A few weeks back, I posted a ranty column about how everyone thinks millennials are dumb and how I know a lot of dumb millennials but we’re not all like that. I ended up deciding it was too ranty to publish at work, so I rewrote it to be a little bit less self-serving (sorta) and wanted to post the new version.
There’s a running joke around the office that every time I tell a story about an old job, it’s always somewhere different. I certainly don’t make the task of remembering said former places of employment very easy considering I’ve had 12 different jobs since 2009. But what throws me off is how surprised some people are when I say I’ve worked so much, especially last summer when I worked 58 hours a week.
I think what it comes down to is the trope of millennials being an exorbitantly lazy bunch that relies on the money of parents and others to get them through. I’ve seen some examples. Most of the other members of my high school graduating class were given their cars, whereas I paid $1,000 for my wonderful little 1998 Mercury Tracer. I went to a private college where I was the only one in my friend group who had to work through school to pay for it. And I also worked at a college town bar, where I was called a multitude of names for refusing entry to anyone with a fake ID because heaven forbid I turn down an Ivy Leaguer.
You could also make the argument that I’m just as spoiled. I went to a private college instead of sticking to UConn or Three Rivers, and now I’m $100,000 in the hole. I was able to come back to Connecticut after graduation and live at home rent-free while I get myself financially situated. And unlike a lot of recent college grads, I actually have a job in my field.
So yes, there are people in my generation who may not necessarily “earn their keep.” Like any stereotype, however, it’s important to remind people that not all of us are like that. Hard-working millennials do exist.
A US Census study showed that in 2011, more than 70 percent of college undergrads worked at some point during the year. Most of those students worked less than full time, but more than half of them worked more than 20 hours a week, which is more than the 10 to 15 hours recommended by colleges to avoid academic problems. My school only allowed 20 hours a week on campus, but the only thing stopping me or anyone else from working more hours off campus was our own academic standards (and maybe transportation).
Those jobs during school can also lead you somewhere else. Sometimes it’s a place you want to go, like how my experience as a volunteer at a science museum for kids led to two science writing internships. Sometimes it’s not directly related to your major but rather another field, like how a former student manager in my department of IT at school now does IT stuff full-time, even though he went to school for television.
And if all else fails, you’ll probably see us doing odd jobs to make ends meet. Before I was hired here as a reporter, I worked for an EB subcontractor installing computers, writing for a science news site, and delivering newspapers (more on that at another time). Pretty much all of my jobs (a dentist office, the campus mail room, a library, and so on) have been of the odd job persuasion. I know the age-old joke of art/music/English/etc. majors going to school to become baristas, but at least they’re doing something, and someone has to make your coffee.