Most of what I hear people say about my Millennial generation is that we’re lazy, entitled, and have unrealistic expectations about life.
But they miss the biggest stereotype of all: We’re lost.
When I started working at my current company a year ago, one of my co-workers turned out to be a high school classmate. We found out that our lives had followed a remarkably similar path in the preceding decade.
We both went to fairly good schools and studied impractical things—but neither of us noticed, until it was too late. From there, we worked in a couple of different fields, and despite relative success, neither of us found anything we could really see ourselves doing in the long-term.
We were rudderless.
Neither of us lacked ambition, but we just didn’t really know what we were supposed to do after college. When I was in high school, I heard stories of friends’ older siblings who studied Spanish in college, took extremely cliché backpacking trips afterward, and within a few years, had settled into six-figure salaries (in jobs that didn’t even require them to speak Spanish).
Well, when it was my turn to go to college, I guess I should’ve noticed that the whole economy was falling apart. I just figured if there was going to be a problem, someone would’ve said something.
No one did say anything.
It was up to me to figure out how to advance my own career path.
Apparently, my former classmate learned the same lesson: If we wanted to get anywhere professionally, we’d need something tangible to offer an employer. Being smart and hard-working may have been enough for Generation X and those job seekers during the economic boom in the 90s, but that’s not enough for millennials.
My classmate and I needed to learn a skill where we could point to something and say, “This is what I do.” We both wound up earning our masters in computer science. After a lot of thought about what we liked and what kind of work we’d actually enjoy doing, we landed at the same company.
Millennials aren’t stupid, or lazy, or waiting for the world to come to us. We just don’t know how to approach the world. Why? It’s because it’s hard to determine what the world wants from us, especially if everything before we entered college had been so planned out.
So, to all the naysayers out there about the Millennial generation, remember this: We’re more than happy to put in the work to get what we want. But we just have to figure out what that work is.