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Top 10 Myths About Millennials in the Accounting Industry

Top 10 Myths About Millennials in the Accounting Industry

Entitled and lazy. Idealistic and uncompromising. At this point, we’ve all heard generalizations about Millennials. And it’s pretty apparent that they get a bad reputation in the accounting industry.

However, a recent IBM study found that rumors surrounding Millenials — individuals born between 1980 and 1993 — are largely unfounded and unjust. It turns out that their career goals and expectations are not all that different from their Gen X (born between 1965-1979) and Baby Boomer (born between 1954-1964) peers.

While tapping into the minds of future CPAs may be a tough task, dispelling common myths about Millenials will help illustrate the undeniable influence of the accounting industry’s emerging workforce.

1. Millennials’ career goals are unlike older generations.

When Millennials first entered the workforce, their preference for unorthodox office culture often overshadowed their career goals. While some of the generalizations still ring true — such as their desire to wear jeans in the office and work flexible hours — the generation is finally getting respect. And unsurprisingly, Millennials share many professional preferences with their older colleagues.

Like their predecessors, Millennials have numerous and individualized career goals. They desire financial security, positive leadership, and articulated business strategy and seek out promotions and seniority. Ultimately, Millennials aren’t as selfish as advertised: they prefer to work with a diverse group of people, make a positive impact on their organization, and help solve social and/or environmental changes.

2. Millennials are self-centered and narcissistic.

Millennials do not need invariable praise to stay motivated and happy — nor do they need a trophy for every accomplishment. While hand holding and back patting may have worked on the childhood soccer field, Millennials have grown up. And they want the workforce to treat them like adults.

Equality is a central concern for Millennials. They want managers to be ethical, fair and transparent. In fact, they think it’s less important to have a boss who celebrates their individual accomplishments. According to Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA), today’s crop of accounting grads is decisively female. Millennials — male, female and intersex — assume that everyone will have access to work-life programs, regardless of gender. And they expect to work for women leaders in the future.

Millennials are largely progressive, embrace diversity, and prefer to work on collaborative, interactive teams.

3. Millennials have no work ethic.

A common generalization is that Millennials are lazy. But in reality, they just have a different way of doing things. While their work habits can be categorized as self-centered, this does not necessarily carry the negative connotation it implies. Instead, it means that many younger accountants and bookkeepers are primarily concerned with immediate tasks. They will figure out the quickest, most efficient way to get the job done and move to their next duty. Millennials are not lazy — they just tend to have a systematic work ethic.

4. Millennials are technology junkies who only want to interact online.

Sure, one of the defining characteristics of Millennials is that they grew up with computers. And it’s obvious that social media is a vital part of their digital lives. However, Millennials favor human interaction over virtual alternatives when it comes to acquiring new skills. In fact, they prefer attending industry conferences or in-person classroom training and working alongside colleagues to digital options.

While Millennials may prefer to learn in face-to-face environments, their technological prowess should not be ignored. They are savvy and connected. They have broadened the global communications horizon. And despite criticism from older generations, they use social networking for societal good: to report crimes, raise money for non-profits, and to share insight on their experiences.

5. Millennials cannot make decisions without consulting others.

While many older generations deride Millennials for being indecisive and passive, the truth is that Gen Xers, more so than any generation in the current workforce, believe in soliciting the opinions of others.

By and large, Millennials want to be involved in the bigger picture. And unlike many stringent, independent Baby Boomers, Millennials embrace the evolving, complex accounting landscape. They leverage technology and resources and put a heavy emphasis on interconnectedness. While they can most certainly make decisions, they also believe in the importance of collaboration and interaction.

6. Millennials have no respect for authority.

Despite outcries from more conservative CPAs, Millennials have a great respect for their bosses and other leaders. However, there is one caveat: respect must be earned. But when earned, the loyalty for respected leaders is enduring. In fact, allegiance to a boss or manager is the number one reason Millennials stay in a job, especially during the first three years. Conversely, dissatisfaction with leadership is the number one reason they quit.

7. Millennials are unreceptive to feedback.

Millennials often get pinned as sensitive and unreceptive to feedback. But as aforementioned, young workers actually desire management that values their work ethic and provides constructive criticism. In fact, a recent global survey conducted by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics discovered that Millennials want feedback at least monthly, as compared to non-Millennials, who are comfortable with feedback less often. Ultimately, Millennials are looking for coaches to help guide their professional development.

8. Millennials are prone to switch jobs.

One of the biggest fears of employers when hiring Millennials is that they are highly likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions. This isn’t necessarily true. Millennials, Gen X’ers, and Baby Boomers all cited the same motivating factors for changing jobs: to enter the fast lane, shoot for the top, follow one’s heart, and save the world.

While these are rather lofty goals, it shows that Millennials are a lot like their predecessors. They are undeniably ambitious and are concerned with advancing their careers and making a difference. And while almost one-third of Millennials have held at least five jobs, wanderlust does not seem to be the primary factor. After all, it must be remembered that they have experienced 9/11, the housing bust, the Great Recession, and are faced with debt, student loans, and an often unsatisfactory job market.

9. Millennials won’t put in the extra hours.

Whereas Baby Boomers view time as an investment, younger professionals see it as a valuable currency. Millennials are willing to put in the time to get the job done—they are just uninterested in extracurricular face time. In other words, Millennials are willing to put in extra hours. They’d just prefer it to be on their own terms: from a coffee shop or even their homes.

And they aren’t alone. According to the Regus Work-Life Balance Index 2013, both Gen X’ers and Millennials view work-life balance as extremely important elements of their careers. Yes, younger generations want to get the job done and focus on their personal lives. But to paraphrase an old adage: a happy worker is a productive worker.

10. Millennials are stubborn and inflexible.

Unlike Gen X’ers, Millennials will be remembered for enacting change in the accounting industry — a change that encourages flexibility. They have forced firms to redesign their offices and create open transparent environments. They have eliminated antiquated traditions such as staying in the office until all the senior partners leave. And by utilizing cloud and mobile technologies, Millennials have contributed to the end of the regimented 9-to-5 workday.

Modern accounting firms have realized that certain people work better in different environments and that modern circumstances often demand flexibility. This is largely due to Millenials. Sure, young CPAs may be persistent and transparent in their needs. But they have contributed to the rise of the modern office, replaced the term “work-life balance” with “work-life integration,” and contributed to the rise of a more flexible, progressive accounting industry.

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