Coffee Break: From one millennial to another

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 13, 2019 - May 19, 2019.
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In a recent letter to the editor of an online news portal, a fresh millennial graduate listed her complaints on finding a job and lambasted the conditions some companies place on their young staff.

The fact that she wrote a letter instead of posting her grievances on her Instagram or Snapchat feed would be surprising for some, as apparently the entire existence of millennials is seen solely through the filtered lenses of social media. But clearly, those that hold this opinion have not met my non-millennial relatives.

From what has been said about millennials thus far, we (yes, I am outing myself as a millennial here) are lazy, entitled and have a bad work ethic, among other less complimentary features.

I have heard the same thing said to my parents and myself when meeting family friends, often coupled with a sigh of resignation as well as statements such as “I do not understand these people” or “Your generation scares me”. So, we are beyond comprehension and dangerous — now that is an interesting dichotomy.

If we as a generation were a company or business, we urgently need a public relations team to revamp our image.

But given the pessimistic view of the economic climate locally and globally, the outlook doesn’t look very rosy for people across generations in terms of employment prospects and disposable incomes. So, social media-obsessed and avocado-consuming millennials will not be exempted from the coming slump due to the economic slowdown. Ho-hum, I guess we’re not so special after all.

The reality for a lot of us armed with a degree and fresh from the convocation ceremony is that it is hard to find a job. I just got my bachelor’s degree last year, and a lot of effort was spent landing this job as a writer.

Part of the problem is that we have been told from a very young age that what we study is the sole determinant of what kind of jobs we will have in the future.

Everyone knows a supposedly well-intentioned but nosy relative, acquaintance (or even strangers, as I have recently discovered) asking questions like, “How come you are studying anthropology, can get rich ah?” or when you tell them your desired profession, going “Aiyah, got no future in that business lah!”

The days of lifetime employment are over, and most notably, people change careers all the time. There are so many fields and areas of focus opening up.

For example, did we ever think that there was going to be a university course on Beyoncé, artificial intelligence or cryptocurrency trading? The notion that one’s course of study being the sole determinant of his or career path is long over.

Of course, I cannot guarantee what reaction you will get if you say this to those asking such kepoh (busybody) questions.

The issue of work ethic keeps popping up. Millennials, on the one hand, are very much for work-life balance, while those of older generations seem to advocate the opposite, especially at the infancy of one’s career.

Clearly, there is a mismatch of expectations here, and the divide is so great that debates on the issue seem to resemble that over whether Malaysian or Singaporean food is better (Malaysian food is the clear winner here).

While work-life balance is important, it is also important that we put the time and effort to go up the totem pole — so maybe there is some truth in what our elders are saying about us.

Dues have to be paid, respect has to be earned, experience has to be gained and mistakes have to be made.

Unfortunately, rising up through the ranks is not like how some garner likes or retweets on social media.

In any case, that is my take on the matter. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a reputation to maintain. Being lazy, spoilt and entitled is a lot of work.

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