Millennial is NOT a Dirty Word: 5 Things you need to know about my Generation
"You're not as entitled as most of the millennials I've met! Congrats on your success!"
I stared at my inbox message, scratching my temple.
I've had my fair share of impolite messages, but this was different. It wasn't dripping in sarcasm, and it didn't begin with the typical, "No offense, BUT" that usually precede every offensive message and/or comment of all time. The sender was genuinely congratulating me on overcoming my predisposition to suck.
I threw on my sassy pants and responded, "You're right, I am not entitled, and neither is an entire generation." No, wait, that's the comeback that I created in my mind, jolting out of sleep that night. I actually replied, "Thanks so much, have a great week.", and moved onto the next conversation, puzzled by the whole encounter.
Since then, I have received countless messages and comments along the same lines, from Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and even folks that are technically Millennials but are convinced that don't qualify (spoiler alert: you may want to Google your birthdate)
To be clear, this is not a slam on those that don't understand Millennials. It's a call to think more carefully about generational bias. It's a request to stop sending your Millennial contacts videos and articles from "Millennials experts", and just listen to us, and a plea to regard Millennials with encouragement and optimism, instead of as a headache that needs to be alleviated.
Let's crack into the 5 things that you need to know about Millennials, from an actual Millennial, shall we?
1. Millennial see, millennial don't.
Growing up, we decided what we wanted to be when we grew up by watching our idols, our parents.
For many, that meant we watched as our mothers and fathers were slowly crushed by the weight of unfulfilling careers. Mediocrity agonized the people that we loved the most, and we responded by promising that when we grew up, we would chase our dreams in honor of the ones that you couldn't.
I was recently chatting with a friend of mine, who had recently gotten into photography. Her father had just retired from his prestigious government job, and I asked if he was supportive of her choice to explore this entrepreneurial adventure she was embarking on. She told me that her dad had chosen a career that he felt was "safe". He spent every morning until his retirement vomiting before work. She explained that she learned the importance of following your gut from watching her father struggle with his.
On the other hand, some of us, like myself, watched our parents thrive in their callings. I spent years searching for that spark, that twinkle that my father had when he swung open the front door. He always beamed as he popped open his briefcase, pulling out a paper bag filled with Swedish fish candies for me and my siblings from the candy store beside his medical office. That twinkle became my mission.
Either way, like children of divorced or happily married parents, we've entered the job market with memories, ambitions, and expectations that we can't just shake.
2. Work/Life balance is a necessity
Technology has blurred the lines of the traditional 9 am to 5 pm. In fact, Grade A is the first place I've worked where free weekends exist.
I worked in one role where, after two years, my hours were increased. I was on call on weekends and throughout the night. If I didn't do it, they were going to find somebody that would, I was cautioned. My social life vanished, and I have never been more miserable.
After you've experienced a workplace that has taken advantage of technology to put you on a work leash, you quickly realize that work/life balance is essential. It isn't about waking up late, or millennials not understanding the value of hard work. To flourish, we all need a chance to unplug and refresh. It's about maintaining sanity in an ever-changing, emailing-at-2-am, world.
3. Entitlement is confused with desperation.
Yes, some of us might of gotten participation trophies. Our moms may have loved on us too much. But work at any service job, and you'll quickly realize that there are entitled people out there of every age.
We all have a natural desire to make the world around us a simpler and more understandable place. It's how we all survive and thrive. But sometimes, this creates the illusion that people fit neatly into categories, and ignores that, in fact, people are messy and complex beings.
When I graduated from university, I was scared as hell. I was saddled with debt, felt pressured to move away from home, and my entry level job barely covered my essentials.
Did I come across during that time as impatient and eager to move up? Most likely. I felt desperate to progress beyond living from paycheck to paycheck. Does that make me entitled? If you recently read my story about how I started my career cleaning urinals and dressed as a can of beans, you know I'm all for working your butt off and starting from the bottom.
Sometimes, things are more complicated than your sneaky brain wants you to believe.
4. Some of us actually do suck.
Not all Millennials are majestic, misunderstood unicorns.
In reality, just like in any and every other generation, we have some major weenies in our age bracket. But we are not all like the bratty pseudo-celebrities that you see on the cover of tabloid magazines at the supermarket. We are also innovators, dreamers, and future leaders.
We are you, years ago. And you dealt with the same harmful stereotypes that we are now. Don't you think it's time to change the whole "My birth date is better than your birth date" narrative?
5. We need you.
If you're a Gen Xer,or a Baby Boomer, here's the thing. We need you.
Yes, we know how to take a killer Boomerang video for Instagram, and we have typing speeds that would blow your mind, but you have something that we can't Google.
You have collected years of networking skills, and you truly understand how to build relationships. You've paved the way for us, and you have overcome incredible hardships. You've sacrificed and triumphed over challenges that we can't even imagine yet this early in our careers. Many of you are, and will always be, our heroes. Choose to help us, not hurt us.
If there is just one thing that you need to know about Millennials, it's this: We need mentors, not rivals, to reach our full potential.
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