Are Millennials Really the ‘Me Me Me’ Generation?

time magazine millennials me me me generationHow many of you saw the cover to Time Magazine’s May 20th edition, claiming Millennials, those born between roughly 1980 and 2000, are “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents” and immediately thought – yep, sounds about right.

Author Joel Stein has long been one of my favorite journalists, so I knew the article would be well researched and thought provoking, and he didn’t disappoint.

But as I read his feature, I stopped caring if Millennials were the death of our country or the savior, the only thing I could think of is – what an opportunity.

If, lets say, Stein and his merry band of researchers have correctly figured out the formula for narcissism and concluded the majority of Millennials care more about their Facebook photos than the value of a hard days work, then doesn’t that open a door for the minority of Millennials who are altruistic and hard working?

If vast numbers of college graduates are competing for work in a challenging job market, doesn’t it stand to reason that the easiest way to differentiate one’s self from the competitive crop would be to acquire needed skills and show a desire to work hard?

But, over the years I’ve been accused of having rose colored glasses that fit better than a pair of Birkenstocks, so to gain some differing perspectives, I’ve called on various colleagues for their opinions.

I ask of them,  “Is this really the ‘Me Me Me’ generation?”:

Anita Bruzzese – nationally syndicated columnist on the workplace and award-winning journalist:

millennials me me me generation Anita bruzzese“I have never tapped into this idea that you can paint an entire generation with a single brush. I know young people who work twice – make that three times – harder than do people twice their age.

“Probably the one thing I see truly lacking that can hurt many young people as they enter the workforce is their lack of real-world job experiences. I talk to many employers who are concerned that graduates have never held a part-time or summer job before they graduate (unless you count the summer they spent three hours a week filing paperwork for their dad’s company.)

“Employers want to see that young people understand what it is to have a job and to make a commitment to an employer.  If a young person doesn’t commit outside time to other things – such as volunteering, having a job, etc., then it’s all too easy for employers to think the young person is self-absorbed and isn’t willing to help anyone else.”

Dr. Craig Allen, associate professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University:

millennials me me me generation Dr. Craig Allen

“Yes, I do find this to be the ‘Me Me Me’ generation. But it doesn’t affect that which I teach. I would say that I try to reinforce a work ethic that tempers entitlement with the idea that young people must pay their dues.

“Those Millennials that feel entitled as they enter the workforce, wash out in a society still ordered by competition and commanded by people who did not think life was a free ride.”

Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of niche job board, CollegeRecruiter.com

millennials me me me generation steven rothberg“The “Me Me Me” article in Time Magazine that argues that today’s young adults are far more narcissistic is intellectually lazy, dishonest, or both.

“Dozens of magazines over the decades have proclaimed that the then current generation of young adults was the laziest and most self-absorbed in history, yet somehow those same magazines tend to forget about their own writings, ignore them, or both.

“Time itself, for example, made similar proclamations on July 16, 1990 about my generation and August 6, 2007 about China’s young adults. What Time seems to be unable or unwilling to grasp or properly communicate is that the behaviors they cite in article after article aren’t generational in nature: they’re age appropriate behaviors. That’s not to say that I condone some of the behaviors but it is to say that young adults tend to behave like, well, young adults.”

Chris Taylor, Director of Digital Sports Production at the Department of Telecommunications at Ball State University:

Chris Taylor Ball State University director of digital sports production“You know, I get asked this a lot and I can honestly say, I don’t find this true.  The best certainly rise to the top in anything you do.  We have had a few cases where a sense entitlement may have played a factor, and through the natural process, their student peers either fixed it or those students were left behind by those who work harder, who are more dependable, who are creative and who simply are professional.

“But in large, I feel this is my and our (educators, coaches, mentors, parents) responsibility to encourage and change.  I am currently reading a great book “Inside Out Coaching: How Sports Transforms Lives” by Joe Ehrmann.   Ehrmann identified something I have always felt was true, but had never really put into words … true mentors and leaders have to first coach from the inside out.  If you don’t believe it or display it, those who follow won’t either.

“I take the responsibility of providing a great experience to our students, and that includes humility.  I think it starts with a culture, which is why we stress four areas in our program – Commitment, Effort, Leadership and Pride.  If they can display those four things in EVERYTHING THEY DO, then we don’t have the “me me me” attitude.”

David Zinger, Employee Engagement Expert:

millennials me me me generation david zinger

“In my opinion this is a generalization about the age group being an entitled generation.

“I know many people in their 50’s and 60’s who feel entitled as they approach their retirement. If entitlement is going on I think it is more a reflection of the time than one generation.”

Doug Prusak, Executive Producer Central Florida News 13:

millennials me me me generation doug prusak“Yes I do find this true. I’ve had rookies and interns aghast at doing things I had to do breaking in.

“I would’ve done anything for the opportunity I got at [Boston TV Station] Channel 7 in the 80’s.  Anything.  These kids think it’s beneath them to do anything that won’t bring them immediate promotion and glory.

“I got coffee, loaded those big water bottles, logged countless hours of tape…whatever it took.

“At my last station, we hired a very young producer, she’d worked in one other place and was kind of a hot shot.  One day one of those big water bottles was empty and I was replacing it.  I’m about 3rd from the top of the ladder in the news room.  She asked me why I was doing it, and I said ‘because it needed to be done.  Whatever it takes to make this place go, we all should be willing to do.’

“She walked away, shaking her head.  She didn’t get it, and I heard later I got made fun of for doing it.  Someone has to, right?”

Linda Thomas, Morning News Anchor 97.3 KIRO FM, Seattle and award-winning journalist:

linda thomas millennials me me me generation“I’m not down on the generation of kids today. I see bright, ambitious, talented students coming out of college who are every bit as determined to make a difference in this world as their parent’s, grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s generations were.

“Are they all strivers? No, but look around at the people you work with in the office, or the people who live on your block. Admit it; some of them aren’t very ambitious either.

“I don’t believe today’s generation is any different than those who came before them. Technology changes, clothes change, music changes, but really people aren’t that different – some are go-getters and some are slackers.

“That’s determined more by personality than by age.”

Dr. William A. Sutton,  professor and director of the University of South Florida Sport and Entertainment Management program 

dr williams a sutton usf professor “Not sure I agree. I find today’s students to be actually more altruistic and interested in making a difference in whatever they do.  Giving back is a key component in how they were raised and how they view the world.

“On the other hand a basic component of human nature is to wonder how it affects me and what’s in it for me.  The key to that aspect is managing it and making part of the process rather than the entire process.”

Seems most of my colleagues believe this generation isn’t any different than generations past, there are both good hard working people and there are lazy people. I’ve been lucky and have always been surrounded with motivated people of all ages…what about you, what is your workplace like?

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

Comments

  1. Hey, I’m just another millennial, but here’s what I think.

    I think the American dream is for everyone. I think we are entitled- entitled to opportunity, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. My generation fights for these, whereas yours didn’t. The reason we are stuck living at home is that the cost of living has continued to skyrocket while real wages and benefits have diminished and jobs are outsourced. We are the only 1st world country that considers things like healthcare and education to be luxuries. Yes I believe we are entitled to certain things as human beings and as Americans, and we should not be afraid to say so.

    • Juan – great response, I think most generations have labels and the majority are off-base media creations. I would add that generations of Americans have fought for opportunity, freedom and the pursuit of happiness…that title isn’t reserved for Millenials! Brian

    • One other thing Juan – I hope you read all of the expert responses….the majority of them said it’s a ridiculous label and that there are hard working ambitious millennials. The overall point of the article is, don’t allow yourself to be broadly labelled, be your own person. – Brian

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