By Onke Madikizela (@Mangutyan)
In South Africa, this can be equated to the ‘Freedom message’ that came after the country became democratic. When black people were finally ‘free’, they taught their children that they were growing up at a time when they could achieve anything because race would no longer stand in their way.
Big demands and high expectations, without the abilities to match, basically entitled; these are just some of the many titles used to describe my generation, or millennials. Born between 1982 and 2004, they are the new bane of the corporate world since the financial crisis.
I conceded that I am a millennial this year when I got that ‘Gen Y’ feeling that many millennials are familiar with. You know the one where after a few months waking up everyday to go to work, you feel you are under-utilised in the the company and the opportunities for growth are not leading where you want to be in ‘x’ number of years.
You know exactly what the company should be doing to improve and if they just gave you a chance to sit in at the strategic level, you would show them how awesome you are and they would be compelled to make you the CEO or manager or right hand to a very important executive in less than a year at the company. Its not that you’re entitled, you just have more to offer than you are able to in your current position. And your friend just posted on Facebook that an entirely new position was created just for her just-graduated-ambitious-millennial a** and she is #blessed.
So what did I do when I got this feeling? First I went over to my boss’ office and told him what direction I thought the company should be taking. Then I drew up a digital strategy proposal for the company based on research I had gathered. I thought why wait till I have spent 10 or even 5 years in the industry when I can do this now?
Joan Hefer, Talent Resourcing Executive at DAV Professional Placement Group says there are two types of millennials. There are those that stand out from their peers, know what they want and know that they have to work hard for it. Then there are those who are “entitled”, “totally unrealistic” and “will voice their opinion whether asked to or not.”
“One candidate said to me: ‘If you want me to work for you, you have to pay me enough to get out of the bed in the morning, you have to make it worth my while,’” Hefer recalls. “Another one said to me: ‘If the job is in Sandton, and I live in Centurion, you have to pay my relocation costs’. I have to deal with this kind of attitude all the time.”
But are we millennials entitled or are we incredibly ambitious in a world that is far more demanding of success and yet offering so many more opportunities than our parents had?
Julie Blues, manager at global professional recruitment firm, Robert Walters, says while the ‘entitlement’ label should not be generalised of all millennials, there is an idea that this generation have nullified the phrase ‘climbing up the corporate ladder’.
“This generation may have lost sight of working their way up from the bottom, and ‘earning their stripes’ as such. I think they have big expectations, but don’t necessarily know how to get there,” Blues says.
A waitbutwhy.com article titled ‘Why Generation Y yuppies are unhappy’, says millennial expectations are built up by parents who achieved even better career success than they had expected and passed on a ‘you can achieve anything and you are special’ message to their Gen Y children. In South Africa, this can be equated to the ‘Freedom message’ that came after the country became democratic. When black people were finally ‘free’, they taught their children that they were growing up at a time when they could achieve anything because race would no longer stand in their way.
DAV Professional Placement Group does not see a link between the instant success and wealth provided by black economic empowerment (BEE) and millennial expectation saying this link is most likely a generalisation.
Waitbutwhy also says Gen Y is taunted by ‘Facebook image crafting’. Peers who depict their best moments in images and status updates making their lives seem more awesome than they really are. So, millennials suffer from FOMO – fear of missing out – on great careers and great love lives.
I am yet to find out what my boss thought of my proposal but he seemed impressed when I gave it to him. But, being the millenial that I am, if I don’t get the sense that my work was appreciated or that new opportunities for growth are going to open for me after this great show of competence, I probably will be looking for another employer who appreciates me and my ideas.