In Defense of the Millennial

Written by Molly Mahar

I’ve often thought of our generation as lazy, selfish, and self entitled.

I’ve never been more disgusted with the laissez-faire attitude toward rape and sexual assault as I am when faced with young men my own age. The fact that homophobic slurs like “fag” and “gay” are now part of everyday derogatory vernacular makes my skin crawl. That television shows like Jersey Shore persist and flourish is a testament to our own self indulgent nature.

We’re portrayed — sometimes unfairly — as petulant and utterly lost behind our curtains of hair.

And then, I started to think about it.

As twenty (and thirty) somethings, the bar is set very, very high. We often look up at these outstanding men and women in our niches and industries, only to compare and fall vastly short. We long for and seek out meaning in our vocations — not because we believe we’re entitled to it, but because we know that a life without meaning is a life not worth living. We’re not working for the weekend. We’re not even working for retirement.

Our deep-seeded desire to challenge the status quo and change the world doesn’t come from self-entitlement or peerenting (wtf, really?). It’s because the world is broken and we want it to be better. Not just for ourselves or our parents or siblings or friends but for everyone. Thanks to the deluge of information on the internet, we watch as disasters and violence and worse befall the world. We donate. We start charities, like Katharine did, but we ultimately end up back at square one.

The stigma remains that young people don’t know anything and that they should leave the big world-altering ideas to the older generations. It’s not like this is new. Every generation that ages thinks that the generation after is useless at doing anything other than being young and self-indulgent and utterly useless.

We get to hear all about how the modern young person is too concerned with having meaning in his/her job. Or that the modern young person mistakenly thinks that they’ll change anything in this world. After all, didn’t we watch Wall Street crumble and take the rest of the world with it?

Oh, but no one went to jail. Oh, and the status quo remains unchallenged.

Whether or not people choose to acknowledge it, the Millennial is an agent of social change, capable of starting revolutions and internet-driven wildfires. The revolution was not televised; it was Twitterized. It wasn’t some stodgy old dude sitting in an office somewhere that said, “Oh, yes. There is an opportunity to connect people all over the world with a social experiment. I think I’ll invent the next big internet… thing.”

Hell no.

It was three young dudes that said, “Y’know what? This is an opportunity to create a social experiment on the web. Let’s get a few people together and make this happen!”

They dreamed it. They worked it. They busted their asses before their experiment took off.

With stories of success like that, it’s no wonder that more and more millennials are leaving corporate and industry long before retirement to do their own thang. The traits that make us unemployable in the traditional sense are the same traits that make us into such an interesting breed of entrepreneur.

Some of us work our asses off to make a few bucks here and there, just because we love what we do. Others expect way too much, way too soon, and end up right back where they started: running reports and praying to the Code Gods that SQL Server won’t fritz out and erase your databases. And still more of us will astound you with how much we can accomplish in one sitting if we’re motivated to do so.

How do you motivate a Millennial?

Show us that our work actually matters. No one likes to feel like their work is being lost in the shuffle. We like to know that what we’re doing actually contributes to the greater good, whether that greater good is in the company or in the world. Yes, we’re confident and ambitious and need all kinds of love to do a good job in our work.

But when we really and truly believe in what we do — whether that’s personally or professionally — we’re capable of great things and great work.

Watch and we’ll astound you.

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