A generation that thinks it is special

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” – art critic Robert Hughes.

Our generation is often stereotyped as being “entitled.”  I, for instance, belong to an age group of  “millennials” – a job-hopping, easily distracted generation. But we are also the ones who inherited a global recession that is still ongoing. We have to work harder to find our place in the world – you’d  be delusional to think that we have it easy.

But let’s go back to the word entitled – it sure seems like an unfair word to use for a generation that is trying to fix the mistakes of those that came before it – be it the wars or the economic mess. Yet, two years into the workforce, I see that the word, in many ways, makes sense.

It stems from the notion that many of our parents, with good intention, have instilled in us that we are “special.” As an instrument to increase our self esteem, we’ve been told that we are smarter than everyone else and that we are expected to do great things with our lives. We will change the world. Sounds like good parenting? I am not so sure. At university, we are again reminded that we are “future leaders” and that we will be highly regarded as we venture into the world –  an attempt to justify the very expensive education that we’ve just received.

Many of us get caught up in these aspirations that others have set for us and forget that these qualities have to be earned. We all have to start from the bottom – what our dean or our parents told us isn’t going to hold up in the real world.

This means that our first job might not be the most analytical, mind-blowing career that we thought we’d have. It also means that we will have to be at the bottom of the food chain, expecting to do things that everyone else doesn’t want to do. We get frustrated when we aren’t making strategic decisions in our first year of work. At this very moment, many of us decide that the job is beneath us  and quit. Some of us switch jobs and find themselves in the same situation. Others let go of the entire concept of having a job and think that they are too much of a leader to work for someone else.  They soon realize that being en entrepreneur and getting the necessary support isn’t as easy as they thought it would be.

I admit I need to work on my self confidence, and that perhaps I am on the other end of the spectrum. But here’s my advice: keep your head down and work hard. Find ways to show your brilliance even when your job doesn’t allow you to. Bring up your ideas during lunch, and ask to be involved in projects that highlight your strengths.   Do the mundane tasks with commitment, and go the extra mile to show that you can be a leader. No one is going to give you opportunities on a platter, you have to work towards them. Your struggle will never go unnoticed in the long run.

To parents, I’d say that it is more important to tell your kids that they are loved and supported rather than inflating their egos by giving them a false sense of achievement.  Remind them that the path to being “successful” and “changing the world” requires a lot of struggle and time. Instead of telling them they are great, tell them that they have have capability to be great, provided that they work towards it.