Millennials in the business world. I guess I’m one of them. Why does it feel kind of shameful to admit that? Probably because we are the generation most often touted as being entitled, lazy, having poor work ethic, and being high-maintenance, among other less than flattering adjectives.
I mean, I have a Master’s degree, I paid for some seriously expensive and time consuming school, I can’t afford to buy a house, and my job is less than stimulating. Don’t I deserve more?
This, my friend, is the rhetoric of many, many a millennial, and is often what brands us as being spoiled rotten entitled lazy brats. Ouch!
My first experience with this kind of thing was a few years ago when I found out that a coworker with less experience than me, with the same job title, same education, was making more money than me. Like the
whiny brat millennial independent career woman that I am, I brought it to the attention of my boss, in confidence of course. When I finished showing him evidence that this was unfair, he accused me of being ‘entitled’. Entitled? To what, exactly? This was something I hadn’t heard before, and it made me wonder – am I being a spoiled brat? Haven’t I worked hard for what I have achieved? Should I be ashamed of wanting something more? So I went to the trusty dictionary to find out what exactly does ‘entitled’ mean?
Entitled: Believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
For good measure, I also looked up ‘inherently’.
Inherently: In a permanent, essential, or characteristic way.
Does this really describe all people born between 1980 and 2000? Does it, really?
We might have been misled about what this mystical ‘real world’ was all about; the land beyond university walls, the land from which everybody speaks with such knowingness and dread that I’m uncertain if I really want to go there but I see my friends doing it one by one. I guess this is the next logical step, right? What else am I supposed to do? However misled we may have been, that in and of itself does not make us “inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment”.
Most all of my friends have a college education, many of them have Master’s Degrees, PhD’s or MD’s. The job market is unarguably difficult. “Times have changed”, blah blah blah. I’m not here to go on a diatribe about the state of affairs and the world and the times. However, the reality is that millennials DO want a career that they are passionate about. And (cue tiny violin) we DID work for it. Education is expensive AF, not to mention that for those of us who paid for it ourselves, the time spent working 30+ hours per week while trying to achieve honors in our advanced degree courses wasn’t exactly the fun college experience depicted in the movies.
Baby boomers, and even Gen Y to an extent, were happy to work long and hard, because it was WORTH IT. Hard work really did pay off! Climbing a ladder to have a good life and a good career was possible. There were clear cut milestones and well-paying promotions to get them a life they desired if only they were willing to put in the work. Someone could spend their entire career at the same company and make sweet salary increases and title promotions, and retire with a pretty nice pension. So, it was worth it for baby boomers to put their nose to the grindstone and do the hard work necessary to get ahead. Not to mention most of these jobs didn’t even require a bachelor’s degree and the sh*t load of debt that comes with it, to boot.
But here’s the thing.
Millennials find that putting our nose to the grindstone doesn’t work. Working harder does NOT get you ahead. And it doesn’t take a genius to run around that hamster wheel for a year or two to realize that everyone else is also on a damn hamster wheel, also getting nowhere. Is this what we signed up for? They certainly didn’t teach me all the 50 shades of grey of a cubicle wall during advanced differential equations.
Then our minds wander.
“Do I want to end up like my boss?” GOD NO! His job looks worse than mine! Cue negative spiral. “Well, if I don’t want my bosses job, what am I going to do here? What am I really doing other than working hard for no good reason? When will I get a promotion? Three years? Why am I working so hard? Am I really making any difference at all? I’m so bored. How many days til I can go on vacation? God, I only get two weeks of vacation? Is this what life is supposed to be? How many years until I can retire?”
And if we aren’t getting ahead by grinding, eventually we stop. We stop grinding and get distracted. There’s no pension, poor benefits, no engagement, the environment blows – there’s no real reason to stay with this company. So we leave after our obligatory two years, go somewhere else where we get a boost in pay that sustains us for a few months until the same pattern repeats itself.
What millennials in the business world want – really, what all people want – is a sense of value and contribution. We want a lifestyle that combines work and personal life that makes sense. We don’t want to spend 9-10 hours a day in an office when we could easily and more effectively do our jobs from home.
Because like any business, employment is about an exchange of value, right? Back in the day, corporations provided good money, nice retirement, and good opportunities. People were willing to work for that. Now, corporations treat people like transactional goods, and millennials have, or are at least trying to, respond.
The fundamental purpose of a corporation is to create value for their customers. If they want to be able to retain top talent, corporations need to add more value to what they give to their employees. Giving people a (usually mediocre) pay raise pretty closely models a price gauging strategy, doesn’t it? No real value is created, and it becomes a race to the bottom – or in this situation, the top.
So to all those CEOs or HR Managers wondering how to solve the mystical problem of retaining the entitled millennial – it’s time to seriously question what it means to be entitled, and start listening to, well, their internal customers. Our generation wants more of what WE value, and though that might be different than what the generations before us valued, it’s the only way to keep us. Oh, and we are more than happy to describe exactly what that is.
Millennial social media – @christinacorso via Twenty20
Millennial home office – @bluelily52 via Twenty20
Guest Author Bio
Jaclyn is the founder of Independent Career Chick, a global resource dedicated to helping millennial female ‘success junkies’ find meaning in their careers and lives. Having traveled to 50+ countries and holding an International MBA, Jaclyn is dedicated to working with high-achievers who are looking to find peace, balance, and continued career success.
Blog / Website: www.independentcareerchick.com