Is the Millennial Label Fair for the Whole Generation?

I am considered a millennial by demographic definition.

But, I have to admit, I hate the word and the context it’s used in. While millennial is just a category, like baby boomer or Generation X, it seems to carry the most negative connotation. So many articles have been written about how it’s so hard to understand “us” ― the millennials. About how we are “Generation Me” – selfish, entitled and lazy. That we expect to be handed everything we want, that we are narcissistic, and that we think we shouldn’t have to work hard for the things we want. Employers are hesitant to hire us because we are difficult to work with. And the list goes on.

I won’t say the definition is completely inaccurate for everyone. Of course, some people are selfish, lazy and narcissistic. But to stereotype an entire generation is frustrating. Some of us do work hard and don’t expect to be handed anything. I’ve met both types of millennials. I’ve met both types of people across the age spectrum, regardless of generation.

I was raised by parents who owned their own businesses. Working hard was the only way to keep their businesses afloat. We didn’t always get family vacations. We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the week or play video games (we didn’t even have video games until high school or the infamous AOL Instant Messenger for that matter). We played sports year round — sometimes multiple sports in a season. Once we started something, we had to finish it. I remember that during my freshman year of high school, I decided to sign up for track and field because most of my friends decided we would all try that sport during the spring season. After two days of practice, I was miserable. I hated running. I thought, surely if my parents saw how much I didn’t like it, they would understand and let me stop. I cried to my mom, telling her it was too hard and that I was never going to enjoy it. She looked at me and told me that I could decide not to sign up again next year, but I would finish the season because “Applegates weren’t quitters.” I went on to get sixth in the state in my 4 x 8 relay and participated in track for the next three years.

That mindset of never quitting has been with me ever since. In college, while my friends were taking on waitressing and lifeguarding in the summer to make spending money for beach trips and vacations, I was taking every unpaid internship I could find in sports management and event planning to build my resume.  I spent four summers working 12-hour days at unpaid internships, which eventually led to a job immediately upon graduation. I graduated college on a Saturday and started into the workforce full-time that next Monday ― and I have been employed with a job ever since. I didn’t backpack across Europe, take time off to find myself, and then hop back into job hunting like I was the best thing out there because I had a degree. I worked hard and continue to do so to this day, always trying to show my dedication through commitment and exceeding expectations of my supervisors and clients.

At IGS, I have the pleasure of being surrounded by people who hold the same values, even if we are all “millennials.” People have come and gone during my time at IGS, and one of the qualities I’ve noticed in the people who stay is the desire to work hard. Most of us have that “can do” attitude that allows us to appeal to customers and clients because we get the job done and we go beyond expectations. We have a great team, one that encourages all of us to continue to push ourselves and want to push ourselves. IGS seems to have found ways to find those millennials who are hard workers, and we are out here working in the corporate world and making a name not only for ourselves, but for our company as well.

Maybe I’m the minority in the millennial generation. Maybe my parents are responsible for my work ethic, and that isn’t always the case for others. But when you work hard for things and do well, it’s hard to hear you’re just a millennial who is selfish and lazy. There are a lot of us hard working millennials out there who don’t fit into the stereotypes of our generation. We know that working hard is a surefire way to take pride in our accomplishments. So please, don’t assume that because I was born in the ‘80s I am entitled. I promise you I work hard, and I promise you that there are a lot of us millennials who are dedicated to our jobs and who have restored our employers’ faith in us. 

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