For the past fifteen years, my generation has been surveyed and observed, our attitudes and beliefs dissected and analysed, and our character both questioned and praised. Dozens of books have been written about us, hundreds of articles published, and entire nightly news segments devoted to trying to unlock the mysteries of the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. Every possible descriptor has been attached to Millennials. We are the technologically savvy generation, yet the distracted. We are the multi-taskers, yet the unfocused. We are the social generation, yet more isolated. Highly educated, but lack skills. Independent minded, yet coddled and entitled.
Entitled, this description always stuck out because it’s a sort of parasitic pejorative that’s latched onto twenty-somethings, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy saps the energy out of its’ host and offers nothing in return. The term has been brandished and utilized like a knife by the media, by angry parents who have their adult children living back home, and even by some academics. You can almost hear the glee in the voices of older folks that use it, patting themselves on the back for being model citizens in their youth and stewards of a traditional America where 9 to 5 was a religion. ‘They didn’t expect things to be easy, they paid their dues like everyone else, they never felt entitled!’
Entitled. Entitlements. These are some of the ugliest terms in America; a way of segregating the hard workers from the lazy mooches. If you’re labeled entitled, you might as well kiss any respect you may of had out the window. One may think there is no escaping the term, that twenty-somethings are destined to become labeled “the entitled generation” in the history books; but a funny thing has been happening over the past few years, Millennials are now writing their own narratives and telling their own stories. Gone are the days of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers telling our story for us in the op-ed section of a newspaper, the pages of a journal, or a well produced television show. We’re invading your newsrooms, your businesses, bureaucracies, non-profits, and we will be shaping your opinions for the next four decades and as such it’s time to flip the script on what being entitled means, it’s time to embrace it as both an apt and a positive descriptor of Millennials.
(Some) Millennials like myself feel entitled to things like careers that fulfill us, work/life balance, and jobs where we feel like we’re actually contributing, not because we refuse to work but because we have already earned some of these “benefits.” We are overwhelmingly the most educated generation in American history. While it’s important to note that not every millennial has had the opportunity to attend college or even graduate high school, the efforts that previous generations put in to give opportunity to a more diverse swath of the American population has paid off and more and more Americans of my generation have seized that opportunity and run with it.
We grew up hearing that education was the most important thing, that if we worked hard in school from a very young age through college that we’d have access to the American dream. Many of us come from great primary schools (many of us don’t), and many of us have gone to college, earned multiple degrees, and even gone on to graduate school, completing these degrees at younger and younger ages. Most millennials, whether a college student or not, have held multiple jobs. Millennials may very well be the most hardworking and accomplished generation before the age of 30 than any previous generation. What does this hard work get in return? Derision and snark by our elders, our work is never enough. Yes we have been given great opportunity, but with that opportunity we’ve been given great expectations from a young age and we’re under constant pressure to not only match but surpass these expectations. It’s not enough to go to college, one must earn an engineering or finance degree. It’s not enough to have one internship, we must have several.
For the hard work we’ve already put in we are entitled to certain aspects of the American dream, we’re entitled to good jobs with livable wages. We are willing to give up salary for greater flexibility in managing our time between work and our personal lives, and we’re entitled to having our voices respected. We’ve lived up to our expectations thus far, it’s time for the expectations we have of our country to be met. The feeling of entitlement is the natural end result after years of doing our best. True that in the real world, there are no prizes for just trying, but we’re not looking for a trophy, we’re looking for jobs.