The Millennial Generation: Silent Threat or Unapologetically Lazy?

I had the chance to listen to a lecture from George Foster of Foster Marketing this week, and while discussing his office environment he posed a very interesting question: Are millennials lazy? If you’re not familiar with the term, millennials are those born somewhere between the early 80s and the mid-90s. We bear many names: Millennials, Gen Y, Echo Boomers, the Net Generation, the Facebook Generation, and Generation Next (to name a few).

We’ve been dubbed unmotivated, unfazed by our lack of early success, and according to this New York Times article, our future looks grim. “The prospects in the workplace, even for the college-educated, have rarely been so bleak,” the author writes, “Apart from the 14% who are unemployed and seeking work, 23% are not even seeking a job.”

Those of us within this generation find ourselves perpetually defending our worth to the Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers. “We’ve been accused of being lazy, self-indulgent, coddled, narcissistic and distracted by too much technology,” a writer for the L.A. Times, who coincidentally is a millennial child herself, declares.

And to be perfectly honest, as I look around my college campus, I see certain peers of mine who may have perpetuated that image. Kids are moving back in with mom and dad, living off student loans, and continually posting drunken photos on Facebook despite every warning of potential future job interview embarrassment. But in my humble opinion, these people are the caricatures of our generation.

In fact, I have to argue that all of the scrutiny has probably made most of us more hard-working in our early twenties. So much so that some reports even show that millennial women are actually burning out in their 30s these days. “One reason [for this] is that they have simply reached their breaking point after spending their childhoods developing well-rounded resumes. They worked like crazy in college, and then they get into the workforce and they are exhausted.”

During his presentation, Foster was actually an advocate for young, millennial workers (especially in the PR field) because, “There is no room for lazy. You have to be passionate, energetic, and be able to multitask and really engage people,” he said. And I believe that to be true. We’re networking on Twitter and LinkedIn, signing up for technology workshops, and shadowing professionals any chance we get. We’re not too important to get your coffee, as long as you provide us with valuable knowledge and take-away skills in return.

I think the most important things for us to remember are to (1) prioritize and (2) never get too comfortable. Work hard, but also know when to pull yourself away from your laptop and go for a walk. Stay open to opportunity, but also know when to say “No” when you simply have too much on your plate. If you can’t find a job, make a job. In between jobs these past few years I’ve taken plenty of odd jobs to fill my time and keep me moving – from volunteering at a horse therapy ranch to contracting freelance writing and design work.

In this economy, I think it’s essential that we just try to remain relevant. Keep in touch with past internship employers, Tweet the people you really admire from your field, and stay connected with your college professors. After all, you never know where you’re next opportunity will come from.

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