I know you’re not my biggest fan. I’m one of those pesky GenY twenty-somethings that you’ve called “cocky,” “lazy,” and “incompetent.” It appears our generation has hit a nerve, really gotten under your skin. Well, I am writing to you because I feel like we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Please hear me out.
I’ve thought long & hard about what it must be like from your perspective, and I have some theories about your frustration. I will have to generalize, but from the many papers & articles published about GenY as a whole, I think you will understand. Here it goes-
Many of you were raised the sons & daughters of hard-working middle class Americans & first-generation immigrants. Growing up, you watched your parents make sacrifices & work incredibly hard to realize the American dream, even when fair employment was rarely offered to those not educated in America. As young men, you faced drafts & as young women you had to break down the barriers of inequality in the work place. You did not have it easy but you were determined to succeed. Many of you were the first in your families to receive higher education and entered the workplace hungry for success.
For years you worked diligently, providing a lifestyle for your family that you could only dream of as a child. All of the things you had to work so hard to achieve, you happily handed to us, your children.
We gladly accepted the opportunities provided to us and as youngsters, always sought your advice. However as we enter adulthood, many of us having graduated college; masters programs; and/or started promising careers, some of us are turning away from the path that has been so carefully laid out before us. As a result, you feel betrayed, taken advantage of, and ignored. You might assume we are lazy & unwilling to work hard to achieve success the way you did. You think the environment of positive reinforcement you raised us in has created an epidemic of spoiled, self-involved young adults.
Am I close?
If it sounds at all familiar, I think we can clear a few things up. First of all, please know that we are grateful for the sacrifices you made for our generation; we recognize everything you did and know that we could not be where we are today without you help. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
That being said, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could consider the below:
- You are right that many of us do not want to work the way you did, BUT by no means does that imply we do not want to work hard. While we may not be following the standard 8am-6pm cubicle job, modern technology allows us to be productive from anywhere at anytime and we are taking advantage of it. You may not consider tasks like utilizing social media or blogging “work” but believe me, if you are contributing anything valuable, it is!
- We have different definitions of success than you do. Many millennials are placing greater importance on quality of life than monetary success alone. After receiving top educations & gaining valuable experience, we are passing up some very lucrative, respectable careers, but we prefer to be passionate about our jobs and are willing to make financial sacrifices to get there. I understand your frustration- tuition costs have skyrocketed and you want to get your money’s worth. However, instead of judging the worth of our education based solely on our starting salaries, please try to look at the whole picture. You’ve given us the background to find careers that not only support us but more importantly are fulfilling. Perhaps we are starting our own business or following another, non-traditional career path, but trust that whatever we do, we are not treating it lightly. With the constant restructuring of modern businesses, we are concentrating on building our individual worth by pursuing careers we are passionate about with the hopes to achieve long-term success.
- (The one that really gets to me.) We’re tougher & more grounded than you give us credit for. When you have gone through such lengths to prepare us for the real world, how is it that you so quickly assume we are making foolish decisions? We don’t expect success to be handed to us on a silver platter; give us a little credit & maybe even a chance to prove ourselves.
- And finally, we’ve learned from watching you. Like every generation, we observed your trials & tribulations and have learned from them. Perhaps we saw marriages fall apart or witnessed our fair share of mid-life crisis among the neighbors. Whatever it was that influenced us, it is time for us to start our own journeys, make our own mistakes, and eventually give the generation after us their very own list of problems to avoid!
The best way for us to understand & maybe even help each other is through open communication. I hope this is a good start.
Written by: Tina Paparone is the co-founder & CEO of the unique gift company BeMe, which creates products to inspire girls to embrace their individuality. Find out more about BeMe & Tina’s other projects at www.TinaPaparone.com.