hope is that I hid the fact I was in college. I thought if a potential supplier or partnership found out I was only 19 years old, they’d just slap the “millennial” label on my forehead and not think I was credible enough to start a successful company.
Why did I think that? Look around us.
Everywhere I look there’s another article claiming our incompetence, laziness, and “addicted to technology” lifestyle.
But I learned that some of the millennial stereotypes are actually strengths of our generation that make us more valuable entrepreneurs.
Stereotype: We’re addicted to social media.
If we’re at a red light, chances are we’re going to take those 10 seconds to tweet, check our Facebook or see if we got any likes on Instagram.
Some say we’re addicted; I say we’re adaptive.
While everyone else complained about how social media was changing our world of communication, we were the ones embracing it. We were quicker to understand that our world just became smaller. We’re not limited to what we can see and share from our front door; we now have the capacity to reach much farther.
When I started to build my audience, I knew I wanted to appeal to the 20-something females because I knew they wouldn’t just buy my product, they’d blast it through all their social media outlets too.
So technically, we control what’s popular because we have the ability to make something important go viral with a few clicks, like twerking. Okay- maybe not all important things-- but you get the point.
Contrary to the millennial stereotype, we haven’t lost the ability to communicate face-to-face. We will still meet up for a cup of coffee for human interaction, but we’re going to take a selfie while we’re there.
Stereotype: We don’t work hard.
I don’t believe working hard means working long. Just because someone wants to leave work early, doesn’t make him or her any less of a hard worker than the person who’s last to leave the office.
We believe in efficiency, not nine to five.
The hero isn’t the person who comes to work early and leaves late. The real hero is the person who finds an efficient and effective way to do his or her work and leave when it’s finished. There’s no need to stick around until five o’clock if your work is done for the day.
When I first started my business, I thought I had to work long hours because that’s what I was “supposed to do” when I’m a CEO. But the work I did at 8 pm wasn’t nearly as fresh as the work I did at 8 am and I was just filling up time instead of calling it a day and taking much-needed personal time to prepare for the next day.
Stereotype: We’re never satisfied in our job.
A lot of the internships I had in college made me really scared about my future. I realized I was really bad at doing tasks for other people when I didn’t know why I was even doing them.
Some people may call this false entitlement, but I disagree. I wasn’t unmotivated because I thought I was above these tasks; I just didn’t see the purpose behind them.
That’s when I realized there was confusion with this stereotype: it’s not that millennials think we’re too good for tasks, we just need to know what we’re doing is purposeful.
We don’t just want to be aware of needs; we want to fix them.
Therefore, millennials are the perfect generation for entrepreneurs. We want to make our own schedule, we want to tweet about it, and we want to wake up every day knowing what need we’re serving in our work.
Call us whatever you want. But we’re not the “future” anymore, we’re right now.
Stereotyping can be another way we limit ourselves without even realizing it!
- Think of a time you conformed to a stereotype? How did it make you feel? What did you learn from it?
- Do you agree or disagree with Jessica's stereotype busts?
- What's the relationship between stereotyping and judging? How can we change these negative behaviors?
Jess Ekstrom is the 22-year-old founder of Headbands of Hope and Headwear of Hope. Both companies give head products to kids with cancer with every purchase. Jess is also a public speaker at speaker at CAMPUSPEAK. Check out Headbands of Hope on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (@headbandsofhope) and Youtube.
Image via genhq.com