Thursday, September 20, 2012

Entitled Millennials

Yesterday, one of my co-workers posted a really interesting article about the evolving attitude and work ethic of my generation, the Millennials. The author examined the idea that our education system does more to create unrealistic beliefs than it does to impart knowledge and skill to students. She spoke with a small business owner (Ms. Jimenez), who employees mostly Millennial aged employees, and provided commentary on five frustrations the business owner expressed. Here are the two frustrations that really caught my attention:

1. "They are cocky." Ms. Jimenez complains that once elevated to positions like “assistant buyers,” her employees treat bosses, clients, and other employees in a condescending manner.

2.“They don’t want to pay their dues.” Working your way up does not apply to Millennials, who expect to earn high salaries doing glamorous tasks immediately.

I found myself resonating with the author's observations. Throughout my collegiate experience, I continued to hear rhetoric such as, “You deserve to make your dream job your career”, “Follow your passions”, “Be continually inspired and love what you do”. While these sentiments are encouraging, they don’t set students up with a firm grasp of reality. How do we make our dream job our career? What steps do we need to get there? What does it look like to be continually inspired? What makes us think we can jump start from college to leading an organization or team at only 22 years old?

Lucky for me, my parents instilled a strong work ethic that I was able to carry through college and into the work force. Saying that, I will fully admit that I was drawn to that rhetoric and was even a bit disappointed when I hit the real world. Of course the idea of “following my passions” is appealing and it was definitely something that I wanted to pursue, but how do I start that?

Don't get me wrong, I think having interest and/or being passionate about what you do is absolutely critical in an employee's longevity, but I’ve watched friends struggle with the idea of accepting entry-level positions and feel as though they are above them simply because they’ve received a degree. You have to start somewhere and start gaining real working-world experience, but I think that this is hard for young graduates to understand and accept.

One of the readers posted a quote from Paul Graham that I feel captures the sentiment well:

"Many people feel confused and depressed in their early twenties. Life seemed so much more fun in college. Well, of course it was. Don't be fooled by the surface similarities. You've gone from guest to servant. It's possible to have fun in this new world. Among other things, you now get to go behind the doors that say "authorized personnel only." But the change is a shock at first, and all the worse if you're not consciously aware of it."

If you've graduated from college, how did you feel once you were out in the real world? Did you experience any disillusionment? Do you think it's something Millennials will just have to get over?

Read the full article, and the rest of the frustrations, here


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