My name is Alexandra, and I’m a millennial. I know what you’re thinking: "not another entitled 20-something." I can see those eyes rolling through the screen, but I’m not THAT kind of millennial. I am also hardworking, motivated, and have many aspirations that go beyond spending the next 10 years on my parents' couch.
I hear a lot of blanket statements about what millennials are like, including the usual stereotypes that I’m sure you’ve heard too: We’re lazy, entitled, and, as Time magazine put it, the Me Me Me Generation.
We are 80 million strong, yet not a whole lot of people like us. Bummer.
Those preconceived notions are real, too, whether it’s employers who scoff at the résumé of a college student, assuming their only accomplishments are the longest keg stand and a too-cheesy Instagram bio, or the security guards at museums who smirk at young adults who seemingly care more about the lighting in their Snapchat story than the Jackson Pollock whatever right before their eyes.
People are pretty skeptical of us.
And here’s the thing: A lot of the stereotypes are true. We live in a time of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat — platforms begging us to share more and more about ourselves, so of course we are a little vain, and so what if we want to document every second of our lives? I love a great Snapchat filter. I’m constantly being told that I am “attached to my phone.” And I secretly wish I had more Instagram followers. I’m one of them — I get it.
Our vanity though, can lead to entitlement, which is not so easy to blame on an app. I do think that too often my peers feel entitled to things like better jobs, higher grades, and more Facebook likes.
And here’s where things get complicated. It’s cool to have confidence. (Please be confident!) But it’s also important to respect people who are in positions above you, peers who have worked a little harder than you, and honestly, people who have simply been living longer than you because they have more experience and have something to teach.
I find myself having to prove to other people that I’m not like the millennials they’ve read about in Time. That I do want to work hard. I will get coffee if you ask me to. And I’m soaking up everything you say and do, from how to conduct myself in a staff meeting to how much makeup is OK to wear in the office.
While at xoJane this summer, I knew I was privileged to land a position on staff as a paid full-time intern, so I would double- and triple-check my work and never take shortcuts. Even though I had tons of other responsibilities (as 20-year-olds do, ya know?), work became a priority so I could prove that I was a hard worker and not just cruising my way through the six-week internship.
In the past few years, there has been a wave of lawsuits coming from young interns who feel as though they aren’t being treated well at their job. I am not about to discredit someone’s experience, considering I’ve heard of various young people working from the crack of dawn until the early morning with NO pay. And I am definitely not condoning the fact that some interns were allegedly making about $1 an hour for MANY hours of grunt work, but I don’t think that’s always the case.
I think what sometimes happens is that young people think they deserve to be calling all the shots when instead they’re being asked, as the cliché goes, to make copies.
Okay, copies suck, but you know what? Someone has to do it. Sometimes you have to take one for the team and say to yourself, “Yeah, I would rather be the one calling the shots and asking for favors, but I’m not there yet.” That’s just it! You’re not there yet! I’m not there yet! But that’s OK. Everyone has to make copies sometimes, and the way I see it, that’s us at this stage in our careers.
This is the way the job market works. Most of our parents and our parents’ parents, no matter how successful they may be now, were making copies at our age and had to work their way up. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Socially, though, millennials show great strength, passion, and initiative. I am often in awe of my peers who are unafraid to speak out about issues they are passionate about and are not lazy at all about getting out and marching and rallying for causes they believe in.
While watching the Democratic National Convention and seeing how young people, like me, responded to Bernie Sanders as he took the stage, I finally got it. Young people are fed up with the way things are, and are desperate to make them better. Sanders proposed groundbreaking ideas that reached way beyond politics. This resonated with the millions of millennials who are simply trying reach their full potential — as quickly as they can.
Sometimes these things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. I’m sure as hell not saying to stop trying or to stop holding ourselves to high standards, because we should. But realize, that it may take a little while to reach the top of the ladder — whatever that ladder may be. But don’t stop fighting, don’t stop hoping for a better future, because we all know we need one. However, it’s important to leave room for discussion, leave room to learn from those who came before us.
Bottom line is, we have to be aware that we’re getting a bad reputation. That doesn’t mean we are inherently bad; in fact, I think it’s actually quite the opposite. If we put our social-media-savvy (baby boomers rely on us millennials for our social media knowledge, don’t they?), insistent, and confident minds to it, we have the power to make a lot of change. I’ve seen it happen everywhere, from those Bernie Sanders rallies to people like David Karp who dropped out of high school to create Tumblr.
To borrow a quote from another generation’s legend and hero, John Lennon, “The thing the ’60s did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.” The ’60s were a long time ago, yes, but I think the same could be said today. There is so much possibility that comes with being a young, motivated person in 2016 and, as John Lennon says, there is a responsibility that comes with that. Even if we start by doing something small, it will be a glimpse into what’s to come for us — as long as we don’t piss everyone off before we get there.