Forget the stereotype of the lazy millennial

By The Beacon | February 20, 2014 1:29am
Drawing by Ann Truong

An unshaven young man in sweatpants sits on his couch, surrounded by gadgets, eating Cheetos and instant oatmeal. He alternates between tweeting and Snapchatting while “Breaking Bad” streams on his laptop.

This is an accurate portrait of the millennial generation, right?


The millennial generation has been accused of not a few personality flaws, including narcissism, entitlement and, most of all, laziness. Older generations have told us we’re good for nothing, and perhaps we ourselves have bought into the idea.

But that’s an inaccurate picture of college students and graduates today.

The accusation of laziness in young adults is, of course nothing new. Those who grew up in the Great Depression complained about the do-nothing attitude of 1940s hipsters, who grew up to complain about the lazy, dirty hippies, who grew up to complain about punks and other good-for-nothing subcultures.

But all those generations and subcultures have turned out alright (or at least they’ve gotten to where they are today). And just like our predecessors, we millennials do know how to work hard.

In fact, the average UP student is far too busy with school and all its accoutrements to be truly lazy. Between those busy double-majors taking twenty credits per semester, the nursing students in clinicals, education students teaching in classrooms and students working hard on undergraduate research, we’re a busy bunch of students. We also spend time serving our communities, from ASUP senators to students planning service immersions. Furthermore, many of us have jobs on campus, and a few of us have managed to land an internship.

The prevalence of internships, maybe more than anything else, affirms that millennials are neither lazy nor entitled. Real-world employers across the board have agreed that to be fit for a real-world job, young people must spend at least a summer (if not a couple of years) working unpaid or slightly paid internships. College students and college grads can hardly be called lazy for taking out student loan debt when they can’t get a paid job until they work an unpaid job.

Of course, now that everyone realizes internships are crucial, it’s no longer easy even to get an unpaid job. So on top of our studies, campus jobs and extracurriculars, we’re busy filling out application after application, just to get a moneyless glimpse of what it’s like to have a job after graduation. If that’s not working hard, then we millennials cannot imagine what is.

Do we sometimes fritter our time away on social media? Sure. Do we occasionally take extended study breaks to watch cat videos? Yes. Did most of us spend last weekend binge-watching the second season of “House of Cards?” Absolutely.

But the hours of work we put in studying, working, serving our communities and planning for the future outnumber the frivolous hours we spend lying around with our gadgets.

So next time a college student is tapping away at her iPhone screen while she eats lunch, don’t assume she’s Instagramming her sandwich or tweeting something narcissistic. It is perhaps more likely she’s answering emails, staying updated on the news or adding items to her already insurmountable to-do list.

Millennials are just the latest in a long succession of generations to be accused of laziness, so no one should make the mistake of lumping all of us young people into one sluggish, technology-addicted stereotype.