The Gen Why Lawyer: What Exactly Are We “Entitled” To?

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone refer to my generation as “entitled,” I’d be a rich gal.

I hear that stereotype more often than I’d like to. Perhaps you’ve heard it too?

This “entitlement” stereotype is one of many I hear often directed towards my generation, Generation Y, and it bothers me because most Gen Y’ers I know are far from entitled.  The Gen Y’ers I know are hardworking, ambitious, and generous.

It also bothers me because I truly believe negative stereotypes have a way of discouraging members of older generations from taking us seriously and supporting our choices. The lack of understanding of my generation tends to affect employer-employee behaviors and attitudes in the workplace as well. If we are believed to be lazy and entitled based on this stereotype, then our employers might begin to perceive us as such.

Alas, let’s explore this stereotype further.

First, what does “Entitled” mean?

When used to describe Millennials, entitled usually refers to our alleged unwillingness to work hard to get what we want or our inability to put up with any hardship or struggles. It’s also used to describe our apparent belief that we deserve more than we’ve worked for and that we want recognition for every little thing we do.

In a nutshell, it’s the notion that we feel like we are owed something we don’t deserve.   

Clearly, this stereotype is not the best to have looming over our heads. So how did we get saddled with it?

Millennials tend to have higher self-esteem and self-confidence.

As a generation, we are more educated than prior generations. We were raised to believe that securing Higher Ed degrees would be the key to unlocking endless opportunities upon graduation. Thus, we were encouraged to seek advanced degrees.

We also grew up with parents and teachers who constantly reinforced the notion that we can be anyone we wanted to be and do anything we wanted to do if we put our minds to it. We were told to SHOOT FOR THE STARS!

So we hustled to do well on our SATs (and LSATs) and we studied hard to get those 4.0 GPA’s in order to get accepted into our dream schools. Then, we graduated, started working, and all of a sudden, we were told by our employers that we wanted a lot, were aiming too high, and expected too much.

Knowing this, we can start to understand how what might come off as an attitude of “entitlement” is simply our desire to push hard, go far, and aim high, just like we were taught.

It’s important to keep in mind that “entitlement” really applies to most people living in this country.

Entitlement is not a generational issue, it’s a cultural issue. For those of us living in the US, we are so blessed to live in a country where we have access to certain luxuries, advancements, technologies, and opportunities that people in other countries might not.

In that sense, yes, we may in fact be entitled (and by “we,” I don’t mean just Millennials)

And we can’t forget the good ‘ol economy.

Let’s not forget the harsh effects the economy has had on all of us, but especially Millennials, since we were “coming of age” when the economy went south.

Many of us were graduating and entering the workforce around the 2007-2009 time period.  As we graduated with our shiny diplomas, we held on to our unshakeable beliefs that we can achieve anything and clung to our optimism for landing our dream jobs. But the economy had other plans for us. Instead, we were met with unemployment, underemployment, and in many cases, nearly worthless degrees.

Many Millennials were forced to take any position they could find in order to pay bills (sometimes, even outside the legal profession). Thus, many felt adrift and disconnected from the jobs we had. Then, when a better opportunity presented itself, we jumped on it! We recognized that the new opportunity was a better fit and pathway to our ultimate goals. This perhaps led many to view Millennials fickle, disloyal, and of course, entitled.

You see, there are many reasons why this ugly stereotype has come to exist but by exploring the underlying motivations that guide our actions and understanding the circumstances that affect our behaviors, we can begin to dispel the negativity.

How do you feel about the word “entitled”? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet me @nicoleabboud

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