Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials – we’ve all felt the sting of being lumped into an increasingly bleak portrait of our generation, without consent. Guided by hubris, we’ll click on a link with our respective label to see what we can learn about ourselves. We know these labels are oversimplified generalizations, but that doesn’t stop us from drawing parallels to our own lives. Since graduating with two master’s degrees at 24, I have felt the sting, and the truth, of the Millennial thinkpiece.
To summarize, a Millennial is a self-entitled, narcissistic, lazy individual who came-of-age during the early 2000s and who seeks employment that is fulfilling, will work grueling and demeaning jobs without pay, and is concerned about how their actions impact those around them. It’s complicated.
Get out your chips, it’s time to play Millennial Bingo. Aside from growing up with Harry Potter and having access to an account with *literally* every video streaming service available, I also fulfill more serious Millennial stereotypes. I studied and have a master’s degree in Art History: a field so liberal even President Obama scoffed at it. I also have a Master of Library and Information Science, which means I can be an ALA accredited librarian. After studying abroad, I moved back in with my parents and stayed there until I completed my graduate degrees. Throughout college I had numerous unpaid internships and part-time jobs and, aside from a few scholarships, my parents financed my entire school experience. That’s two squares on your board for privilege and Millennial stereotype. Do you have Bingo yet? Don’t worry, we’re not done!
When I did move out to live with my then-fiancé, I started looking for jobs immediately in my fields: the arts and libraries. I almost immediately received a low-paying, no-benefits, part-time, adjunct teaching position at a liberal arts college. I was thrilled. After months of continuous job hunting, I received another part-time, low-paid, position as a youth services library associate. That bingo square reads: over-educated, under-employed but overworked, and extremely grateful.
In January, while teaching two art history courses for $3,200 a class, I went from working 22 hours a week as a library associate for $13 an hour, to working 24.75 hours at a design firm for $13 an hour. Three weeks ago the unicorn arrived and laid his head in my lap: I was offered a full time position, with benefits, as an Adult Services Librarian for a library where I had previously been rejected in the same position. Yes, the heavens did open up and shower me in gold light while trumpets sounded. Yes, I finally felt professionally validated as an organization was willing to take a chance on me. I’m ready to thrive, rather than survive.
I applied to full-time positions for 17 months before being offered one in my field. Privilege compounded by support made this prototypical Millennial experience painful only existentially. I was still frustrated, however, by my apparent inability to break out of the omnipresent stereotype. How am I supposed to get 5 years experience for an entry-level position when the entry-level positions require 5 years experience? Why will none of these organizations give me a chance? Why are my part-time jobs and internships and degrees and pluck not enough?
Now that I’m here, I’m going to be that engaged and ambitious creative who is simultaneously lazy and entitled; I’m going to lean-in to my Millennial identity.
See you at brunch.