An Open Letter To Our Elders: Why You Need To Have Confidence In Millennials

by Ali Catalano

Dear Middle-Aged Professionals,

As an aspiring 20-something in the business world, I have spent plenty of time reading articles you’ve written, listening to the way you speak and generally trying to better myself as a professional by following your example.

I’ve done nothing but try to learn from your behavior and figure out how to some day become a leader that young professionals look up to, as well.

I’ve recently found myself angry, appalled and saddened by things you’ve shared on social media and scoff at with your colleagues regarding Millennials in the workforce. I’ve seen the articles you’ve written that outline the reasons Millennials can’t get a job or the skills we lack.

Absolutely, there are people in every generation – including your own and Gen-Y – who possess these qualities you’ve spent so much time researching, analyzing and bashing on the Internet. However, it’s a blatant generalization and quite frankly, hypocritical.

You’ve stated that Millennials are entitled, lazy and narcissistic; that we’re crying in the chair of a psychiatrist’s office due to dependence on our helicopter parents; that we lack work ethic and preparedness.

I understand the words I’ve read are only from a few sour representatives and that it would be impossible for me to characterize an entire generation by such a small sample – a luxury denied to Millennials when we were so callously addressed. However, isn’t this the very thing that your predecessors did to you and the generation before?

With such a connected world, almost everyone has a blog or platform of some sort on which to share his or her opinion. I can’t help but think about how we could be doing the very same thing to you, just in a different light.

I can see it now: “10 Reasons Why Middle-Aged Professionals Are Out Of Touch,” or “Generation-X: Unable To Adapt And Collaborate.” Hurts, doesn’t it?

If you’re like me, you’d hastily skim the article to ensure none of the qualities or reasons listed apply to you. You’d reassure yourself saying things like, “I’m totally in touch” or “I’m adaptable and collaborative; this article is bullsh*t.”

The things you write about us are not only offensive, they’re also discouraging. Wasn’t it you who encouraged young students to “stay in school” and get a good education, no matter who told us we couldn’t? Wasn’t it you who spoke at our college graduation and told us we can do anything to which we set our minds? Wasn’t it you who recruited us into your organizations to bring some “new” or “fresh” ideas to the table?

How did you move so drastically from believing we’re the generation of change to saying we’re the generation that won’t stand a chance in the real world? Whatever that reason may be, you’ve shown your true colors, Gen-X — and your age, too.

You may think we’re selfish as you coined us the age of “me, me, me,” but I’m not so inclined to consider that as a negative trait. If being selfish means not settling for jobs we don’t want or setting goals and knowing we deserve more, then, please, call us selfish. If you didn’t call us selfish, you’d most definitely call us stupid.

Climbing and finding your place on the corporate ladder is a generational stepping-stone. After all, the majority of us lack skills or experience because – surprise, surprise – we haven’t had any experiences yet.

Don’t you remember your first break? Don’t you remember struggling, waiting for someone – anyone – to give you a shot? We’re young and many of us plan to work hard to get where we need to be, just like you did.

Maybe this letter is living proof that Millennials don’t know when to hit the bleep button. Maybe I’m too entitled to think we deserve respect from our peers and maybe I’m just naïve to think your generation would be the one to break the curse of countless generations deeming the next one as inadequate.

One thing I can assure you is that in 20 years, as a tired and surly middle-aged woman writing articles about the entitled, lazy, narcissistic generation of new workers, I will remind myself that I was once one of them. That is, if I make it that far in the real world.

Sincerely yours,

A Disgruntled, But Not Discouraged Millennial

Photo credit: Elena Shumilova