One of the main criticisms I have heard about the 20-something generation is that we are spoiled and entitled. I’ve noticed many complaints-even from those my age-that we want too much for too little. If we complain about our middle class lifestyles and not being able to afford Obamacare, well, it’s just because we’re too damn spoiled and need to learn to cut corners. “You’re not poor if you have an iPhone,” people scoff. “Talk about first world problems.”
To an extent, they’re right. But a lot of first-world problems are legitimate issues that reflect the society in which we live. We may have access, for the most part, to food and running water but that doesn’t diminish the fact that, in order to succeed, we have to live in a manner which supports the theory that millennials are just spoiled kids.
In this day and age, so much of what we do is signaling. That college education doesn’t necessarily better prepare us for the workforce but you’d better believe employers are looking for a diploma. It’s easy for people to criticize our iPads and our smartphones but good luck vying for that promotion when you have to wait till you get home to check your email. It’s 2013. We are expected to be constantly connected. A flip phone with limited minutes just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Looking professional is expensive. We need to dress well. If you wear that same threadbare shirt three times a week, your boss is going to think you’re sloppy. And sloppy dressers are less likely to get a raise.
In terms of minimal survival, we’re doing pretty well. But we don’t live in a hunter-gatherer society. We’re talking about evolution, here. If we have first world problems, it’s because we live in a first world society.
Trust me, I’d love to ditch my iPhone and my MacBook and Walden it up in the middle of nowhere. But I can’t hunt or fish or build a shelter with my bare hands. Our ancestors survived by using their strength but we must use our smarts. Instead of spears, we have cell phones. The arena and weapons have changed but our ultimate goal is still survival.
No, we’re not starving, but a lot of are still struggling to make ends meet. Those ends, through no fault of our own, often include data plans and designer shoes.We’re trying to present ourselves as responsible and put-together, poised for success. And if that means expensive clothes and a Bluetooth device wired to our ears so we’re accessible 24/7 then so be it. We’ll do whatever it takes.
That girl in your office who goes out for drinks every night isn’t necessarily frivolously partying the night away; she’s probably networking at happy hour with other professionals making connections she’ll need in five years. Your coworker’s imported silk ties are snazzy signals that tell people he cares about his image. A huge part of being successful is meeting the right people-and making sure they pay attention to you.
The professional world is ruthless and we’re just doing what we have to do to survive.