Millennials: entitled and unprepared? Not exactly

“CBS Sunday Morning” this week ran a piece on millennials, asking: what’s wrong with them? The setup: They’re entitled, impatient and unprepared for the workforce.

They spoke with Dr. Jean Twenge, whose “Generation Me” (originally written in 2006, FYI) reports that millennials are a little more narcissistic, compared to past generations, which results in them being ill-prepared for the “real world.”

They also spoke with Erin Lowry, aka “Broke Millennial,” who surmised that the higher expectations set by millennials, along with the need for instant gratification (enhanced by the presence of social media), can cause problems in the workplace.

I agree with Lowry’s point that gratification has changed how we expect and absorb platitudes. I worked in a newsroom for seven years, knowing full well my skills could be employed in other ways. I expected more. That said, while I picked and chose my spots to move up in the company, I exhibited plenty restraint. Why? Because we’re told (in America, forever) “that’s the way it is.”

But let’s take into account all the changes we’ve endured. We’re more connected – and in shorter time – thanks to social media, which means that yes, we expect to be liked and heard more immediately. But if the workplace doesn’t evolve to understand this, it won’t survive. This is not a millennial problem; this is an everyone else problem.

So your millennial expects his or her skills to be used better, and earlier in the career arc. Is that wrong? Maybe there’s something you can take from the millennial. Maybe there’s a lesson to learn. Maybe you’re not seeing the value. Maybe you need to reevaluate how business is done.

Millennials, more than anything, want to hear upfront the truth of your business. A history of monopolizing and lying corporate hegemony has turned millennials off from traditional corporate practice. Moreover, not making any money (not even what they want) has made millennials shun regular work life. They want to engage their creativity, offer something to the world with lasting value, and be paid fairly for their services.

Millennials are a little narcissistic, sure. But maybe we have to be full of ourselves sometimes. Otherwise we’ll let the broke, sad reality of America get us down. And let’s be real: There are far more millennials down in the dumps than overconfident.

The goal for you, “CBS Sunday Morning” viewer, is not to loathe millennials because you were told they might be full of themselves. No, the goal is to understand that this is a generation navigating a changing world where income is unfairly distributed, where fear and danger is real and prevalent, and where the idea of happiness is often sold in a number of ways. Be open to millennials; hey, you might learn something.

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