Millennials have many reputations, and unfortunately being a hard working generation isn’t one of them. We come from a world where college is a stepping stone to achieving our dreams, and passion is the basis of success. Our parents come from a world where college was common, but not inherent, and success was contingent upon hard work.
As our parents entered the work force, they took any job they could get. You weren’t going anywhere without getting started. As millennials enter the work force, we reflect upon our parents’ stories of starting out as the lowest man on the totem pole and years of long hours. We are, in turn, are paralyzed to begin.
In January of 2016, 5.1 years was the median amount of time the average millennial had spent in their current job. When you are a 22-year old graduate and realize that you could spend years in the job you accept straight out of school, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure attached to that decision. It feels permanent as compared to the digital world of abundant options we are accustomed to. Our parents didn’t have reports and generational studies popping up on their Twitter feeds telling them their statistical probability of being able to switch industries or become a CEO. They got a job and let the rest figure itself out.
Our parents’ hard work led to great success, and a characteristic of their generation became helicopter parenting. Our parents had the resources to become overly focused and involved in child’s lives in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting (i.e. definition of helicopter parent). Parents enabled us to follow our dreams, and they did everything they could to ensure we succeeded in whatever it was we wanted to achieve. Because of the helicopter parenting phenomenon, we have infinitely more options then our parents did when it comes to preparing for and working towards a career. This is what has led to the millennial rejection of embarking upon a career without verification that the choice will be emotionally and financially fulfilling. We have been seasoned to be successful, and therefore it is hard for us to jump into an opportunity that is not part of what we think the proper pathway forward is.
As a generation, we are incapable of settling for less than our dreams, and this is as bad as it is good. The problem is, even though millennials are a very qualified generation, that does not mean that there are abundantly more “dream jobs” out there for the taking. Social media exposes us to the glamorous and passionate people who have succeeded in achieving their dreams- whether this is to be a travel writer, a banker, an actress or an architect. We are proud of our achievements, and we oftentimes share our achievements with the world. But what do the other 80% of dreamers do when their dream isn’t working out? This is where we should learn from our parents’ generation. Just because we aren’t satisfied with our first or second opportunity out of school, that doesn’t mean that things won’t work out.
Part of starting out in the professional world is working your ass off, understanding what you do and do not like, and learning what to look for in a next opportunity. What we think we want out of school or at 25 may not be what we end up wanting at all. The paralyses to dive into a career that isn’t exactly what we envisioned for ourselves is halting to our self-development more so than taking a job in a slightly different field than we had hoped for initially. Any experience is better than no experience. As a generation we must remember that just because you aren’t living your dream at 21 doesn’t mean you won’t be at 40. The key is to do something over nothing.