If you were born between the years of 1981-1996, you would be classified into the ever-criticized Millennial Generation. You’ve probably heard terms like risk-averse, entitled, lazy, and tech-addicted associated with the Millennial identity. Yup, the world collectively hates us Peter-Pan-syndromed degenerates. As a Millennial born in 1994, I can say, along with many of my peers, these generalizations are problematic and do not paint the full picture.
I've coined this issue the Millennial Dilemma.
While I can agree that stereotypes are not created out of thin air, I like to believe that much of these descriptors are either off-base or come from a place out of our control. Moreover, many of the traits are born from our upbringings and a slew of cultural factors.
Born into a society where academia and scholastic achievement trumps all, it’s no wonder Millennials are afraid to color outside of the lines. From day one, we have the notion drilled into our minds that if we get straight A’s, score highly on the SAT, and are involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible, we will have a guaranteed ticket to the four-year college of our dreams, and thus, a fruitful career.
We are seemingly given the tools to succeed and up until college, these guidelines typically work. So, why do so many Millennials struggle in the workforce? Millennials struggle in their careers because for the first time in their lives, they don’t have the perfect formula for success. No amount of studying, memorizing, or practice prepares you for that day on the job when you have a deadline to meet in a matter of hours, and the car you are borrowing from your roommate breaks down in the middle of the road (yes, this happened to me). Millennials fear taking risks and struggle to think outside of the box because their entire lives have been neatly carved out for them with the exact tools to succeed and once those tools are null and void, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
That said, many of the hardest working people I know are also Millennials. They’re the ones who figure it out on the fly and rise above the circumstances. Life skills don’t just appear, they have to be crafted, applied, and nurtured and the people who figure that out early, are the ones who succeed.
In addition to making us risk-averse, the system of academics that does little to prepare us for the real world does a great job at commending any efforts we do make. We are told we are special from day one. We are told that higher education is the end-all and that blue-collar jobs (despite our need for them) are not as significant. We are told we are special for just joining the soccer team. Forget about winning, we are all one-of-a-kind unicorns and David Beckhams in the making.
While this is peachy to hear, I found out pretty quickly once I got to UCLA and was one of about 30,000 undergrads, I’m not special. These kids are just as smart and just as hardworking as I am. But many Millennials still believe that we deserve six-figure salaries upon graduation, a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and the dream jobs to boot. These are the kids unfortunately contributing to the problem that we think we’re all unique snowflakes who are going to change the world.
While I don't believe that this level entitlement is purely intentional, it is still an issue and contributing to the collective negative view on our generation. We aren't pragmatists and we weren't raised to be. That said, we don’t deserve these incredible benefits or pats on the back just for being alive--they need to be earned. Moral of the story? I think its about time we stopped giving out effort and participation trophies.
This one is my favorite. Yes, we love a good shortcut, but that doesn’t necessarily make us lazy. We were born into an era of innovation, technology and all of its digital splendor. It’s no wonder we look for ways to make our lives easier. In an age where we are constantly moving and constantly doing, it seems paradoxical to say we’re lazy. We live in a society that will continue to advance and shunning that innovation will only make the situation more challenging. So brace yourselves folks, because today I heard that self-driving cars will take over within the next ten years. This is the world we live in.
I believe that the efficient manner in which we think and act is a consequence of the speed time in this era seems to pass. No one takes real lunch breaks anymore. It’s normal to spend hours commuting on a train to and from work everyday. Answering emails on vacation is a no-brainer. Yet we are lazy because we seek shortcuts in our jam-packed lives to make time for ourselves, by shooting an email versus a phone call, or using Google over an encyclopedia (the very technology that our predecessors provided us with). Also, Gen X will agree Cliff’s Notes has been around long before the internet was a staple in the American home. It seems kind of ironic, no?
At the end of the day, Millennials continue to get a bad rap, while much of it is out of our control. I hope that changing the narrative a bit on my demographic, throwing out some explainers and pushing past those stereotypes can potentially get the world talking in a more positive light about us. We aren’t a disgrace collectively, even though I recognize that we have ample room to improve. But let’s also work to do better for the next gen (who btw are much more techie than us millennials) instead of dwelling on flaws of a pretty sizable group of Americans. Let's change this Millennial Dilemma for the better, and destroy the potential for a Gen Z Dilemma in the future.