Art by Peau Porotesano
Millennials, those born from the years 1982 to 2000, are often defined by a number of negative stereotypes. Lisa Hovey remarked how she frequently hears the complaint that millennials are “lazy, selfish and entitled,” in “Why Your Office’s Millennials Aren’t Lazy, Selfish and Entitled,” published Feb. 6, 2017 by Fortune. But these stereotypes can actually be reinterpreted in several positive ways.
From Lazy to Driven
One of the main reasons why young professionals would voluntarily leave their current employers is “to pursue work that is more aligned with [their] passions,” according to “How Millennials Navigate Their Careers,” published November 2015 by Boston College. In my junior year I pursued a college minor, having discovered my passion for a particular field. Time seemed to fly by as I worked on the readings and papers for my minor courses in a way that I hadn’t for my other classes.
I had been so engrossed in the reading I began one night for a minor class that when I finally finished the entire book, it was already morning. Moreover, I can still recall how I spent days reading hundreds of pages of research and outlining a paper for another minor course. Then, I spent two more straight days and nights fervently writing my paper until, finally, due to sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep in front of the classroom after submitting my assignment.
While I don’t necessarily condone these unhealthy examples brought on by the dedication to a subject, the point is that far from being disengaged or disinterested, millennials can actually be so driven to pursue their passions that they forget to do all else, including sleep.
From Narcissistic to Self-Aware
Rather than acting conceited, millennials seem very aware of who they are, and if not, then they really strive to figure this out about themselves. On the one hand, humility should remain a valued trait. But in a world where college application essays are inquiring what sets us apart from other applicants, and where interviewers are asking what distinguishes us from other candidates, embracing our individualities is a strength among millennials. Indeed, the traits that seem narcissistic among millennials “are simply hallmarks of early adulthood — it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there, applying for first jobs and meeting potential life partners. Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes,” according to Brooke Foster’s article,”The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial,” published Nov. 19, 2014 by The Atlantic.
From Conceited to Doubtful
In one of my college classes, my peers and I discussed what we thought were the issues of our generation. I brought up the ongoing opinions that millennials are conceited and entitled and how I disagreed with them. To my surprise, several of my classmates raised their hands to support me. Even our professor who, while seemingly empathetic, was not a millennial had expressed his support. He said that despite the apparent confidence of my generation, he could also tell that we were very much “afraid.”
In a time when there are so many expectations weighing us down and so much pressure to know exactly who we want to be by the time we graduate, our professor’s words were a much-needed tonic for already confused and terrified millennials like myself. If I could go back in time, I would have said, “Thank you for understanding us.”
From Job-Hoppers to Courageous in Career Pursuits
“Job-hopping is becoming the norm for the average twenty something,” according to Kaytie Zimmerman’s article, “Millennials, Stop Apologizing For Job-Hopping,” published June 7, 2016, by Forbes. Unfortunately, some stigma still persists around this millennial trend. Personally, I remain convinced that each of our mini-journeys is necessary in helping us to figure out who we are and what we hope to pursue in the future. I’ve come to learn that discovering a career in which we fit, even if this leads us to be falsely perceived as wayward, is in fact one of the most admirable and courageous things that we as millennials could do.
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