Millenials: Hardest Working Generation

Emily Fong, Co-News Editor

Over the summer, I was able to listen in on a conversation my father had with an associate. This man strode up to my dad in a business-casual pressed shirt and Doc Martens, flashing a smile at the two of us. A conversation between the two began, and I stood politely with the demure smile of someone uninvited to the party.

The discourse continued between them. What began on the subject of the economy quickly delved into more personal complaints about the workforce of today. I remember my dad’s exasperated expression as he ranted about certain employees and modern business culture. They used phrases like “back in my day” and “I can’t believe,” but not a single positive comment about this workforce made up of “millenials.”

Towards the conclusion of this verbal tirade, my dad’s friend turned to me, suddenly remembering I was very much one of these “milenials.” Forcing an uncomfortable smile, he said, “But you won’t turn out like that, right?” before strolling away smugly, his Doc Martens clicking along the convention center concrete.

“I hate it when people say that,” I told my dad, “It’s the economy, it’s education costs, it’s the business world, it’s not just my generation!”

“Trust me, it’s your generation,” he said to me.

From this summer’s infamous TIME cover titled the “ME, ME, ME Generation” to business owners’ complaints everywhere, the response to “millenials” is exceedingly negative. Is this fair? What circumstances are different for my generation than others’?

For starters, the cost of tuition has skyrocketed. For the 2002-2003 school year, the average cost of tuition at University of California schools was about $4000, according to a chart made by KQED Bay Area. Now tuition expenses has crested $12000, and it only gets worse when adjusted for inflation. The New York Times showed the correlation between increasing cost of education and increasing graduate debt over time.

The debt we carry before we even enter the workforce means there’s a lot more on our plates than those of previous generations. We graduate with a disadvantage, and enter the working world with more to make up. CNN’s financial division reported that, on average, people who graduated from college in the last few years are making $10,000 less than young people in 2005.

One thing that I don’t need is the numbers. It’s become common knowledge that my future will be harder than if I had been born in the same situation 5 years earlier.

Of course, I’m not hungry or starving. I live in Lamorinda, for God’s sake.

However, this is not just a regional issue, it is truly a generational event. No matter where you come from, if you intend on being a working adult, you are going to have to fight some absurd odds. Unless you live the life of a billionaire trust fund baby, it’s going to get rough.

If it isn’t evident already, then let me just ask: how excited would you be for the future if you started out at the edge of a cliff with nowhere to go but down? Never mind even getting into college, that’s harder than it was before, too. Rob LaZebnik, a writer for The Simpsons, in his mock-commencement speech for the class of 2013, wrote about contacting an admissions officer from his alma mater. He asked the officer to review his 25 year old application to see if he would be accepted in 2012. The answer: not a chance. 73% of LaZebnik’s classmates would also be rejected had they applied now.

It’s enough of an achievement to even be able to go to college in the United States, where many people are finding higher education to be out of their reach.

With all of this in mind we return to the original proposition: is it fair to think milenials are less hardworking, more entitled, and less accomplished than the Baby Boomers or other generations?

Hell no! If anything, we’ve had to work harder to get where we are. Such pessimism has no basis in fact, instead finding its roots in the curmudgeonry of an older generation.  But if you tell anyone this, it will be dismissed with the wave of a hand.