Thursday, February 25, 2016

Millennial Entitlement

I thought I'd start this post with a picture of me and some friends from a few years back hanging around a campfire on the beach. You know, millennials doing millennial things...

It's true that I have lived a pretty good life. I have no real complaints about what life has handed me so far. This is not a "life is too hard" so feel sorry for us millennials blog post. But it's also not exactly a "we deserve to be called entitled" blog post either.

According to most sources, millennials were born anywhere from the early 1980s (such as myself) to the early 2000s. That's a pretty broad span of time. Enough time there could be parents and children who are both considered millennials. But this is not unusual for most labeled generations to span across 20 years. The difference, I might argue, is that the world is changing at a much faster pace than ever before in history. So the difference in world experience between someone in their early 30s and someone just out of high school is a vastly different world experience.

When I was growing up I did not have a cell phone, or a "social network" or even computer with internet access. Those on the other end of the millennial generation have no idea what life is like without having the internet in their pocket at all times. They don't understand that we used to make plans ahead of time to meet with friends. And if we were late, there was no way to let the other person know that we were on our way, and if our friend was late we didn't have any device to entertain us while we waited for them. Basically you had to make a bigger effort to be on time so you didn't leave your friend waiting alone somewhere (with nothing to make them look busy so creeps wouldn't try to start a conversation with them). But I am not going to complain about these advances in technology that have made life more convenient. I enjoy these devices and the services they provide. I am just trying to explain that our lifestyles have changed vastly in just a few short years. Even in college I didn't have my own computer or laptop. I had to use the computers at the computer lab - which meant getting dressed and going into public at the times the labs were open in order to do my homework. I enjoy the flexibility that advances in technology has added to my life.

I also resent the term "entitled." I think it is thrown around way too much nowadays. I wonder if the greatest generation thought that their baby boomer children were entitled when it was suddenly a cultural norm to own a car? Perhaps they did. And perhaps being labeled as "entitled" is a right of passage until the next generation is coming of age and we get to point out all of the advantages that they enjoy that we did not have.

But I think the bigger issue with the "entitlement" is not so much that millennials think they deserve things they haven't worked hard for, I think it's that in our age of information we are the most well-informed generation. The saying "ignorance is bliss" comes to mind when I think on past generations who just didn't know they could ask for more. Nowadays it is common knowledge all of the perks that certain companies allow their employees. We all know that Google has sleep pods if you need to take nap during your break time. Ebay offers gym memberships. Many other companies offer the same perks, as well as flexible schedules and work-from-home opportunities for work-life balance. The problems is that millennials know this. And so they will ask for flexible schedules at work, or the ability to work from home some of the time. They see that successful companies are able to offer this and so they'll want to explore the possibilities available at their current jobs. They may want to prove that they can be productive and get just as much, if not more, work done if you are flexible with them. After all, we all have life stuff that we try to squeeze in on the nights and weekends that we'd like to have more flexibility with.

A friend and I were having a discussion about asking for raises. Another thing noted as "millennial entitlement." She brought up the fine point that it's not our fault that nobody asked for raises twenty years ago. But now we know that we can, and have to, ask for raises and therefore we do. It's also not our fault that the cost of living continues to rise exponentially while wages have remained pretty stagnant over the last thirty years. So we aren't asking to be paid more because we're greedy and expect handouts, we just need to keep up with our living costs.

Not all of us floated through life until we graduated college and then expected a well paying job for our art degree. That is the label that we're given. But don't forget that millennials include many of those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. And remember that many of us millennials also struggled with one or two minimum wage jobs to get ourselves through college, and found that two minimum wage jobs sometimes paid better than the entry level job we were given right out of college. But we needed the health benefits and wanted to start on a career path and so we've struggled to make our way. And when we ask for flexibility, it might be because we have kids, or sick parents, or any number of responsibilities at home and no way to survive without two household incomes. And we ask for raises because we've worked our asses off for sometimes three or four years without any increase in pay and we feel we've put the effort in, and it's been made clear we AREN'T just going to be handed that raise or promotion, and so we ask. We ask because we have to. We ask because we can. We ask because, you never know if you don't ask...