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Millennials deserve more credit for rocking the workplace

Credit: Eunice Oh/Art Editor Credit: Eunice Oh/Art Editor
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

This past summer, I discovered the term "Millennial" and its many connotations. I was a local camp counselor responsible for about twenty children. After a long day of running back and forth from the various activities, the bathroom every ten minutes, and one trip to the nurse’s office, I was completely exhausted. Just as I was about to leave, my manger told me: “Wow, you are not your typical Millennial.” At the time, I was slightly confused and unsure whether her remark was complimentary. I understand better now, but I'm still unsure if I entirely agree with her use of the word.

“Millennial,” coined in 1991 as another name for Generation Y, has faced a significant amount of controversy. Technically speaking, it refers to those born between 1980 and 2000. Older generations accuse Millennials of having no drive, never leaving their childhood homes, and being incompetent workers. They call Millennials lazy, unmotivated, selfish, narcissistic, and a dozen other things that have given the term and the group a negative connotation. These stereotypes have been proven inaccurate time and time again, but the social stigma remains.

What older generations forget, however, is that a large majority of Millennials entered the workforce just as America was suffering its lowest economic state since the Great Depression. Young people wanted to work, but there were few jobs to be found. They continued to live with their parents because they could not afford to move out on their own, due to both underemployment and an absurd amount of college debt.

Recent studies have shown that over 70 percent of employers find that Millennials are better equipped workers than the generation before them, with 82 percent commenting on the benefits of Millennials’ technology skills and quick adaptability. Millennials are also open-minded, which is something that too often goes unmentioned. They have been brought up to be more understanding and accepting of diversity than any previous generation. They are willing and able to not just coexist with people who are different from them, but to learn more about these differences and find common ground despite them. This open-mindedness is the generation's greatest strength.

Laura Olin, a member of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, said that “Millennials are wise enough to realize that no one is going to fix the world for them — it’s up to them.” Like Olin, I too have faith that the world’s saving grace lies with this generation. So I suppose I have a right to be confused about my manager's negative use of the word "Millennial." The word defines this generation — a generation of artists, thinkers, collaborators, and innovators, and I am proud to be a part of it.