About our generation

By Hannah Nelson

Generation X-er Jeff Gordinier, author of “X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking,” claims that his generation is saving the world. But there are a few analysts who suspect that the title may just go to Generation Y, or the Millennials, the “next great generation.” For children of the eighties and nineties, it won’t be easy to land the tile. There are plenty of skeptics raining on the millennial parade as they enter the workplace. “Arrogant. Individualistic. Unable to commit. Short attention span.” While that may sound a lot like a description of your ex, it’s actually a description of Millennials by some employers.

One employer described Millennials as “know-it-alls” and “high-maintenance,” which seems a tad bit harsh in comparison. The boomers complain that Millennials are easily bored with work and leave easily, making it hard to retain the new workforce that was supposed to be so promising. That leads to complaint number two, that Millennials are too flighty, too willing to do a bit of job hopping, and employers aren’t taking kindly to the losses. Spreading the word on an unfavorable boss to a few scores of friends and acquaintances isn’t that hard in today’s world. All those hours spent on community outlets are turning out a generation that is willing to take a job, or leave one, just so they can share a workspace with a friend. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last I checked that could be considered a virtuous little thing called ‘loyalty.’

It turns out that the Millennials do have to let go (however grudgingly) of the supposed monopoly on technology. Generation X and the Boomers are becoming just as savvy and don’t need to rely on the Millennials anymore as the go-to guys and gals when that Blackberry has a glitch. Whatever happened to the old standby of knowing how to work all the latest gadgets? At least that was something. The Millennial digital know-how was supposed to be the big ticket to landing all those jobs in the first place.

” ‘They’re so rude. Look at how they dress.’ It’s been going on forever,” Dave Verhaagen, a child psychologist said of employer reactions. “But I don’t think the data supports that for the Millennials.” Verhaagen, a child psychologist, published a book about how to parent the Millennials several years ago. And his colleagues are in agreement. Every generation faces the same criticisms, the elders forgetting that they were once the greenhorns themselves.

There are some Millennial advocates though, and they turned out last week at a Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference to persuade future employers to see the evidence that speaks favorably. It turns out that hard facts show that Boomers are just as likely to commit the job hopping sin as their younger co-workers.

Also to be buried at the San Francisco held conference was the idea that Millennials want, or rather, need that instant gratification in the job application process. That particular claim has actually struck so much fear into the hearts of companies in the past that they have actually been restructuring applications to take less time to fill out, just so that Millennials won’t be deterred. Millennials are goal oriented with high expectations of themselves, and others. That then begs the question, are expectations too high? Are Millennials so optimistic that they just won’t settle till they get the job they want? And since when has that been a bad thing? Whatever happened to chasing the dream?

In defense of my fellow Millennials, there is in fact a nice thing or two to be said for us that pushes us a few steps further than some employers may have thought. Our generation is said to be less likely to be discriminatory based on race and gender than previous generations. And apparently we’ve put in more hours of study time than the previous generations. We show the most dedication towards community service, so much so that an estimated half of Millennials will look for a job that provides community service opportunities. So love us or hate us, one thing that can be said is that we aren’t any worse than our predecessor. Maybe we’re just aiming a bit higher.

Hannah Nelson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]