As a millennial, I am aware that there are many negative stereotypes about this generation. I am very bothered by these stereotypes, as they affect potential employer’s views of myself and others in my generation. I hate the thought of being denied a job based on a stereotype. Though millennials are portrayed as unmotivated slackers by members of other generations, they are not “lazy”. On the contrary, millennials are driven individuals who often work harder than those of past generations did at their age. But what exactly does it mean to be lazy?
Laziness can be many things, but most commonly it means a lack of drive or ambition, and an unwillingness to work. Lazy individuals may set goals, but they do not take the actions necessary to reach them. Millennials as a whole do not fit this description. In fact, millennials are extremely busy individuals. Many millennials are students right now. A survey from Citigroup and Seventeen magazine found that students work an average of nineteen hours per week (Fang). On top of that, they attend class anywhere from twelve to eighteen hours a week.
Time spent studying varies from student to student, but it is safe to say that students spend at least a few hours each week completing assignments and preparing for tests. All of this combined with trying to maintain a social life and get enough sleep keeps students very occupied. I know this to be true, as I am a college student myself. As for millennials who are not in school, many work more than one job to keep up with the rising cost of living (Kitterlin). By definition, this means they are not lazy. Millennials actually have to work harder than past generations to get the same things.
Taylor Tepper, a reporter for Money, a financial publication by Time, says that millennials are simply unlucky. He reports that previous generations entered the workforce when the economy was booming and thousands of new jobs were opening up, as opposed to millennials who did and are entering the workforce during economic downturn. This economic downturn means it is harder for graduates to find jobs and results in lower wages. Another reason millennials are earning lower wages is because older generations are delaying retirement, which prevents millennials from moving up the corporate ladder and earning promotions (Lewis).
This may be due to the fact that millennials are better at saving money than previous generations (Paterakis). Because millennials have a hard time finding jobs after graduation and wages are lower due to the recent economic downturn, it’s nearly impossibl them to advance in life. Tepper cites that the Pew Research Center recently found, “Millennials are the first in in the modern era to have higher levels of debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same time.
This makes it plain that millennials post graduation predicament is a difficult one to navigate. Many millennials leave college with a huge amount of debt. The 2014 national average for the United States was $28,950 (Project on Student Debt). This debt combined with the increased cost of living for millennials and low wages makes it much harder for them to make big purchases, like homes. Many people think millennials are unambitious freeloaders because they still live at home with their parents, but the truth is it is much harder for a millennial to buy a house than it was for a baby boomer.
Paul Kershaw, a policy professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population Health, explains that the inherited standard of living is much more challenging for modern young adults (Woo). He points out that thirty years ago, in Canada, it took a person between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four only five years to put a twenty percent down payment on an average home. Now, he reports, it takes an average of twelve years. When millennials cannot even make enough money to pay off their student debt, how are they supposed to buy a house? Clearly, illennials do not live at home because they are lazy.
Actually, many studies have found that millennials are great employees. Miranda Kitterlin, a professor at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, says that millennials have historically and continually been linked to workplace success. She believes that while millennials do sometimes blur the line between work and play, this can actually benefit companies. She says that since millennials are always connected to their technology, it results in an endless workweek.
This means millennials will often use personal time to respond to company emails and catch up on work assignments. She reports that millennials have many hidden strengths, often perceived as weaknesses, which should be capitalized on by businesses rather than criticized. Bruce Tulgan concedes that millennials may be the highest performing workforce in the history of the world (Lewis). When given the right environment, he says, millennials are super producers. Millennial companies have a higher level of drive and report significantly higher net profits (Lewis). Obviously, millennials aren’t slacking on the job.
But what about away from the job? Millennials don’t just go to school and work. Many millennials are involved in other activities as well. A lot of millennials play sports through a school or rec team. Though many believe that millennials are disengaged when it comes to politics, anyone who goes to college knows this could not be further from the truth, especially for the upcoming election. Students can join political clubs such as the young republicans or democrats on most campuses, chalk messages and bumper stickers supporting candidates can be seen everywhere, and students debate political points on school Facebook pages.
Millennials are anything but disengaged. Millennials also campaign for issues that are important to them such as climate change, lower education costs, and the ethical treatment of animals. The majority of millennials also volunteer in some way. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report stated that seventy percent of millennials spent at least one hour volunteering and over 30 percent volunteered eleven or more hours (Schulte). Some even used time off from work (Paid and unpaid) to do volunteer work. Lazy individuals don’t freely give their time and effort to help others.
Since millennials do so, it is evident they are not lazy. Some millennials have reached extreme levels of success. Take Mark Zuckerberg, for example. The name is familiar to most, as he created the ever-growing network, Facebook. Some may argue that it did not take that much work to simply make a website. While it is true that it does not take very much physical labor, it does take intelligence and time. Eric Butler is a security expert who, at 26, already owns his own business and continues to make advances in security software.
AJ Forsyth started a business known as iCracked to repair cell phones, which has now done over ten million dollars in business. None of these millennials would be successful if they were lazy. They took their time and effort to sit down and create businesses, and work to make them prosper. Of course, three people do not represent the work ethic of an entire generation, but neither does a stereotype. Millennials are also not the first generation to be criticized. Writing for Huffington Post, Ramesh Ranjan points out that every generation has been seen by its’ predecessor as terrible in some way.
It started back in ancient times with Plato and has continued on to today. Kitterlin says that many of the complaints older generations have about millennials may simply be stage of life issues rather than generational characteristics. This means that millennials are no more lazy or entitled or narcissistic then other generations were at their age. This also means these issues are just part of being in your teens, twenties and thirties, and millennials will outgrow them just as baby boomers and gen xers did.
Because they are at different stages of life, previous generations forget what it was like to be the age of a millennial and what they were like at the time. It is hard for them to relate to millennials because so much has changed between generations. This is part of what leads to the negative feelings and stereotypes. Older generations may think that because a millennials asks to get off early on Fridays they are being lazy or going to indulge in fun like drinks with friends.
Really, that millennial coworker may be going to volunteer in the community, campaign for political issues, practice a sport, or work another job. Millennials are actually much more engaged, productive, and motivated then what they seem to their elders. Millennials are undoubtedly different than past generations. They face different struggles, seek different things, and play by different rules. While older generations may see millennials as lazy, this could not be further from the truth. In reality, millennials are enthusiastic, motivated individuals who just had it a little tougher from the beginning.
Millennials often go to school, work long hours, and participate in extracurricular activities only to still be buried in debt and forced to live with their parents. Millennials have been stereotyped and labeled, but they continue to disprove their critics. Millennials may appear lazy or unambitious from the outside, but upon closer inspection, one can see that as a whole they are quite the opposite. Millennials are volunteers, job seekers, struggling students, entrepreneurs, and activists. What they are not, is lazy.