Dear Millennials: Your parents lied to you

You’re wonderful, sweetie. Just keep working hard and you can be anything you want to be. Great job! (soccer mom, 1992)

I’ve spent the past 15 years teaching and coaching the kids known as Millennials. Some call them GenY. I call them the “self esteem generation.” Millennials were raised by parents who showered them with praise and awarded them athletic trophies for just showing up. Their lives were over-programmed, their parents hovering.

Then they went to college.

How’s it working out? Pretty well in my classrooms. Millennials, those born between ’78 and ’95, are bright and inquisitive. And most work their butts off. They respect their parents and listen to Led Zeppelin. What’s not to love?

According to a presentation by some PR pros from CRT/Tanaka, the Millennials’ lives were defined by tragedies like 9-11 and Colombine and profoundly influenced by the Internet, MTV and those well-intentioned “helicopter parents.”

The presentation tells us that Millennials are the largest group entering the workforce today — and the most impatient. They don’t believe in “dues paying,” thus the presentation’s title, “I’ll Take the Corner Office.” Many in this group were latch-key kids, so they’ve had adult responsibilities since their early teens.

They’ll feel ready to take on the world.

A few more tidbits from the CRT/Tanaka presentation:


  • define loyalty by what’s challenging and interesting, rather than job security.
  • expect reward and recognition on a regular basis.
  • believe they are all “above average.”

If you work with or manage Millennials, you’re nodding your head about now. I learned back in the late 90s that praise goes a long way with this group. Pointed criticism does not. Millennials can be a sensitive lot. But that’s no surprise. All their lives they’ve been rewarded for effort more so than results.

“But I don’t understand how this is a ‘C’ paper. I worked really, really hard on it.” (Kent State PR major, 1998-2010)

Tearful moments. Just last week, three senior PR majors told me they cried after I returned their first assignment a few semesters back. They’re all veterans now, accustomed to my semi-gruff coaching style. In a few years, they might actually appreciate it 🙂

But what’s most important to me — and to the PR profession — is producing students who can do the work and manage the stresses of our business.

My grading style is heavy-handed, and that’s not gonna change. I typically spend 30-minutes evaluating a 6-7-page paper, circling every technical error and filling every margin with comments and suggestions. I may bruise a few egos, but students never have to guess what they’ve done wrong or how they can improve their work.

For some, it’s the first time anyone has told them “this isn’t good enough.” Some rise to the challenge, others fold.

The knock-out punch. In PR Case Studies, about 30% drop the class or fail it. Why? Mostly because of poor writing quality. Case Studies is the “knock out” class for PR majors at Kent State, and unless you’re a real star, you gotta learn to take a punch (figuratively speaking).

Some learn quickly that they’re not “above average,” at least in terms of writing or critical-thinking skills. But that’s why you take the class, isn’t it? These skills and aptitudes can be developed.

Those who accept coaching generally make it; those who don’t find other communication-related majors that don’t require complex writing or problem-solving. And yeah, such majors do exist. Don’t get me started!

OK, maybe I’m not the most sensitive person. I expect a lot from students, and I don’t coddle them. But even the old grizzly bear has made concessions to the Millennial ego. For instance, I no longer use the label “trainwreck” to describe the worst papers. I did with the GenXers, and they responded.

I don’t understand. I got As all my life — especially in writing. Now you’re telling me I don’t write well? (tearful sophomore Millennial)

What can I tell ya, kid? Your parents loved you, and they did their best. But they created a false reality. Everyone isn’t above average in all they do. And in real life, only the winner gets the trophy.

It’s important you understand this before we award that diploma, as there’s a good chance your boss will be just like me. Scary thought, huh?


Kim Blake, Sr. AE at CRT/Tanaka, gave me permission to share these slides from the presentation last October at PRSA’s national conference in San Diego.

Sorry for the download inconvenience, but it’s not on SlideShare. Click here (PPT): TheCornerOffice!

184 thoughts on “Dear Millennials: Your parents lied to you

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

    • I agree about the hovering, false realities, etc, etc, etc. However, I do not think you ought to lump those born from ’78-
      95 together. There is a marked difference between those who remember a world without computers and those who do not, those who were a few years old on 9-11 and those whose lives stopped, those who know how to use a dictionary and those who have spell-check, those who remember Columbine and Oklahoma City bombing and those who have read about it, and finally those raised when standardized testing was just making an entrance and those who will never understand why filling a bubble is not the same as answering a question.

  2. You’ve definitely earned the reputation of “tough” in the PRKent program, but you’re spot-on when you point out there are two types of millennials — whiners and fighters. You just help us figure out which we are. If only I had a nickel for every time I heard how mean you are, how impossible your classes are … but I guarantee even whiners come out of your class better writers.

    We’ve not had to fight for much in our lives, so your class comes as a wake-up call for a lot of gifted, talented, perfect JMC students. And we need that alarm. I think most of my peers would agree (once they’ve let go of the bitter pride thing) that we got more from your tough love than any ego-stroking English prof. Stay ferocious, Bill, we need it!

  3. Mr. Sledzik,

    I appreciate your post here about Millenials as they enter the work force. I wrote a post on my own blog recently about Millenials in the work place, and I am sure it is filled with enough technical errors to make you CRINGE.

    In response to your post:

    As a Millenial, who was latch key, with involved, but NOT helicopter parents, I feel there is an epic culture clash on the horizon (Haight, Ashbury epic). As you mentioned, Millenials can be awful to deal with, they have a sense of entitlement that no generation before can understand. However I propose that you just have to look at the level of instant access they (we) have been granted to understand why. Information and Data (because there is a difference) are literally just mere mouse clicks away. No one can be a subject matter expert anymore as far as a millenial is concerned. Everything is imitable, including experience.

    For previous generations information and data was found at the library. Older generations had to read the books cover to cover, know the Dewey decimal system, and knew “search engine” as the subject index of a book. Experience was earned and as a result experience was a reward. However I don’t know a single Baby Boomer or older, who can honestly say that those experiences mattered beyond the immediate reward.

    The problem as I see it is the experience the older generations tout as redeeming characteristics can be searched in mere seconds on the internet by Millenials, and understood in most likely a few hours after that. While that isn’t an exact substitute for the experience, the fact that the experience of one person combined with countless others who have similar experience means none of it is qualifies as special or wholly unique. Which is where the rub comes and will lead to the final culture clash. The “experience” of the older generation isn’t seen as special or valuable to Millenials. They view it as just more information easily obtained, hence they don’t see a reason to pay dues. More than this, the problems with Millenials isn’t that they think that THEY are special, the problem is they think that YOU aren’t special. In many cases they are right and in equally as many cases they are wrong.

    Now, in my blog post, I argue that both sides have to reach for the middle here to avoid the clash. Millenials have to understand that while experience is truly nothing more than high value information, those above them don’t see it that way. So at least in the beginning they should step and fetch accordingly (as I imagine most of your students do when they receive critical remarks, after the outbursts of emotion of course). I also argue that older generations step out of their own shadows and see that their accomplishments aren’t that great. More over I argue that the older generation should try to understand that the historical tenants of the world that they cling to will go by the wayside. So in order to best deal with Millenials, spend less time describing the world as it was, and more time explaining how the world WILL BE in the future using the past as a guide.

    Thanks for an interesting post and letting me speak my mind in response!

    • Very late to this typically fab discussion, my apologies. One aside, Assad, about experience. Experience does result in high-value information, but the content is only one facet of it. The actual action of experiencing something in real-time has great impact on the information acquired. It’s why reading or viewing instructions is different from actually following the instructions; learning by doing is typically more effective than by less participative methods.

      A quick example: you can read the crisis communication books and articles by Dr. Timothy Coombs and get quite a lot of excellent information that you can put to use in a crisis. But you can do that only if the facts on the ground match the situations described in the text. Actually experiencing the crisis provides an additional set of cues, thoughts, actions and activities that are secondary to the content. Applied information is more substantive and understandable than theoretical knowledge.

      It’s why during a crisis, you don’t grab the intern and send him/her out to deal with the media (even though they’re more likely to know the crisis literature and information than the veterans, because they’ve read it more recently.)


    • I concur with many of your key message points. I feel as though every time I have an important conversation with my parents, they constantly talk about the ample amount of life experience they have over me. Needless to say, this never has an affect on me. I could care less, parents. The main reason why I don’t care is because I believe that one shouldn’t brag about how intelligent they are by how many years they have marked off their personal chronological calendar. I don’t think knowledge can be determined by the mere days spent living, but the days spent searching for the actual knowledge. Generation-x is impatient in that we become perturbed by anything that gets in the way of searching for knowledge and creativity; usually this involves a painfully slow Internet connection. Unlike the increasing amount of generation-y college graduates, it is not uncommon for generation-x candidates to be devoid of a college degree; with this absence of formal education, one has to wonder if life experience can simply make up for the lack of raw education. I do think that learning from the experiences of elders is an important virtue; however, I do not believe that a person’s life experience makes them automatically more knowledgeable. This is the kind of attitude I witness within my own parents. They count intelligence in the years that they have lived; even though neither of them was in college at the time that I am now. I often wonder how our society will be affected by the large increase within the college educated, generation-y society. In saying these things, I agree with your statement that nobody sees the other person’s experience as special, and that intelligence cannot be measured in the mere breaths taken in one’s life.

    • It sounds to me like this is a generation in need of true pilgrimage. Performing an action is entirely different from just knowing about it. There is a huge difference between walking down a street via Google Map, and actually walking down that street in the springtime.

      The problems I am seeing in my classrooms show that there is a lack of understanding. The kids know things, but they don’t understand them. They can whip a paper off Wikipedia, but to actual comprehend that information and use it as a tool? They’re in trouble. I feel like the librarian when I was in college who complained about the lines at copiers. “These kids copy all these articles as if that bright light will just stick the information into their heads. They should try actually reading the articles and books!”

      Having information and data (do people really need to be told there is a difference?) at your fingertips is a wonderful advantage, *if* you seize the opportunities it presents. None of the information or data, no matter how high-quality, is of any use to you if you cannot analyze, synthesize, and then communicate your discoveries effectively to others.

      The current swath of students seem to have the same levels of folks who understand to those who simply know to those who just don’t get it at all. The difference here is that those who just know want the same credit and reward as those who understand. That isn’t going to happen.

  4. Excellent post Bill, and I agree that toughening up needs to happen before they hit the workplace. I don’t know what I’d do if I were met with tears upon correcting client-facing material, but it would certainly leave me with a negative impression. If you can’t handle criticism, life is going to be very, very hard.

    Now on to the Millenial response above: “No one can be a subject matter expert anymore as far as a millenial is concerned. Everything is imitable, including experience.”

    Baloney. Experience in some cases is everything. Ask the people who were on Captain Sully’s plane. Just being able to look something up does not an expert make. You have to a) understand it, and b) place the information into context. I can tell you right now that as a PR person, you will have all kinds of stuff thrown at you, and it is only with experience that you will come to know the right way and the wrong ways to approach problems, because every problem is different. Looking something up on the Internet is NOT a substitute. It has less to do with “thinking their accomplishments aren’t that great” than it does with understanding that several decades worth of even less-than-notable accomplishments trumps “I Googled the answer.”

    Part of the problem with having information so readily available is that some Millenials are stymied when they aren’t spoon-fed the answer. They have little capacity to seek out alternate methods, because they haven’t had to. I see this all.the.time. (outside of CustomScoop, of course). The lack of critical thinking skills and problem-solving capacity is unreal.

    Explaining how the world will be in the future is useless if you do not understand the past.

    • You articulate a side of Millennials that is polar opposite from what I see in comments like Asaad’s, Jen.

      There’s a large portion of students out there who still view education as a passive activity. They come to the classroom in the role of empty pitcher and expect me to fill it it with knowledge.

      That’s not how it works in this information-filled world. We all must contribute to the learning process, since it’s just too much for any one person to handle. Every day a student tips me off to something I didn’t know or would never have discovered. And I like that.

      Some might argue that my PR experience, while it was pretty senior level, isn’t relevant 17 years later. But I disagree. It’s not always about the information available to us — or the technology. It’s about the judgment we apply.

      I get to say this. I’m old 🙂

  5. Right on, Jen.

    I am part of this generation but I’m constantly told I don’t exude any of these behaviors.

    However, I’m pretty confident my parents didn’t apply the same set of standards to my brother. Uh oh.

  6. Brilliant observations, Asaad. And to make it easy on my readers, here’s the link to your post. It was most humble of you not to insert it. Maybe that’s a Millennial thing 🙂

    Just yesterday, I saw a slide that said more information was generated and posted online in 2009 than in the all of the years preceding 2009. Think about the storehouse of knowledge that represents. And think about the experiences of us Baby Boomers that’s all been chronicled here.

    A Millennial, or anyone willing to mine this mother lode of knowledge, enters a career path at a distinct advantage. It’s all out there. And it’s free.

    Just today, as I prepared for a class on “pitching media,” I reviewed my notes from a few semesters back, then dumped them in “recycle.” I searched the topic and found a dozen excellent articles — most published in the last 6 months — that became the new foundation of today’s lesson. The students could have done that, too.

    • I think this is a great discussion and I appreciate both Professor Sledzik’s and Adaad Faquir’s commentary. I’d like to add a perspective, if I might.

      Taken to extremes, one can say, “the old generation believes all the old rules apply” and “the new generation believes everything has changed.” This is true whether it’s Greatest Generation/Boomers or Boomers/GenX. (I am Generation Jones, BTW.) The truth, of course, is somewhere in-between.

      As Mr. Faquir points out, Millennials know that a lot has changed. No one does market research, competitive intelligence, or even document creation in the same way. No one assumes that an 11 PM text carries the knell of doom that an 11 PM phone call did… so the separation of work and live at 5 PM has dissolved.

      At the same time, Professor Sledzik (and Todd Defren) know that some things have not changed. A client (especially if s/he is older than GenX) notices typos and thinks less of you for them. Closing a large deal — actually handing the pen to the client to get the signature — still requires skills that the Internet has not changed. Looking someone in the eye and firing her/him… or firing a client… are things for which all the websites and all the social media in the world won’t prepare you fully. (See “Up in the Air” if you don’t believe me!) To learn these things, you must do them… you must apprentice… and that has not changed.

      So, picking up Mr. Faquir’s line of thinking — there’s a clash when one views the world as “the old rules do/don’t apply” in absolute terms. If we are a bit more granular, we can see that there’s truth in both positions. Not doing so is an expression of the arrogance of every generation.

  7. As an early Gen Xer (’69), I can attest to the cultue clash in managing Gen Y employees. You don’t get to start at the top just because you want to. No, I’m not going to tell you you’re doing a good job if you aren’t meeting goals and expectations. Yes, work by defnition is sometimes boring and onerous (if it wasn’t, they’d call it “fun”). This is the way of the world.

    That said, there’s also a huge culture clash between the Boomers and Gen X in that we’ve figured out that everything we were sold – lifetime employment, social security, that doing a good job actually matters more than office politcs – is utter cr*p so trying to motivate us with all of those things just isn’t going to work when we’ve seen the man behind the curtain (this recession is Gen X’s 3rd in our working lives).

    The key, as someone said above, is finding middle ground.

  8. As another millenial I am concerned that the combination of optimism and ambition will be shot down as naivety. I really enjoyed both sides of the argument above but I hope that the dividing line is reconsidered by both sides. I see the potential for a lot of success if boomers and millenials can work together. If you combine the boomers’ practicality and real world experience with the millenials tech-savvy ambition and passion to achieve great things a lot of innovative ideas can be realized. However this post is just another reaffirmation of our millenial optimism in light of real world obstacles that Gen-Y is going to face.

  9. Bill,

    I appreciate you putting the link out there. I try not to do it on other peoples blogs, because I do find it a bit shameless… I plug my work enough on Twitter and Facebook that I put the click through link information on my name and move on when I comment on blogs.

    I would like to respond to Jen though. While indeed experience is a heck of a teacher it isn’t the only teacher. Captain Sully, received the same training and instruction as just about every other pilot in the fleet. He flew for countless years and logged countless hours in the cock pit. His experience allowed him to remain calm and make good decisions. But I pose this question to you, could anyone else have done it? Were his years of experience the ONLY thing in the context of that event that made stilled his nerves? I think that is a hard stretch to make. While undoubtedly they helped, there is no denying that. Heck any psychologist or HR professional worth his or her salt can tell you that past experience help make decisions but they can also serve to impact your decisions if you become to BIASED towards your own experience or rather your own expectations and interpretations of a situation…see:

    In other words, having the experience and skills isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. Mistakes can happen and they hurt worse when we SHOULD no better. If Sully or any other pilot hadn’t made it to the river and survived, there would have been more outcry about a planes inability to overcome bird strikes than there would be about more experienced pilots (although I know the question was asked by more than one news media outlet, but it didn’t really resonate and simply dropped of the topic radar after a short run).

    • Experience might not be the only teacher, but it is in many situations the most important one. Regarding ‘could anyone else have done it?’–yes, but probably only those pilots with experience. This isn’t supposition on my part; a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that “With adjustment for age, pilots who had 5,000–9,999 hours of total flight time at baseline had a 57% lower risk of a crash than their less experienced counterparts.” Please note that the study does separate out age from experience–a pilot who is older but has less flight time would not fare as well as one who is younger with *more* flight time.

      The same sort of protective factor of experience is found in many other instances, from new drivers to newly deployed soldiers. Experience matters.

      Yes, there will always be exceptions–and I’m not arguing that those of us with experience should ignore the contributions of those new to the field. To the contrary, I think a lot can be learned from those with fresh eyes and new ideas.

      But to ignore the value of experience is, to me at least, a special kind of hubris. Finding the balance between the two is important, and may mean the difference between success and failure.

    • Honestly now: If you were a passenger on a plane about to crash land in a river, would you want Sully as your pilot or a really smart kid who has had all the latest training, but is on his first flight?

  10. For example, I KNOW better to proof read my error prone response above, but I didn’t because I was distracted with thoughts about lunch… so even though I KNOW, I still put NO… ugh, disgraceful. 🙂

    • Not to worry, Asaad. I’ve already corrected two nasty typos in this post — part of the anal-retentive journalist that still haunts me.

      But those little errors are also a case in point for what’s changed with the arrival of 2.0 technology. Real-time communication online (blogs, twitter, Facebook, et. al.) isn’t going to be precise anymore. It can’t be. I know that certain Millennials resent it when I insist on perfect prose in blog posts, emails and tweets. I mean, WTF? I can’t even do it myself.

      The lesson I try to stress is that we’re the communication professionals. Language is our stock in trade, and we’re expected to excel at it — to be perfect. But in a 24-7 news and conversation cycle, time pressures tend to trump precision.

      I cringe in horror at typos and grammatical errors. A Millennial shrugs and says, “Whatever.” Who’s right?

      To echo what everyone’s been saying in this tread, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

  11. Hi – came across this post through twitter as I was reading up on Gen Y and their characteristics.

    I was wondering if you or others in this forum can help me spread the word about an upcoming marketing conference – I have no vested interest in it, just trying to help out my New York University Professor. Thanks a bunch.

    The link to the conference is:


  12. After being in the real work world a bit, I don’t think that there really is much a conflict between Boomers and Gen Y. After all, they raised us so we have a vague idea what to do and how to meet their expectations. They seem to have a more of a laissez-faire it is what it is let’s make the most of it with what we’ve got attitude and we millennials can vibe with that. Once they stop treating us like we’re their own children, we’re generally fine.
    Where the bigger conflict is is between Gen X and Gen Y. Gen Xers seem to have this constant need for information about the status of projects. They want to be CCed on every email and involved in every detail. Gen X participates. They don’t delegate. As latch key kids who were pretty much left alone growing up to make decisions on our own, this can be confusing and frustrating. It takes a while to realize that it isn’t that Gen X doesn’t trust us as much as it is that they can’t separate themselves from their projects.

  13. I’m enjoying the thread and regretting I spent the last 4 hours in meetings and class. Real jobs can be a pain in the ass sometimes!

    Over the past 4 years, I’ve learned a lot from the Millennials (and some of the late Xers) by reading their blogs and chatting with them in social nets. Their willingness to experiment and “put themselves out there” has inspired me. The older you get, the more you tend to lose your appetite for risk.

    Aside from my parents, the most important influencers in my life were those early mentors. I didn’t turn to them for information. I knew where to find that way before Google. It was the experience and judgment of my mentors that helped me develop my career, while often saving my sorry ass from a career-ending move.

  14. As a member of the millenials, and a psychology student, this really resounds with me. You might also recognize a trend in increasing numbers of kids with ADHD, anxiety disorders, and behavior problems. Personally, I think this is due to the general parenting trend of the eighties and nineties. Our parents are old enough to know how much their parents struggled to set roots after WWII, and want to shower us in praises and gifts. Either that, or let the TV teach them everything they need to know. Either way, it has led youth to overreact at nearly every time they are criticized. In stead of going back and figuring out what they did wrong, they’ve been raised to instead cry and moan until they get their way. 17 or 18 years of behavioral training is pretty hard to undo.

  15. I am loving this post, Bill, and all the comments. Like you, I’m forever grateful to those early mentors who showed me — by counsel and by example — how to be a pro. It’s hard for me to see some of the younger people at our firm who are not benefitting from the same wonderful guidance. Not because it’s unavailable, but because they’re really not interested.

    • Polly,

      I am interested, how are mentors being made available to the younger people? Is it an active program in your organization or passive?

      I ask because I think that may be a good starting point for a future blog :-)!

      • The mentors in my own life were people I worked for and with early in my career. I was fortunate to work with some outstanding professionals.

        At Kent State, we work constantly to establish and maintain relationships with dozens of internship employers who value the candidates we send their way. Most pay them well, too. I advise my students to make quality mentoring the number one priority when seeking that first internship or job.

      • Sorry for the delayed response, Asaad. I didn’t see your question til just now.

        Like Bill, my mentors were amazing people I worked with throughout my career. Here at Deloitte, we DO have mentoring programs that are very active … the program for women seems promoted more.

        It’s funny you mentioned future blog … I’m in the midst of starting one on “feeding” your network, and I was planning to address the importance of mentoring at some point.

  16. Bill, I really appreciate this post and your personal responses to the various comments a lot.

    I think you make a great point about those mentors and how much of an influence they can be. I know I had a few beyond Mom and Dad who helped me along the way too. As someone commented to me on Facebook about my blog, “transitional” Millenials (’78-’83) don’t like the younger Millenials very much, because transitionals have a fair bit of cop on to the social norms, where the young ones don’t. I wonder if their is a demographic distinction even within the generation.

    When did you first notice the trend in your classroom?

    • Asaad, as a “transitional” Millennial (I’ve also heard it called “Cusper”), I would have to agree that there is a demographic distinction within the category itself. I don’t like to consider myself Millennial/GenY and be lumped in with the younger group.

      I think the Cuspers have the fluency and familiarity with information and data being just clicks away, but also are easily able to remember going to the library and rifling through card catalogs to conduct research. I also believe many of us just missed out on the brunt of the self-esteem parenting movement, so we’re a little more equipped to deal with hard knocks, failure and criticism than those even a few years younger than us (I certainly never got a trophy for showing up). We’re kind of in a sweet spot of valuing and understanding how easy it is to access information today, but also recognizing simply having access to information doesn’t make us instant winners or automatically equip us with experience to do our jobs – some dues paying is necessary to earn the trophy.

      It frustrates me to see younger Millenials constantly whining (and it is whining) about how “hard” things are as they enter the workforce. I agree with Bill that many expect that they’ll be given responsibility right away and don’t expect to have to pay dues. But while they’re easily able to come up with factual information like you point out, they can’t just Google the interpersonal stuff that only comes with experience. Like when and how to stand up to a client when you disagree with their strategic direction. Or how to handle a co-worker who isn’t pulling his or her weight on a project. Or when to pack it in on a project or campaign that isn’t getting results and restart in a new direction – and how to break that news to a boss or client.

      Millennials have a lot of great traits – passion, empathy, ambition – but those need to be tempered with humility and practicality as they enter the workforce and start discovering that results trump effort, and getting good results often takes a few tries (in other words, it takes experience).


      • Amy,

        Fantastic description. I am a definite cusper, with Boomer parents and 2 Gen X-er siblings. I know what the inside of a Library looks like. I remember having to go to the nearest University library (because that’s where the newest sources were) to complete the most challenging high school projects, even during my senior year in 1999.

        However the idea of younger Millenials lacking interpersonal skills really resonates with me. I wonder if that is the result of being constantly connected? It makes me wonder what the work life balance for them will really be?

        I definitely agree with your point!

      • So there IS a name for it. I don’t really identify with GenY, but I’m not a GenXer since I was born in ’82. (And, let’s remember, before I even get started that GenX was the generation of “slackers”.) However, I have a much older brother (born in ’71), remember using card catalogues for research (through most of high school, actually), and have always been taught that hard work and time will pay off more with constructive criticism, as well as careful planning and conservative spending. I take responsibility for my actions, learn from my mistakes, and am always trying to learn and build on what I already know. I see many younger “Millenials” whom I went to college with (I went to college relatively late) expressing that sense of entitlement and have seen it even more in the work force since I graduated.

        I also see a lot of looking down on people who are “less intellectual”, less inclined to desk jobs, as if by default anyone in a blue collar job is worth less than those in white collar jobs. This isn’t just a generational issue, but I feel like Millenials feel more entitled to white collar jobs through college education in a time when more people than ever are graduating high school and college and less and less people are becoming educated in skill-based occupations. More and more are becoming educated in knowledge (something I admit I did – since I have a BA in International Relations), but what’s the shame in a vocational school, community college, or even a state school degree? I think the Millenials largely come off as a generation that feels entitled to recognition and social status (and why would I want to identify with that?!).

        That being said, I think these are all a lot of generalizations and those never come without exceptions.

      • Amy- Wow, I’ve never heard that term (Cuspers) but it describes me to a “T”!! Actually I’m copying and pasting your response so next time I’m in this argument I can quote you (with all due credit of course).

        Also I find myself in this awkward position where people who know me well/work with me think I’m much older than I am, and complain to me on a peer level about ‘those kids’, but where others I don’t know as well perceive me as one of the kids (I do look pretty young and in comparison I’m pretty close)

        SO I’m often confused about whether I should jump on the complaining bandwagon or the defending one. 🙂

        Bottom line though: Generalizations are never good–just because you have an assumption about what the millennial generation is like, you should never dismiss someone without getting to know him/her personally.

        Final note for Bill: I studied PR at Algonquin College here in Ottawa and my professors were much the same as you. We had strict rules about being on time and were marked very hard and I loved it and I’m definitely a better person for it.

      • Amy,

        Thank you for your clarification. I have recently returned to school after a five-year marketing career, and I see so many of the characteristics Bill describes in my fellow students, who are as much as 10 years younger than I am. At the risk of sounding elitist, I don’t feel like I share many of these characteristics, and so it made sense that I’m actually a “Cusper.”

        While it is common to point out younger Milennials’ negatives, there are plenty of things I envy. While, as a Cusper, I am plenty familiar with computers, I am far behind my fellow students in my comfort level. While initially disgusted to see so many students on Facebook instead of taking notes during lecture, I had to swallow my pride when they all aced the first test. I am definitely not capable of that kind of multitasking. Granted, these students might face a rude awakening when sitting on Facebook all day doesn’t fly in the workforce, but doesn’t every generation have a rude awakening of some kind during this transition? I know I had plenty of them.

        All generations have their positives and negatives. Life has a way of smoothing out the rough edges, and those that succeed are those that not only learn to accentuate the positives, but humbly open themselves up to, and learn from, other generations.

    • @ Asaad: Great question. I’ve been teaching Millenials since ’96, since the first ones were born in ’78. But I didn’t notice a change until about 2001-02 — which would mean those born after ’83.

      The changes were good and bad. Students in the early 2000s were resourceful and flexible — and the first real multitaskers thanks to IM and broadband. But they also became more sensitive and, to some degree, less respectful of the old professor’s wisdom of authority.

      I’ll live.

      @ Amy: You’re one of those Millennials who fit my description of “bright and inquisitive.” You’re also one who works her butt off. I’ve been following your online life long enough to know that. I’m not sure the “attitude” that many folks ascribe to some Millennials is all that unique to this generation. As a Boomer who entered college in 1971, I had a boatload of attitude. It wasn’t until I found a work ethic 4-5 years later that thinks began to go my way. And I owe it to my mentors.

      One of my Facebook friendz pointed out the Millennials seem a lot like the Boomers — right down to their love for 60s rock-n-roll. I think there’s something to that. I know I see a lot of myself in my kids, both of whom are Millennials.

      • Bill,

        I think your ’83 mark is pretty accurate from the survey of posts online here. It seems those born before ’83 have a distinct difference and viewpoint than those Millenials born after. This carried over on my Facebook page in some comments as well. I think it definitely has to do with being in the transition phase of instant access. Or as you say, “real multi-taskers”. Here is hoping we were born in a fortunate era as per Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” which showed the worlds most known old school billionaires, Mellon, Carnegie, Getty etc. were all born within the same 9 year span. Talk about a book that will make even the most “special” Millenial feel fated for mediocrity…

  17. Bill – Thanks for the post, and for sparking the subsequent conversation. The folks who comment on your blog are always a passionate lot. As an aside, when I was with D&E I helped CRT/Tanaka, as part of the Lumin Collaborative, put together this research in a presentable form. Remember being drawn to the same data points you’re highlighting in your post.

    Working, and being friends with several of your current/former students I’ve found that they universally find your methods to have really helped as they crossed into the “real world.” I say keep doing what you’re doing.

    Now, onto the topic at hand. I suppose I’m technically a Millenial, though I’m hopping on Amy’s Cusper train for a minute. Reality is that I know the only way to get ahead is through hard work, but as you’ve pointed out that’s not always the case. You aren’t going to come in and be given responsibility immediately. It has to be earned. Your intelligence isn’t justification enough for being handed the big account. Guess what? EVERYONE is smart. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be there. In the social space, the early twenty somethings often think that using the tools in their personal lives means they absolutely understand how to manage a digital account — both the internal team and external client. Bullshit. The only way you know is through experience.

    One other thing… this line of dialogue drives me nuts –

    Millenial: “I’ve been tweeting and writing a blog for a couple of years.”
    Random Person: “Really? How long have you been at the agency/company?”
    Millenial: “Oh, about 18 months. But I have loads of experience connecting with people online.”

    Guess what? If your work history consists of an 18 month stint within an agency you probably aren’t ready to lead.

    As the kids say… “Just sayin”

    Thanks, Bill, for the work you do here and for the students of Kent State. They always come out prepared.

  18. Bill,
    You’re spot on when you say learning isn’t a passive activity. I recently guest lectured at UNT and began my discussion with telling students that their professors can’t teach them everything they should know about social media. Technology is developing too rapidly to express THE standards. I pointed students in the direction of metrics, current social media discussions of best practices, experts in the field, SEO, and the need to understand that the foundation of PR rests on solid writing. The rest…is up to them.

  19. As a Millenial and one of your PR students, I have to say that I appreciate your teaching style. To me there is nothing more frustrating than getting a low grade without an explanation. I like that you go through every line and write comments all over the place. Yes, it’s scary. I cringed every time I handed a paper in for Media Relations, but the tough love you dished out has made me a much better writer and PR student. I’m even excited to take Campaigns with you in the fall (some consider that a shock!) because I know that I’ll come out prepared for a PR career. So I guess this is my thank you for being more of a coach and less of a cheerleader along the path through Kent State.

  20. This post couldn’t have been more timely. I’ve just graded a term assignment for a PR student I mentor in a post-graduate PR program. I work with a lot of 20-something PR consultants in an agency of ~90 people. I’m also a parent of a son born in 1995.

    At first I worried I graded the student’s assignment harshly. After reading your post and subsequent comments, I’m convinced the evaluation was fair and I hope she’ll find my comments constructive.

    I’ve been fortunate in that the young PRs I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past year since I’ve moved to the agency side, are bright, highly-motivated, creative and hard-working individual.

    As for my son and his friends, although good kids, most of them personify the passive student. I’ve been hoping it’s just a phase coinciding with the teen years. Now I know I’m not out of line when whenever I try giving my son a reality check about university admissions, post-secondary education and the real world.

    Thanks for your insights,


  21. As an early millenial (’81), I see a lot of what you say in my peers and more particularly in some of the younger individuals. I had parents who had a lot of other problems to worry about, so as long as I wasn’t getting kicked out of school or landing in jail, they left me on my own. My sister-in-law, by contrast, is just 7 months younger but still brings laundry from the house that she owns over to her parents’ house.

    The one subject that I think is more nuanced, however, is that of job loyalty. I live in an area of the country that was pretty hard-hit by the economic crisis, and I see my peers not being disloyal just because of challenge/interest, but because they don’t have confidence that the company to which they could show loyalty will always be in a position to return the favor. We watched our parents, aunts, and uncles be summarily fired from companies that promised them a gold watch and a pension in exchange for years and years of hard work (with increasingly long hours during the 90s) not because of their lack of talent but because of the economics of having older employees, or just the economics of business ownership in general. We learned that we can only depend on our own skilsets and abilities to adapt.

    As a faculty member now myself, I completely sympathize and agree with the rest of your post. I had a student get angry with me last week because he got a D on a paper that he “worked really hard on.” He didn’t follow the directions very well at all, despite their availability online and in class and the multitude of opportunities to discuss during office hours. I finally got him to admit that he barely read them in the first place. Once we reached an understanding on his grade (not budging from a D), he said, “so, can I do something like for extra credit?” *facepalm*

    • Karen,

      Your point about job loyalty is a good one. If you download and review the entire slide deck from my pals at CRT/Tanaka, you’ll find a line in there that says Millennials are challenged by seeing their parents “fall victim to layoffs, down-sizing and right-sizing.”

      So, yes, your observation is right on. Millennials aren’t loyal to employers because employers have no intention of being loyal to them. Of course, at my age I have no choice but to be loyal. I’m just glad to have a job!

  22. I wrote a post about this very topic last year! Lovin’ it, Bill. Yah, we millennials have been reared to be the best so it’s hard to hear “your paper blows.”

    I’m sure I cried over my first few graded assignments in Case Studies, but in honesty all I remember are a few emotionally charged phone conversations with my mother where I called you every name in the book. Sorry 😉

    Yes, we’re a bunch of spoiled little turds who occasionally need a reality check. I completely agree with the comments above, supporting faculty grizzlies like yourself. As hard as it was to hear, I’m glad I received criticism/feedback on my writing. Once you get past the initial shock that someone dared give you a C, you sort of take on the challenge of proving them wrong and ultimately improve your writing abilities.

    • And it was your talents as a tweet writer that inspired my “Grizzly Bear” post, Jackie. I owe you one! I hear congrats are in order on your new gig. Fill me in sometime.

  23. As a father to two young children, I read this post through a little different lens. But, the takeaway from me is simple. Failure is key to success. I’m an Xer and my parents showered me with as much praise as the Millennials received from their parents. But, when I failed, I often heard crickets. They let the failure sink in. They let it sting. They let it hurt. And you know what? Each time it made me stronger. Sometimes it motivated me. Other times it just hurt. But, it allowed me to learn to deal and manage stress and failure–key attributed to any successful and well-adjusted human being. And, isn’t that a big component of college life anyway? Learning how to grow up? Sometimes I look back on my college days (tearing up now) and think I learned as much (if not more) about life as I did about communications/marketing.


  24. Many years ago when I was about 10 years old, I was arguing with one of my uncles about which gunmaker made the best products. I pointed out my favorite company had been in business the longest and thus had more experience.

    My uncle, a construction superintendent (he’s 77 now and still working), replied, “That doesn’t mean anything. I’ve hired carpenters who told me they’d been in the trade 20 years. I watch ’em work a half day and see they don’t know any more than the day they started.”

    The point is an experienced imbecile is still an imbecile. Absent talent and discipline, experience is just the accumulation of drudgery.

    Of course, I’m coming at this from an ad guy’s perspective, not PR. In my side of the business talent trumps experience. In fact, if you’ve been around long enough to accumulate experience it’s probably time to look for another job.

    That said, experience has its uses. For those of us who have been around a while, it’s at the very least a crutch that helps us compensate for not being as quick as we used to be. Besides, it’s not experience itself that makes you better at your trade or profession; it’s what you do with that experience.

    Asaad, you seem a bright chap. I can’t tell you the value of experience. It will be up to you to figure out how to make your experience valuable, both to you and to people who might some day actually pay you for being experienced.

    Bill, don’t be too hard on Millennials because they whine when you correct their work. Much as they’d like to believe otherwise, they didn’t invent whining and entitlement. As you know, I first taught the year the first Millennials were born. Even back then, students would come in with the “I worked so hard” and “But I always got A’s in high school” sob stories, and worse. And that’s just another form of the “But I have so much experience” excuse. It’s not my fault you have twelve years of experience going to school and never learned to write. What were you doing all that time? Experience doesn’t count for diddly if you still can’t do the job.

    On the bright side, your students always sound as though they’re now much better prepared to make something valuable of their next twelve years of experience.

    • Blair,

      I appreciate the comments. You know I have been told all my young life by my Boomer parents that hard work pays off and how much experience matters. I know it does. I find though that sometimes too much value is put on experience and not enough on hard work. Or rather the wrong kind of experience gets rewarded, e.g. anyone who ever got promoted just because they lasted long enough (Let’s here it for seniority postings!). However, I will use myself as a case in point to elaborate further. I am highly educated in the world of business, I have an MBA from a tier 2 school (no shame) and a Master’s in HR from a European school. I had a career in banking going before I decided to get the second masters. Every job I have had has been in management… when I first started at the bank I was management trainee, 6 months into my career my VERY wise Boss (Mentor to be sure from all the discussions above) who happened to be the COO, had the bright idea to let me use my education and lack of “banking experience” or lack of “taint” as he termed it to help the bank. As a result I solved operational efficiency problems for the entire operations department of a publicly traded bank. In this role I told managers who had more experience in banking than I had years of life in total, how to do their jobs better… and it worked, because I valued what they knew and combined it with how the world had evolved (a innate skill from being a cusper it seems). After 12 months doing that (18 months in total career time) the bank gave me an even fancier title and my own named block on the organizational chart and I solved problems of efficiency for the entire bank… at 25 years old, with only 2.5 years of total work experience. I proved my worth, my boss/mentor and all my colleagues would agree. Now lets fast forward, my next job after my second masters was as the VP of Finance for a much smaller company… having since been let go from that position and actively seeking employment I find myself LACKING the 8-10 years minimum experience needed for Senior Manager positions even though I have 3 full years of Senior Management experience… which leads me to my point. I think we can all agree it isn’t necessary the amount of experience you have, but very clearly the quality of it that matters. However far too many people don’t know enough to assess experience in terms of quantity vs. quality mainly because the common wisdom for the workforce is years of experience matter, not quality of experience. Which IMHO is mainly due to a lack of clear direction within an organizations HR department.

      • Asaad,
        I can’t add much to the many insightful comments on the varieties of experience on this long and interesting thread. You’ve apparently lived some of the complexities of experience, which can certainly be a two-edged sword. No argument from me about the cluelessness of HR, but then I haven’t held a job for 23 years. As a freelance writer, I’m selling my talent and experience every day, but that means the bulk of my work experience isn’t relevant to most people’s employment challenges. Good luck!

  25. I really appreciate this blog post. I agree with what Carrie said. It’s not like you’re writing “You Suck Go Home!” on our papers. You’re giving us constructive criticism, which is more than what a lot of teachers do. Too many people leave out the constructive part and just tell you what’s wrong. I really appreciate hearing “This isn’t working because… might want to try…”

    In the “real” world you can’t go around reciting everything that your company is doing wrong so I don’t get why some teachers think it’s ok to have that attitude with their students.

    You obviously care about what we’re doing or you wouldn’t be spending so much time going over it with us. I couldn’t believe you spent 90 minutes going over my last paper with me. I didn’t even need tissues just two ears and a pen to take notes.

  26. Wanted to say thanks to everyone who dropped by yesterday. You contributed to the highest-traffic day in the 3.5-year history of ToughSledding. I’d like to think that traffic is owing to great content, but CJEck, who posted one of the comments here, put it in perspective with this tweet:

    @BillSledzik Talking about Millennials on the web is like talking about Roosevelt at a nursing home – audience participation is a given. 😉

    You know, sometimes in addition to knowledge and experience, you a need a little perspective. A sense of humor also helps!

  27. Sorry I am commenting a day late and a dollar short, really wanted to do so earlier.

    However, of those who I know who were born in 1980 (and forward) and are successful in this business have two very specific qualities:

    1. They are extremely well-read
    2. They are extremely gifted writers

    Both of these qualities take a lot of practice and time, it also takes people out of their comfort zone. If you read a lot, you’re bound to read something you disagree with (or weren’t aware of). If you write enough, you’re bound to write something incredibly stupid and have to learn from it.

    The one class in college that prepared me most for my marketing career was not PR case studies, PR theory or any of my journalism classes. It was fiction writing. I had to write a lot of incredibly stupid short stories and then read them out loud. Awkward does not describe it. However, everyone, from future lawyers to PR students, had to learn how take criticism on the fly with some very personal stories.

    Thanks again for this piece, it was spot on.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Dominic. Your wisdom cuts across these generations, and your contribution to the PR/Mktg community here in NEOhio is well known to all of us who hang out here.

      Interesting that you went to work for a Baby Boomer who saw the value in hiring a Millennial to help his company take full advantage of the 2.0 phenomenom. He get it, but he knew he also needed someone who lives it.

      I’m gonna resist that set-up line about a PR guy being most influenced by “fiction writing.” 🙂

  28. Great discussion here — Dad. 😉

    I didn’t get around to commenting yesterday, but wanted to add a note of thanks to the blogger for NOT lying to me in my youth — at least not in the areas where it matters. Like work-ethic, attitude and writing (I enjoyed 4+ years of the editorial criticism your students have referenced and KNOW that I’m better off because of it).

    But this isn’t to say I wasn’t the recipient of ample positive encouragement. My younger days were filled with the same praise fellow-Millenials experienced. But like Blair mentions, it’s all about what you do with this experience.

    It’s been said that Gen-Yers are optimistic, and I think parental praise is a direct root of this optimism. As we enter the workforce, this positive attitude (along with some time “in the trenches”), can be trait that helps younger pros stand-out — especially amongst the often more cynical and change-resistant types that exists amongst the Gen-X crowd. (But maybe I see more of this because of my exposure in corporate environments?)

    Regardless of what generation you’re from (or lay claim to), it’s about recognizing how past events have shaped your current behaviors. Learn the most from your experiences, good or bad, and continue to improve. In a world where “everyone’s smart,” to me it’s about discipline and attitude. Both things I learned from my parents. Thanks again. 😀

    • Thanks, Chris. I want to tell my readers that I didn’t pay you to say any of that. But there is the matter of those four years at Miami U and all those speeding tickets from your high-school years.

      But you touch on something that’s really fundamental, and that’s the importance of parental involvement. You can’t leave education entirely to the teachers. Read to your kids, and show ’em how to use a comma! Oh, yeah. And take ’em deer huntin’!

    • Love your insights, Chris. I agree that Gen Y-ers are generally optimistic, but I’m not sure that’s a result of just parental praise. My parents gave me a healthy dose of praise but made sure to serve it with an ample serving of humility. Momma’s favorite phrase was always “We’re all just a bunch of dumb f*&#s trying to get through life.” She’s a regular Shakespeare, that mother of mine.

      Point is, no matter how much praise I got, my parents always focussed on the work ethic as a means to success, not intelligence. I think when parents instill in their children that dedication, commitment, patience and quality work leads to success the transition to college is easier.

      Those instances when professors like your pop hand back papers dripping with red ink are slightly easier to swallow. Then optimism naturally flows (e.g. If I do my very best and give it some time I’ll eventually get the hang of AP Style vs. I’m a smart person. I should be getting A’s in Media Writing!! WTH?!)

  29. Thanks for the insights and access to the Power Point document. I find these relationships fascinating. I’m a big fan of Strauss and Howe’s generational theories and frequently go back to reread excerpts. Love discussing this stuff with my kids.

  30. I totally agree with this. I’m a Millennial and have been working in PR for 3 years now. The one thing I wish I could have been taught in college is how to grow a thick skin. I still take too much personally and it would have been nice to be prepared emtionally for work. If I ever had to go back and talk to college students wondering what they need to be prepared for, I would say to be prepared for more stress than you ever had in college, moody clients, bitter reporters and criticism from your boss. No one ever talks about that stuff and it’s important. Probably just as important as how to write a press release or pitch a reporter (this really isn’t taught either though).

  31. Hi everyone, very late to the thread, but wanted to give my perspective as someone recruiting in the tech agency world right now. For me, it comes down to this: what you can offer the world vs what the world can offer you. I look at my career through the lens of what i can offer the world, then am rewarded for that with what the world can offer me. Something I was taught as a kid, and has proved immensely valuable in my career to date. Also wrote this post a few weeks back, with some helpful advice for Millennial job seekers: – Good luck out there!

  32. Hey, Professor! Janet here, former Kent Stater, Millenial cheerleader and workplace newb. I think I’m just as special as my parents tell me I am. ;P

    I’ve learned a lot in the past year of being in the real world. I think this is the first time that I’ve felt like at some points, my best wasn’t good enough. Like, just showing up and busting my ass always got me internships, scholarships, A’s on all my papers (eh, um) and arguably undeserved B’s in math (I still can’t do fractions or long division and I use a cell phone calculator to figure out tips… )

    Work was the first time that I worked as hard as I could at something, and sometimes, I just made a mistake. Because maybe I’m young, I still have a lot to learn – and maybe there is a reason I get paid what I get paid.

    I have tried to explain before that the sense of entitlement that people accuse people my age of having isn’t ill-meaning or egotistical. It’s not entitlement; it’s disappointment. I just think that the helicopter parents put a lot of pressure on us as kids to exceed (because they thought we were special, so we should succeed) and we always grew up thinking that the hard work would pay off at the end of the tunnel: graduation. The reality – *and this is the disconnect* – is that the hard work just BEGINS after graduation.

    Rather, I think that a lot of kids my age think that after graduation all that hard work is going to translate into the job of their dreams, the house of their dreams, the paycheck – everything. That’s just not the case.

    I wish that more kids my age would just embrace their early twenties. I recently read this article about the allusive quarter life crisis (that I saw on my friend’s Facebook page, no less!) and I thought it was a great read. It’s about the confusion and the frustration of your twenties. But you know what? It’s a lot of fun. I wish more kids would just work hard, make connections, get involved in life and embrace the uncertainty. No, you don’t have it all figured out. Yes, you are probably poor. No, you don’t have your dream job, *yet.* But have fun and work hard. Figure it out. And for God’s sake, don’t move back home with your helicopter parents and give up!

    Phew. That said, 20 years from now I hope I am a hard-ass professor somewhere helping kids the way you do.

    Great post,


    • Thanks for your heartfelt comments, Janet. You know I’m a huge fan all kids from Buffalo, as that’s where my own Millennials — now 25 and 28 — spent their formative years. We’re still Sabre’s fans, and still miss the old neighborhood.

      What you’re talking about is a simple thing called work ethic. Not everyone develops one. And for those who do, it kicks in at different times. Mine was latent until several years AFTER college. In fact, I woke up in 1978, the year the first Millennials were born!

      Oh, yeah. Put a hex on those damn Boston Bruins will you. I know you’re in the neighborhood!

  33. Pingback: Dear Millennials « Sheng Min

  34. Terrific post, though I’m catching it a couple of days late.

    It reminds me of my recent guest lecturing at Kent’s design school where I had the class perform a real-life design project for a fictitious manufacturing business. The class was split into two groups and each had to create and produce all of the supporting materials for a comprehensive marketing plan.

    What was most shocking, and appalling, to me was the arrogance and entitlement mentality that dominated the class. Despite the fact that not a single student had ever seen a product manufactured or had any understanding of how a real-life business operated, they were certain that their design skills were all that were necessary to succeed.

    Not surprisingly, their design efforts, though beautifully designed and constructed, were almost universally ineffectual and unusable. They failed entirely to take into account the business’ strategic objectives, to understand their customers’ needs and to advance specific business interests. Their ashen faces when confronted with detailed critique and dismissal of their work confirmed that they were unused to receiving critical analysis.

    Interestingly, I received a number of notes from class members admitting that they were initially shocked but subsequently appreciative of the detailed feedback from a business owner who regularly hires design talent. For those students, I hold out hope that they can ingest critique and channel it into improving subsequent efforts. For those whose animus appeared to overwhelm their sensibility, I expect they’ll marinate in their bottomless pool of entitlement and bemoan the unfairness of the world that won’t recognize their genius.

    • Students in that program have always had a sizable collective ego, John. In fairness, though, the rigorous annual review process tends to instill it.

      My experience too often mirrors yours. Some excellent designers/artists. But the end product too often didn’t meet the client’s objectives.

      I remember folks like this from my time in the biz. They always thought the clients were idiots. I assured them that was only true about half the time 🙂

  35. Bill, one heck of a post. I can testify, having employed some and known more than a few of your former students, that you are the real deal. Thank you for all you do to improve the profession and the bright young minds we need to build its future.

    In the eight years since I started our agency, I have interviewed literally hundreds of “millenials” looking to break into PR (and I have two more of ’em soon to leave home for their college careers).

    What I have learned from my professional interactions with PR hopefuls and my own career (including teaching) is that stereotypes and generalizations mark the inevitable path of every generation through the workforce. This generation is no different, and sorry folks, your stereotypes and generalizations are uniquely yours and will be with you forever (just go to that library thing, or maybe the Internet, and see how the stereotypes about my Baby Boom generation haven’t changed, they’ve just gotten . . . older).

    Yes, it’s a tough time, yes the economy sucks. The world is unfair (in good as well as bad ways). It was that way when communicators smacked on tablets with stone chisels and when monks dipped their quills in different colored inks and . . . you get the picture.

    So yes, experience matters. And in our craft, it can make the difference. And so can youth and enthusiasm. You can be old and horrible or young and great. And I have worked with both types of PR pros.

    Listen to the good professor. The timeless truths of career success are well, chiseled in stone. Or today perhaps, hot linked in a blog and commented on a thousand times hence!

  36. Bill, you are rocking it in this post.

    Yesterday, I handed out the unfiltered feedback of two special guest professionals who served as mock interviewers for the class. A few people really aced their interviews. Most people did a passable job, but with a few errors, stumbles and stubbed toes. The feedback was very direct, even blunt, but delivered with purity of heart and genuine interest.

    As John H. said above, ashen faces greeted this news. Growing thick skin is a prereq to growing a professional spine. You can’t risk giving your opinion if you’re not able to accept having your head handed to you if your logic is wrong. That’s not a comment on Millenials, it’s a comment on us all.

    We spend a lot of time trying to educate managers on how to give constructive feedback – maybe we should spend some time educating all employees on how to receive it.


  37. Bill,

    I can’t sit here and say that there weren’t times that I came home from Case Studies and just wanted to sit in bed and cry. I can, however, say that I learned from it.
    I have tougher skin and better work ethic. Your class taught me time management and writing skills.
    There were times that my roommate and I would complain to each other about how “Bill’s class is terrible! It’s so hard and he’s so mean!”
    Now, as move on in our other classes, we’re so grateful for all of them times that you wrote “trainwreck!!!” on our papers because we deserved it. More so, we learned from it.
    I feel like your class is exactly what I needed to get my butt in gear. Whenever I think I have too much on my plate or an assignment is just too much, I just look back to Case Studies and say “This class doesn’t have squat on what I’ve already been through.”
    If I ever felt unsure about my capabilities in a PR career, I don’t anymore. You made me realize that this is what I’m in college for: the brutal honest truth that will make me a better person and a harder worker.

  38. Thanks, Sarah. This thread has gone all over the place, and I’ve enjoyed the side trips. But the one theme that’s haunting me comes from former students who tell me not to soften my standards.

    Why does it haunt me? I’m not happy that my written feedback drives students to tears, or prompts curse-laden calls home to Mom. My comments are voluminous, they are not mean spirited.

    Problem is, I can’t sit with every student to discuss every assignment. What the students see is a paper covered with comments and suggestions, and often riddled with deductions for grammar, usage and punctuation errors.

    It’s a real jolt for students who’ve been told they’re great writers to learn they’re not. And some simply won’t accept the reality. As a result, many don’t drop by the office — ever — to seek additional feedback.

    My colleague, Dr. Bob Batchelor, likes to say that a sizable part of our job is playing “Dr. Phil.” Maybe I should take some psychology courses.

  39. Bill,

    So good to see someone else bringing up these topics. I started a small private school and come across the same frustrations. There are times my staff and I look at our students in dismay with their apathy and overt comments of “We don’t want to do that”. They are all great kids and we spend a lot of time tweaking our curriculum to include their interests and it still doesn’t help. And you know, it begins in preschool. By law we have to allow parents in at any time to observe. Well a recent observation by a parent included the parent talking to the other 3 and 4 year olds and telling them how they should talk to her son. It was outrageous – but law allows it.

    I think we need to go back and re-educate the parents, and that’s what I try to do; directing them to sites like yours.

    I feel like I’m swimming upstream, wasting time and money, for no purpose….but then you have those ‘ah-ha’ moments that make it all worth while. We keep the faith and hope we have some impact on students with reality, improved skillsets and accountability; and hopefully this will set them apart from the stereotype. Now just to get them to accept! LOL

  40. I just learned about your blog today through the link from the PR Squared blog. I think you’re spot on in your millennial critique. I’m a vice president at an agency and see the same concerns, ranging from writing skills to level of entitlement, that you write about.

    I fully grasp the comments from Asaad and some of the others. I was young once too and wondered if my bosses actually knew anything. If you believe anything, believe this: You may think you know the way the world works, but experience will teach that there’s a lot more to it. You’ll look back and realize all you didn’t know. We all did. Keep up the great discussion, Bill. I’m glad I found you.

    • Jon,

      Asaad’s brought as much to this thread as anyone, and I appreciate that he stayed with it. I see his points, too.

      We all know business is changing constantly, but in the PR/Mktg/Comm-related disciplines, the change came so quickly that it created its own set of superstars. They stepped up their soapboxes in the blogosphere and showed a lot of their Baby Boomer bosses a new approach. Point is, the pace of change has enabled these whippersnappers to leap ahead of the older folks who, 7-8 years ago, were still enamored with email. And sometimes their impatience grew from the fact that the old guard really didn’t “get it.”

      Funny thing, though. One of the first PR people to write books, lecture and share knowledge on this topic was a old Boomer like me, Shel Holtz. And he’s still at it — and still a thought leader in the space. His books were the first on my shelf, and his blog is still an important read.

    • Jon,
      Many years ago when we were young, Bill and I both worked for a good-sized regional ad agency. I was a copywriter. Bill headed the PR division. We both wondered if the bosses actually knew anything. Apparently they didn’t. Place went out of business years ago. Sometimes management really is wrong, and being young doesn’t mean you can’t see that. (Though I’ll admit it’s unwise to talk about it during work hours.) I appreciate the difficulty of dealing with young people who think they know more than they do; in addition to teaching in a former life, I had an employee myself once. But teacher or boss, you not only get to tell them you know more than they do — you can show them. If you show them, they’ll learn from you. The flip side is if you’re paying them, they’d darn well better come to work every day ready to show you what they can do, too. Make ’em prove it to you. Because trust me, they’re expecting you to prove something to them, too.

  41. Thanks for the article, Mr. Sledzik! It was a great read.

    Here are some thoughts:
    I’ve always been a fan of constructive criticism–bruised egos only last for a little while, but in the end it makes me a better practitioner and professional. But I’m also scared to ask for constructive criticism because I feel like employers will take it offensively, when really, I just want to know how to improve. I don’t want a pat on the back unless it’s deserved. I truly believe I learn from my mistakes and while it might be embarrassing in the process, I’ll always have a mental list of what not to do in the future.

    As for the loyalty suggestion you made, I think loyalty is fading to exist in companies everywhere—and being replaced with greed. How can employees be loyal to a company that no longer offers job security and doesn’t care about employee satisfaction?
    I think everyone wants to contribute to the success of a company—or at least feel like it. If employees are devoting 40+ hours a week to a company, most prefer to do a job they enjoy. Employees move from job to job to job searching for this sense of fulfillment or security–not because they enjoy switching jobs. My dad left a company after 23 years, and during an interview the interviewer wanted to know why he was with his previous employer for so long—they considered it a “lack of experience.” It’s often the companies that fail to provide the loyalty, not the employees.

    I think the most frustrating thing I’ve encountered between elder mentors and millenials has been the changing scope of PR. Younger PR practitioners are falling further away from Bernays’ psychological aspects. New PR practices developing via social media reform public opinion to engage customers. How can we take our customers’ opinions and rising national/global trends and adapt our product/advertising/practices, etc.?

    In the end, it’s all about adaptation. Millenials are here to stay until the next generation comes along—and while I agree that many of my peers feel entitled, need constant positive feedback, can’t handle criticism, lack respect for everyone they come into contact with, and expect jobs and promotions to be handed to them (I work hard to avoid being sucked into these characteristics), there is no way to change the behaviors of an entire generation. The question now is how do the different generations work together?

    Again, thank you for articles like these that keep me in the loop about how other generations feel about mine. It is because of insightful articles like this I am able to approach potential employers humbly.

    • Let me start by saying that I hope those in a position to recruit young professionals are still in this thread, Kimberly. They should hire you. I would.

      I don’t disagree with one word you say here, but I do find a need to come to the defense of Ed Bernays. Yes, he was largely an asymmetrical proponent early on — a user of mass psychology to trigger behaviors that made his clients rich. And he had a real elitist streak in him as well.

      But in his classic, “The Engineering of Consent,” Bernays introduces the concept of adaptation long before anyone was talking about all that “excellence” stuff that came along 30 years later. It may not have been Bernays’ MO early in his professional life, but he did address it in some detail.

      At least that’s how I read it. I’m not exactly a PR historian — but I do know a few. We’ll see if they’re part of thread!

  42. Bill you sound like my college football coaches. Old Grizzly Bears! Their tough love was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Every Millennial needs a little tough love. As a generational consultant and speaker on this topic, I can tell you that you’re description of my generation is close to spot one. While I don’t agree with all of it, I do agree that my generation is lacking some of the think skin needed to survive the real world with going through a box of Kleenex. My clients would be happy to know that there’s still a few teachers and mentors out there trying to toughen our generation up a bit. Don’t let up on them Bill!

    • Funny thing, Seth. I never had a student athlete cry after getting one of my papers back. They’re all pretty thick skinned. But I’ve also never had a football player as a PR major. Not sure why.

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  44. The biggest mistake that I see in competition for kids these days is giving out awards for showing up. WTF? Nothing ruins kids more than to do this! Quit it!

  45. Man, I wish I would’ve stay at KSU and had you as my professor! My PR class was easy sailing and I wish someone would’ve given me a good kick in the pants.

    I’m a Millennial, and I won’t deny anything you said. It’s true. I want praise, to be respected AND the corner office – oh, and to only work 40 hours per week. You forgot the work-life balance!

    Yes, we’re a very different and sometimes difficult bunch to work with. I’ve only been in the professional workforce for 6 years, but I’ve done my best to respect those who have experience.

    In fact, I make it a point to ask to learn something from them on a regular basis. I mean, knowledge is free from these folks, why wouldn’t I take advantage of that? My father always taught me to learn as much as I could from anybody – whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.

    I’ve found this to be a successful way to bridge my new web 2.0 ideas with traditional practices, and in the end, we all feel like contributors to the end project.

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  47. One quick question: should people who have paid their dues and climbed the company ladder get paid more and have a higher position even though they may not be as good at it than other folks?

    I hear a lot about millenials wanting the corner office, but nothing really about older generations not adapting with the times?

    Shouldn’t a millenial feel like the deserve the corner office when they are smarter, more talented, and creative than the person currently in that corner office?

    Just a thought! Would love to hear your perspective.

  48. Bill,
    Well I think everything you said in your post is true but it is definitely a tough cookie to crumble. As a student born in 1990, I have seen all the characteristics and qualities you’ve mentioned in myself and my peers. What’s funny is that I honestly would not have seen anything wrong with this mindset of self-affirmation and praise that my generation so proudly carries, if people from older generations, like you, had not pointed out the problem. I think it’s one of those things where you don’t see a problem until someone holds a mirror up to it. Once you look in the reflection, you see that the problem is really you.
    I heard an older person once say that the difference between today’s generation and previous generations is that millennials have a mentality that the world owes them the world. We walk into job interviews undoubtedly certain that the job is ours. Why wouldn’t it be? Our parents have told us we can be whatever we want and that the world is ours. Our teachers and schools have instilled in our minds that we are the brightest and the best. I think the simplest way of describing the attitude of generation is a self-assertive arrogance. People from previous generations had more of a workers’ mentality. They walked into job interviews with gratitude for not only a potential job but just the opportunity of being there.
    Now this may sound like the attitude of a millennial but I honestly think if you look at why the millennial generation has this “sensitive” attitude and what you refer to as a “belief of being above average,” it goes back to our parents and the generations before them. We were born into an increasingly technologically savvy generation where everything was instant, from food to computer messaging. We are the generation of instant gratification and “Have it your way”. Our parents told us we could be whatever we wanted, regardless of whether we had talent in a particular area or not. While I do agree that millenials have a false belief that we are “above average,” I think it’s largely the fault of generations before us. It’s possible that the insecurities of past generations and the hard work ethic that generation X and the baby boomers were inclined to, caused them to baby us.
    I completely agree with everything said in this post. My generation is full of a bunch of whiners. I guess the question is how do we fix it or can we ever. Knowing that people my age have an attitude of “I deserve the world,” it makes me want to have a strong work ethic and constant gratitude for any opportunities I am given. By the way, I think your PR class sounds awesome. The hardest professors are the ones that challenge you and make you better. The professors, who baby students and give everyone the grade they feel they deserve, walk away with students who have learned nothing.

  49. I recently saw the movie Reality Bites, which is often cited as a statement movie of generation X.

    In the movie Winona Ryder’s character, after hearing her TV host boss slam her documentary, a college project, decides she is too good for the job, messes with the hosts notes and gets herself fired.

    She then tells her friend she thinks she’s too good to take a job at the Gap, goes on several interviews and tells them she thinks she’s overqualified and then finally starts to get desperate.

    Doesn’t it sound familiar? The character has the same attitude of entitlement that is always named to the millennials.

    Anyone ever think that it isn’t that it isn’t that there’s fundamentally a work ethic missing from our generation and that it’s more, just like generations before us, that we’re young, inexperienced and don’t know any better?

  50. Every generation goes through their “what’s wrong with these kids today” phase (cue Broadway’s Bye Bye Birdie song, “Kids”). Socrates even has a quote attributed to him complaining about them. It’s global sport.

    This is a peril of attempting to classify a whole population based on inadequate sampling. Not all Millennials are narcissistic and self-absorbed. Not all Baby Boomers are nostalgic old hippies, and not all Gen Xers are latch-key slackers.

    Let’s not stereotype ourselves into a bunch of bitter old creeps…

  51. Hello, Bill — I saw your blog post on Twitter last week (@rickhardy retweeted it). Just wanted to say that I sympathize with you on so much of this. Indeed, praise “does go a long way” with the “trophy kids,” and “pointed criticism does not.” Have you taken the Pew Research’s millennial quiz, btw? =) I’ve also written about the millennial experience in my film studies classroom here, if you’re interested:

    “We’re All Winners and It’s Mister Rogers’s Fault: Pew Research, The Millennials, and the Classroom,”

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  54. If they were raised to be the “self esteem generation” then what does it say about their parent’s generation and its parenting skills (or lack thereof)?

  55. you look like hugo chavez in the header picture. If you’re preparing them for the work force you’re preparing them to be sheeple anyway. most professors do just the same thing: they’re above average, on a mission, and have the absolute logic from experience. they hold themselves to a higher sophisitication just because they do the same thing everyday and they do it well, when in reality they suffer from the same pitiful anxiety in learning and study of things not familiar and comfortable as the majority of students. You’re all suffering from
    but enjoying making fun of everyone else for the same. If someone gets defensive it’s not because they’re arrogant and showered with praise all their life, it’s because they don’t understand why when they thought it was of high quality. Looking down on them like an asshole sure helps the situation.

  56. The students that say, “but I worked so hard on this paper”. Are the best ones.

    Why? Help me understand why I did so bad. They talk back, they’re vocal, they want to know if there’s a misunderstanding. Show me what and where. I want to see things clearly!

    Those who say nothing are the losers. They’ll still just act passive aggressively resenting you if they think you’re wrong and they won’t get any better for it.

    This generation is just more vocal and less submissive to authority figures.

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  59. I believe your blog makes many valid points. I had never stopped to think about our generation, and how we respond to criticism. I think the technological age has only fueled our sense of entitlement. Young kids feel entitled to cell phones, ipods, and televisions in their rooms. Many things that probably should be considered privileges are considered rights. This mentality carries over to the classroom, and to attitudes when entering the workforce. Despite negative facts our generation still has endearing qualities. We are savvy about technology, which can help building our society. I agree that we may be sensitive, and a little criticism from a professor can make us stronger and better prepared for the future. This blog was very enlightening, and forced me to think about my generations attitude in a way i had not before.

  60. Well, I’m a millennial. Shucks.

    It’s a bit rough to actually realize in the moment but you hit on several points that I awkwardly connect with.

    I didn’t necessarily have my university professors (I attend St. Edward’s in Austin, TX) tell me I was a “bad writer” because when I put my mind (and time) to it I know I can write an A. But the jump from high school to college was pretty difficult at first, but I had great teachers – the ones the right in the margins are the best! And I began to understand that re-working and re-editing and re-thinking are assets I don’t want to throw away.

    It’s really interesting to see a professors point of view on things because I can definitely see how my generation “manipulates” societal systems I guess. Like with education, everyone my age has “bull-shitted” an assignment. Same with a lot of late night papers. And “effort” shouldn’t count when it was all put in the night before… which is the case in many many many situations.

    • K: Let me be clear. Never, ever, have I told a student he or she was a bad writer. Students have drawn that conclusion based on my feedback — which I believe is 99% constructive. I have, on occasion, told students they may want to consider a different major, since PR requires one be an outstanding writer and to actually enjoy the craft. It’s not for everyone.

      As for students who do late-night papers and attempt to “bullshit” and assignment, not sure that’s a Millennial thing. I recall doing it a few times myself — and paying the same price my students pay.

      The availability of information online does make it much easier to create last-minute papers. It also has contributed to a much higher incidence of plagiarism, sorry to say. Fortunately for me, the Internet also makes cheating easier for me to detect.

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  62. The millennial generation has been “babied” for entirely too long. No one truly appreciates victory because they are praised even in failure. My parents praised me only when I deserved it, and when I did something wrong I was disciplined. They knew I could make the right decision in most situations, but if I did not, I could figure out what went wrong on my own. My generation needs to better understand the feelings of winning and losing, because without knowing how it feels to lose a person can never value the sensation winning. Lessons in life are tough, not everything will go according to plan, so people need to take the bad with the good and make the most of it.
    I agree with Rachel Benbrook’s thought that technology has fueled our generation’s sense of entitlement. The access of information has become so menial that we often forget how important it can be. We assume we have the right to all the information the world has to offer, but what would happen if these privileges were stripped away? We take for granted that merely fifty years ago it could take days for information to reach a public as compared to seconds now. If our generation could put these things into perspective, we would greatly benefit.
    Pointing out ways our generation can improve could make all the difference. We are, after all, willing to learn and improve. We also have the capacity to take those ideas of improvement and make them our own. I hope that the “self esteem generation” can toughen up and make themselves the employees they have the potential to be.

  63. I’m a millennial and I found myself laughing at myself while reading your post because it was completely true! All through high school we were babied into thinking we deserve to be pampered by everyone around us. I actually have a shelf of trophies at home that say something along the lines of “You’re great! Thanks for participating” on the plaque. When I got to college it was shocking that I couldn’t breeze through every class. I wanted my PR degree handed to me, and in about two weeks I realized that was not how the real world works. This post is inspiring to me, as a member of GenY, because I’ve come to realize that professors don’t give criticism just to be mean, they do it because they want us, the students, to succeed in the real world and that is something I can really appreciate. I’m willing to put in the work required, and do what it takes to become a better writer, and a better student, so don’t stop giving out constructive criticism to students. You’re empowering them to work hard for success and preparing them to succeed in the future.

  64. This was a great post. It really irked me. I think partly because soo much of it might be true. I do have an issue with generalizations as large as this and I expressed my views on my personal blog as well. But all in all good expression of your view point.

  65. As a millennial, I can say it is tough to gain confidence in your writing when constantly being broken down by editing. I am in no way saying that you should lighten up; I think the most helpful teaching technique is a “heavy hand.” My question to you is do you think the students who failed accept coaching well only did so because they were from GenY, or do you think any aspiring writer from GenX would have reacted the same way?

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  68. I’m a millennial, and I have to say that this definitely sounded familiar to me. Overprotective parents are definitely the rule, not the exception as far as my generation is concerned. However, the freedom the internet and other forms of communication such as text messaging have brought us must also be taken into account. While our parents tried to protect us from the “dangers” of our society (a.k.a. reality,) we were the first generation to actually grow up with this type of media, and therefore we know how to use and manipulate it for our benefit better than any other generation.

    As far as the workplace goes, you really seemed to hit the nail on the head there as well. We are impatient, and slaves to our interests, so to speak. We’ve been able to keep ourselves entertained with a variety of different mediums our entire lives, so it’s made us very reluctant to actually sit and wait for things to happen. We want to MAKE them happen, and fast. And if that’s not working for us, the least we feel we can expect is come praise for being so patient with you!

    As far as tough grading goes, I won’t argue that some people, millennials especially included, need that kick to prod them out of their comfort zone. We need to be told what we’re doing wrong in a straightforward way so we ate able to correct it. But don’t be too harsh! We’re used to our parents telling us how brilliant we are, that we can do anything we put our minds to, and not to let anyone tell us otherwise.

    True, it might be hard or frustrating to interact with our generation at first, but trust us, we’ll win you over with our charming personalities in the end. Plus, we know how to find all the good YouTube videos.

  69. I’m a millennial, and I have to say that this definitely sounded familiar to me. Overprotective parents are definitely the rule, not the exception as far as my generation is concerned. However, the freedom the internet and other forms of communication such as text messaging have brought us must also be taken into account. While our parents tried to protect us from the “dangers” of our society (a.k.a. reality,) we were the first generation to actually grow up with this type of media, and therefore we know how to use and manipulate it for our benefit better than any other generation.

    As far as the workplace goes, you really seemed to hit the nail on the head there as well. We are impatient, and slaves to our interests, so to speak. We’ve been able to keep ourselves entertained with a variety of different mediums our entire lives, so it’s made us very reluctant to actually sit and wait for things to happen. We want to MAKE them happen, and fast. And if that’s not working for us, the least we feel we can expect is some praise for being so patient with you!

    As far as tough grading goes, I won’t argue that many people, millennials especially included, need that kick out of their comfort zone. We need to be told what we’re doing wrong in a straightforward way so we are able to correct it. But don’t be too harsh! We’re used to our parents telling us how brilliant we are, that we can do anything we put our minds to, and not to let anyone tell us otherwise. We just have to get used to this new way of doing things.

    True, it might be hard or frustrating to interact with our generation at first, but trust us, we’ll win you over with our charming personalities in the end. Plus, we know how to find all the good YouTube videos.

  70. Mr. Sledzik,

    As a millennial myself, I agree with most of the information you are giving us here. There is a hard truth between having to learn that I cannot be “the best-and-the-brightest” of my class here at Oklahoma State University. In high school, I was the all-star: president of my class, decent GPA, active in many clubs, attended every sporting event, etc. Then when I first began my journey at college, I actually believed that people would care about my high school career. This was an immature thought on my part of course; many of the people I have met in college have had the same background as myself because we have a uniform experience that we need to be loved. This is a common factor that our whole generation has faced. We are constantly looking for proper approval of simple decisions and it seems that Generation X or for most of my generation, Mom and Dad, is there spoon-feeding us to let us become more and more dependant upon their answers. And if they do not have the proper information, we tend to get frustrated and find the answer elsewhere from another adult of Gen-X.

    I have noticed that the argument is always seeing Generation X against the Millennial Generation. But what will my generation do whenever we have our own families and children? Will they become even more dependant that Millennials are? I am curious as to see what this will do for us and how we will handle the situation when we are forced to become independent and teach our children how to grow and learn thoughout their lives.

  71. After reading this article I had a couple of my friends read it. They said they couldn’t believe Bill called us impatient. I asked them if they read it all, they looked at me and said well I skimmed it- proving my point they went back and read it all the way through. I laughed thinking if I had any doubts they were just thrown out.
    I think a lot of our generation’s problem is our environment. When our parents got enough money to buy themselves nice things, which they deserved, is all we saw. We missed out on all the hard work they put in and seeing all the crappy cars they drove.
    Unfortunately I have to agree with Bill, we are very needy and require constant reassurance. Fairly often I am shocked at my peers expectations( and sometimes my own). Honestly I am not emotional and do not require constant reassurance, but a lot of my friends and peers do.
    Dealing with criticism is hard I think for everyone, no matter the generation. Personally I take criticism and use it to improve myself or the task at hand. Although I feel like I don’t take criticism poorly, I will say I have watched many students in class get upset because they weren’t graded fairly.
    Although it’s hard to hear our generation has a “weaknesses” I think it is important to understand ourselves, but also other generations and for other generations to understand us. Every generation has their problems; it’s how they deal with them that make them successful or unsuccessful.

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  73. I found myself nodding in agreement multiple times throughout the post, as well as the attached slides, in regards to the descriptions of millennials. After reading these pieces, I found myself grappling with some ideas.

    To begin, my parents recently moved. I went home from college one weekend to help them pack up my childhood room. Needless to say, many stuffed animals, yearbooks, and participation trophies were sorted through and boxed up. In my younger years, I didn’t really understand that the trophies I received were just for participation, not necessarily skill. I must admit, I was the kid who got the trophy just for showing up, with parents and coaches who always had some encouragement, even when I struck out repeatedly. Now that I am in college, I wanted participation trophies to continue to be thrown my way. Yet, I discovered that they weren’t. I was no longer praised for my actions, without any criticism. In the beginning, this was a tough reality to face for me, a millennial. But now I understand that the trophies from my childhood are being given to me in a different form: constructive criticism from my teachers and fellow classmates. Through this “tough love,” I will become a stronger PR student.

    Although I see this millennial quality in me, it is not as present as another quality: having parents (I wouldn’t say they hovered as much as they were highly involved) who encouraged me to be a part of multiple after school clubs, sports teams, and organizations. Starting in elementary school, I played basketball and soccer, as well as being in Girl Scouts, student council, choir, the church youth group, etc. As I got older, I continued this involvement throughout middle school and high school. When I was young, it was mainly my parents’ choices of activities, yet as I got older I chose to be highly involved because it was all I ever knew. Now that I am a college student, I continue to be active in a diverse group of organizations. Upon my enrollment in college, I have heard time and time again about how vital it is to be involved because “it looks good on a resume.” Therefore, I have applied to be a part of dozens of different on-campus organizations. I believe that this over -involvement has its roots in my childhood, but is also necessary for my success after college. Because my generation, the millenials, is such a large group, I feel the need to set myself apart from my peers. Therefore, I am involved in order to build my resume so I can compete with fellow millenials for a job.

    Overall, this post helped me to understand some motives behind my generation’s reactions to various situations. Before one can understand others, they must understand themselves. As a result of your “tell-it-like-it-is” post, I gained more understanding about my generation, which will help me in relating to others in the future.

  74. Note to comment subscribers: This thread lives on one week after posting largely because a colleague from another university assigned it as reading for his class (with my blessing). This explains the disproportionate number of Millennials chiming in.

    I’ll try to keep up, but I’m way busier than any of these students right now and unable to do much chatting. It’s Week #14 of spring semester and the last two weeks of the academic year. Gotta move.

  75. Bill Sledzik,

    I found myself agreeing with many of this things you were saying about Millenials. I am a “millenial” myself, and I think that a lot of what you said, I can relate to pretty well. I agree that this group of millenials have been influenced by the internet and social media, because it has become one of the most important means of technology. Many, many things that I do on a daily basis deal with the internet or a social media site, and when I start my internship this summer they stressed how much I’ll be working with social media sites and blogs. I also agree that we can be a little bit impatient. Like you said, our parents would hand many of us “trophies” or such as we grew up, and many have become accustomed to getting everything handed to us. I have learned though in my first two years of college, that working hard for something is a much better feeling and accomplishment then getting something handed to you. Patience is definitely a necessary virtue to obtain. You talked about how you need to tell your students that “this isn’t good enough” so that they can rise to the challenge and make it better, or fail. I went to a private highschool growing up, and they stressed this method a lot. We were constantly getting papers back saying what we were doing wrong and how we needed to make it perfect. I think if more professors did that in college, then people would try a lot harder and become better at what they are doing. I really enjoyed learing your opinion on millenials. Thank you

  76. Every generation has is stereotype of what the group does and acts like. As a member of the Millennial generation I could not agree more with this stereotype. No matter where we were or what we did in our younger year we had everything handed to us on a silver platter. All of my high school teachers, and no I have began to notice that even some of my college professors ever, have bent over backwards to give me what I need. Not saying I don’t work hard at everything I do because I work just as hard as or harder than most people. But in reality our generation, Millennials, are more or less spoiled.

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  78. Bill,
    I think your article on millennials describes my generation accurately. Many millennials expect rewards and praise based solely on effort instead of results. This false sense of entitlement seems to translate into laziness in various aspects of life. College and the workplace can be confusing for many in my age group because these are the first situations were millennials are forced to realize that not every person can be the best at everything. Many parents of millennials failed to teach their children that valuable lesson. Everyone is not a winner.
    Many cultural changes can be blamed for the abundance of self confidence that my generation has. Unlike generations past, we grew up in a time where everyone had a chance to make sports teams and try outs were merely a formality. Minimal effort was often rewarded with maximum praise from parents and teachers. “At least you tried” and “A for effort” remarks caused many millennials to truly believe that effort is what counts. Obviously, in college and the work place this myth is disproved. Criticism is especially hard for millennials to take without offense.
    One positive of millennials is their undeniable ambition. Millennials truly seem to think that the world is theirs for the taking. The flaw of many ambitious millennials is their inability to recognize seniority, which can cause major riffs between them and members of other generations. Though they are ambitious they often overlook the requirements to reach a goal. A definite weakness is the millennial focus on the destination rather than the journey.
    Great article!

  79. Coming from a “Millennials'” point of view, I do agree that the majority of our generation has been pampered by their parents for accomplishments and even their failures, but not all. I do not believe it is fair to say that our generation expects recognition or rewards for everything we complete. When a GOOD job is accomplished on a project or task, ANYONE would like to be praised for their hard work no matter what generation they belong to. Although the millennial generation may find it flattering to be praised for a job well done, I disagree that we take criticism poorly. I know many people in my generation that find criticism to be very helpful and even necessary, as long as it is constructive.

    I respect your blunt delivery that “everyone isn’t above average in all they do.” It is natural for people to be strong in one area and weaker in others. I believe a person will only be as successful as they want with the amount of effort they give. In reference to your Case Studies course, people will drop out or give up on things simply because they are lazy and unmotivated. Determination is what separates the successful characters from the unsuccessful in my millennial generation.

    • Lauren, that has not been my experience with the students I have been seeing. They expect praise even for jobs that are just done adequately- and often even when done inadequately. Perhaps they don’t understand that the work is, at best, only adequate, and not “good.” They also tend to take criticism poorly, arguing with my comments and suggestions (even basic suggestions such as “this paper needs a bibliography and footnotes”) instead of trying to understand them or make the corrections. The drop-out rate has soared. When I started teaching ten years ago, I had a drop-out rate of 10%. Now, with the same standards expected for work quality, I have a drop-out rate of 25-30%. Are so many more of this generation “lazy and unmotivated” that in past generations? Determination divides the wheat from the chafe in any generation. My concern is the sudden spike in chafe. Someone has done these student NO favors in the past, they have not been taught even basic learning skills such as proofreading work, following assignment instructions, and effective note-taking.

      There seems to be a gap in definitions of “good” , “constructive” , and “effort.” I refuse to redefine such terms to lower standards in my classroom.

  80. I can attest to the whining. When I got my first job at a news station, I expected it handed to me, even though I had no experience or education. I got the job, but quickly learned I didn’t know what I was doing. Every time my boss tried to coach me, I took it as an insult and my feelings were hurt easily. I quickly learned to grow some tough skin and now I actually enjoy critiques.

    This post is very general and stereotypes a large amount of people, but stereotypes are there for a reason. While this doesn’t describe every millennial, I am sure it covers most. I have seen a few millennials that seem like baby boomers. They work constantly, never spend any money and they call me instead of send me a tweet. But that is a small population around my age group.

    Before I had entered the “real world,” I probably would have read this and automatically went into a defensive mindset. Now, I look at it as true because it described me perfectly. Maybe now I can use this to better my own self. Thank you for the information!

    Oh, and I still have a lot of my “participation” trophies from my peewee sports days.

  81. Mr. Sledzik,

    I can most definitely vouch for you in regards to your opinion on Millennials. I was born in 1990, and was constantly reminded to “shoot for the moon”. My dad always left out that I would “land among the stars ” if I missed. Many of my peers parents applaud them for every action they take, but I grew up learning that I can’t achieve anything without good ol’ HARDWORK.

    I agree that my generation lacks the basic writing skills for success. I honestly can’t remember learning grammar in high school, and it has hurt me tremendously in regards to college level papers. The public school system in Oklahoma City is making a huge mistake with block scheduling. I would go a year and a half without English, and believe me I have been paying for it. I enjoyed your statement of “These skills and aptitudes can be developed”. It is motivating to know that things I might not know now can be learned and achieved.

    Carrie Drummond explained that she liked your teaching style because you explained what the student was doing wrong. I have a lot of respect for professors who actually read my papers, and explain changes that I need to make in the future. I believe it is important as a PR student to not take criticism personal. Growing up you learn that the people looking out for you give you the honest truth. If a professor is looking out for me then he wouldn’t give me a A if I deserved a B. Don’t get me wrong though, I most definitely have to remind myself of this concept.

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Chelsea,
      I think it is SO ironic that you used the quote “shoot for the moon and if you miss you will land amoung the stars.” I almost included in my post the fact that I won a optimist speech contest in which my speech encouraged my peers they could “do what they set their minds to.” Anyway the speech began with that quote because it is what my grandmother always said to me. I agree though, more often than not parents of GenY left out the “if you miss you will land amoung the stars” half. I suppose our generation will learn the hard way if they haven’t thus far. 🙂

  82. I feel like the majority of this article hits the nail on the head.

    I catch myself and my friends expecting good things to come to us without putting a little, if any, effort forward. I think I have been able to realize that things just won’t just fall in my lap.

    The harder you work, the better the reward. It’s not just true for us millennials, but for any generation, yet we still want without reason.

    We have been taught the idea that all are equal and in some ways that is true. But when entering the working world, we’re not.

    New employees are on the bottom of the food chain. You can’t just kick in the doors guns firing. It will take time to get respect from superiors.

    Do your job and do it well and like I said, good things will come.

    And to your point about direct criticism: Dead on.

    Too many times people will pussyfoot around what need’s to be said.

    I cannot count how many times I’ve heard a teacher say, “This was a good effort, but here’s what you can do better.”

    It tricks us into thinking we are doing a good job when in reality it’s mediocre or worse.

    Be direct. We may not like what you have to say, but we will respond one way or another; we’ll get the point.

    I hope people don’t think you are addressing every individual millennials; there are always exceptions to the rule.

  83. A quick note to the Oklahoma State University JB (soon to be MSC) students – I will withhold my comments until the majority of you have posted your comments. As an aside, nice/thoughtful comments so far.

    Professor Sledzik, thank you very much for allowing us to hold class on your site. It is a great conversation to say the least!

  84. Mr. Sledzik,
    Totally agree with you. As a millennial, I usually had my hand held through life. If I could not figure something out, I would ask if someone could explain it to me in a simpler way using examples. I did not make this realization that we have been spoon-fed our entire lives until I came back from studying abroad. Once mommy and daddy were not there to hold my hand when I faced problems in South Korea, I quickly realized how much I have been wearing a diaper my whole life.

    You quoted what a sophomore had said to you “I don’t understand. I got As all my life — especially in writing. Now you’re telling me I don’t write well? (tearful sophomore Millennial)” I say this a lot when I get back papers that have corrections that I don’t understand. I know it makes the professors really frustrated, but we are slowly adapting to learn how to fix ourselves, at least I am. Sometimes students will say phrases like that because they know some professors give in, while other students really do not know what happened. I even had a friend read your blog that is a millennial and say “i’d prolly hate him as a prof.” Our generations will always butt heads, but we need to learn how to get along. May be the alpha generation will fix our problems.

    One sentence in your blog that could have been more sensitively said (for us millennials) is “What can I tell ya, kid? Your parents loved you, and they did their best. But they created a false reality.” Can you explain why our parents created this false reality? They did it out of love because when they failed and were told they messed up they quickly addressed the issue. Correct? But our parents did not want us to feel down when we messed up, so that is why they explained stuff and still rewarded us for trying.

    I know some parents go overboard, and that would created a whole new division within millennials, like type A and B, but that is a whole new story.

    I still view all my accomplishments in the past as a success, because my parents would not let me fail past a certain limit. What can I say? May be I am a little different from millennials? May be the fact that I have an Asian mom made a cultural difference? Needless to say, I will keep my head held high, and try to break the stereotype.

  85. I chuckled while reading this post. It reminded me of a speaker who was invited to speak to one of my classes last semester. His topic of discussion, Values and be the Better Employee. After reading the post, I found my notes from the speaker and compared notes. Yes, very similar indeed. As this was a senior level class he spoke to, he discussed the job market for our class will be tough. As you mentioned in your post we are the largest group to enter the marketplace. Tough competition? This is why he spoke to us about our typical actions and attitudes. You mentioned in your post about millennials being impatient, don’t believe in “dues paying.” A close friend of mine is a fine example to this. Several excellent job offers have come upon him; however, he declined every single one of them. Reason why? He wanted to start at the top of the ladder instead of working his way up on top eventually. Now he is going to back to his family’s farm. There is nothing wrong with this option, as this is a great opportunity as well. I am guilty myself for being a typical millennial in some situations. I expect rewards, but only expect them if they are well deserving. Being the best that I can be is not good enough for me. I frown on participation ribbons, or trophies to everyone. I have been on top, and have been recognized for it. Growing up I never did understand why someone else would get a similar trophy as me, when they didn’t work as hard, or play as hard. Even though my parents raised me to work hard to be on top, I do have a fault of expecting to be on top. Growing up I would always hear the phrase from my parents, “I want you to have a better life than I did.” Or, “I want you to have more than what I did.” I have to admit us millennials have it easy. Majority of the time I do take things for granted. Do I feel as if our parents raised us wrong? No, I don’t. I feel with the fast changing times and the difficulties our parents had to adapt to while raising us, they did a good job. Millennials are headstrong which makes them sensitive to negative opinions or opposing opinions. This takes me to a point the speaker I mentioned earlier had discussed. In the workplace, millennials expect hand-holding, encouraging, and pampering. He even discussed some companies have programs to teach employers how to handle this generation in the workplace. I was simply shocked. Yes, we are different. Overall your post was true. Thank you for posting.

  86. As a “latch-key” kid minus the “helicopter” parents, I agree with what you are saying. Even though my parents worked full time jobs and weren’t there to hover at my soccer games or battle my teachers over grades like the parents of some of my classmates, they rewarded me for effort. School came easily to me, but if I would get a lower grade than I was satisfied with, my parents would take me to ice cream to cheer me up.

    My generation was coddled. And now, as we progress into the real world, we are realizing how sheltered we were. Those who can accept criticism and adapt are those who will be successful. Those who still believe their parents can call professors and request grade changes just won’t make it.

    I am also becoming aware of how inadequate my and my generations writing skills are. My mother and grandmother were both teachers; I took all advanced English classes. Yet, I am fascinated reading our grammar textbooks because I realize just how many rules I either never learned, or was never forced to use. My English teachers usually graded for “content” not grammar. I believe that kind of grading (and teaching) has handicapped us, especially with the rise of texting and social media forums that seem to encourage brevity and lack of punctuation.

    My last thought is simple. Thank you.

    Although we don’t like professors that are tough while we are taking the course, we appreciate them after. My favorite professors have always been the ones that I have to pull multiple all-nighters to study for. They are the ones who make us critically think and grow as students and adults.

  87. I enjoyed reading your post about millennials and agree with most of what you’ve said. I think that it is more about the society we grow up in rather than how often our parents patted us on the back. If you think that it is because of our parents that you have students crying over their grades etc. than I think you should look a little bit more into how society and technology has created millennials.
    Just by growing up with the internet, it has separated our generation from others by miles. With three seconds on a computer you can ask a question and get an answer from millions of sources instantly. We didn’t have to go to the library and read any books. The majority of our reading in life is done on a computer screen or cell phone. We aren’t reading professional literature or having long phone calls. We are reading 10 word sentences that are short and to the point, and authored by other millennials. I think that as millennials, it is harder to see the purpose in learning some of the information for a test that we will never use again. If you need an answer, google it. Why memorize it? I know that its not the same for writing, but I think that is just a general mentality of millennials. I think that an “A” stands more for how much effort or time is put into something, not how average or special you are. Maybe your students don’t cry when they get below an “A” because they think they are special because mommy and daddy told them so, but rather because they thought that they had put a lot more effort and time into the paper to receive an “A.”

  88. After reading all the comments, I do have to say I agree with a lot of what was said. As a “millenial”, I am extremely impatient. I have been my entire life. I also love to argue. My parents always joke I should pursue a career in law.

    I completely agree that our generation believes things should be handed to them. However, as others have said, a stereotype cannot describe every single person. There are those in my generation that do work very hard, take criticism well, and do not always expect praise.

    I have seen countless students who lack basic knowledge of writing skills, even basic things such as a bibliography and MLA format. In my Comp II class, there were still some who had nver had to attach a bibliography. That blew my mind. Perhaps it was because I attended a private prep school, but for the first two years of my Gen. Ed. classes, it was mostly review. However, to some, it was as if they had never heard the words “Research Paper”.

    I do agree with David about the over protective parents. I don’t think parents praising their children and being supportive at a young age is a bad thing. I know I certainly would never tell my future children they can’t be what they want, or who they want. Giving rewards when young is a way of teaching. Do I think parents should act this way towards a 15 or 16 year old? No. But being blunt with an 8 year old can just come off as unnecessarily cruel. Maybe this wasn’t what you meant, and I misinterpreted. I do think that there is a fine line between good parenting and coddling.

    I know my parents coddled. They still do. I was handed everything in life, I never had to do anything by myself. If I didn’t know how to do it, I called my parents. I guess I should be ashamed to say this, but for the most part that is still true to this day. Being in college has made me realize that maybe this wasn’t the best way for my parents to prepare me for the real world. I think the reason parents aren’t as harsh with their children as they might need to be is simple: it’s hard. No parent wants to see their chld fail and make mistakes. I’m sure it’s difficult to watch your “babies” fall over and over again. But perhaps that’s what most of us needed, at least once we hit high school. I’m hoping that I can find a middle ground with my kids. I think either extreme is maybe not the best way to go about it, but of course this is just my opinion!

    Overall, great article. Everything you said describes me perfectly. Impatient, dependant on technology, and doesn’t take criticism well. Here’s to hoping the next generation will be different!

    Funny aside: I read this to my boyfriend, and asked for his comments. He said he liked the part about not everyone gets trophies. He said when he was 8 years old and playing baseball, they won 5th place in a tournament and of course everyone got trophies. His coach actually made them give the trophies back becasue they didn’t win! The coach said they only wanted the “big trophies” and not the little ones. He turned out just fine, so maybe there is some truth to the “tough love” theory!

  89. Mr. Sledzik,
    I Totally agree with you, a hundred percent. I never heard of this word before during the time I was learning English as a second language. but now I know and I could say that as a millennial, if I could not find the right answer for something or simply as not being sure of what to do, I will find help in someone that I know and will be happy to explain it to me in many different ways they could.

    I consider the past three years of my life as an example. I’ve been living in Venezuela all my life, but what happened? The country is falling apart plus my father got a new job in the other side of the world, Saudi Arabia. So, in a year… what I used to not to worry about back home, I had to find a way to fix it in a minute without being tell of how to do it. I had to move to a boarding school and be around people from many different countries. Some of them I did not even know about, and what? my parents were not there to help. Today still the same, I spent 2 years in a place I finally got used to it and learned how to manage myself there but at the end one change comes again and I have to solve it myself.

  90. Mr. Sledzik,
    I have to say that I completely agree with everything you mentioned. My parents were very involved in my life and the description about parents you gave was true. As I grew up my parents pretty well helped with everything they could. I can not remember really being too stressed out as I was growing up. Then as I got older they slowly gave me more and more space. With that space came more responsibilities that I was so used to my parents doing for me. So I felt that you were very correct in the fact that when students get to a point in their life where there parents aren’t there anymore the students insecurities really shine through. I feel that parents who baby their children and always bailed them out of problems never helped them learn discipline and responsibility.
    I liked the fact that you mentioned how you do not hold anything back. Even though the feedback you give may not be what I want to see. For me I like the honesty, and I feel that most students think that college work is similar to high school work. I thought the same thing until I got a bad grade, then I knew I had to try harder and put in more work. I have begun to notice that everyone is capable of doing A’s and B’s in school, but they aren’t going to just appear on your tests and every day assignments. Students need to learn to buckle down and find a drive to get their work done and be prepared for tests and papers.

  91. Like Kim, I also agree with most of the comments everyone has said. I was born in 1990 and have been reminded time and time again how important it is that no matter what life brings never give up. After my parents married they had very little. Struggling through hard times my parent now are incredibly successful business owners. I grew up privileged; however I have always known in order to do so you have to “work hard to play hard.”
    I do agree as a “millennial” that my generation has been a little spoiled and pampered by their parents. I believe we rely upon our parents a bit more than those before us. I mean I have girls in my sorority that will email their parents their papers to look over them to make sure it looks good, or things as simple as making a doctor’s appointment. Isn’t 18 considered to be an adult? My parents would chuckle at me if I asked for such a thing. They believe you work then earn how much effort you put into something. I do not believe everyone is dependent on their parents but defiantly the majority has been brought up being babied.
    Not just parents have influenced millennia’s upbringing but also society has had a huge impact. Growing up with cell phones and the internet puts us so far and beyond any other generation with those two things alone. Because of social media and our technology today my generation has been truly handicapped. For example, you can get on the internet and find an already typed essay to turn in. All the effort it takes is to press print. Texting has negatively affected proper writing skills for our English/Journalism classes. Like Kylie, I appreciate and am thankful for professors that expect a lot out of their students. It teaches us not everything is going to be perfect, accountability and failure are everyday real world experiences we need to learn now.

  92. Mr. Sledzik,
    I found your perception of “GenY” to be very interesting. The people of this generation do seem to think that they’re exceptional. I would have to say that I’m one of them. I’ve always had big dreams and parents behind me with praises. College has definately challenged and I’m eagerly awaiting the day I find my dream job. However, I’ve never had a false sense of reality. I’ve always known that working hard would be the only way to achieve my goals.
    I know that my generation can be spoiled bunch. It’s nice to know that there are teachers like you keeping us in line.

  93. I really enjoyed reading this post and all of the comments. I think it’s hard to describe a generation as a whole but I think generally everyone has mentioned some traits that are pretty spot on. As a millennial myself, I believe that you’re right in the fact that most of us have been babied and told we can do or be anything. With that being said I think that millennials are quite optimistic. I think it’s true that we are impatient; I’m living proof to that statement! I think that as we are getting older and throughout college people are starting to treat us more like you are, they are teaching us that the world isn’t as bright and shiny as we first thought. I know I’m definitely getting my fair share of reality checks in college. I do also think that a great trait of millennials is our confidence. I think that can definitely be mistaken for us thinking that we’re “above average”, although I do know many people my age who indeed do think they are above average when they unmistakably aren’t. I think that most of the things mentioned can be turned into positive traits it just depends on how an individual uses them.

  94. As a member of GenY, I was initially offended by your post about Millennials. Growing up with my dad in U.S. and NATO Special Forces, I’ve lived in among several interesting cultures, and my parents are anything but “helicopter parents” who’ve raised me by “tough love” principles. But, while your post is far more than “semi-gruff,” I also agree with your argument – unfortunately. For example, my three roommates are the poster children for GenX’s stereotype of Millennials. Even after FIVE MONTHS they still ask me how to run the dishwasher and are stumped by the complex process of laundry. One roommate couldn’t handle the work load of taking 12 hours of general required courses and withdrew from the university. Ironically, my extremely sheltered roommates who cannot perform such basic chores gave me the greatest culture shock out of all my worldly exposures.
    Regardless of my EXPERIENCE with my roommates, I LOYALLY defend my generation by contending we are merely a product of the time.
    CRT-Tanaka says Millennials are short-sighted, easily bored and don’t value job security but do value tasks providing more opportunities for a greater sense of accomplishment. Older generations in the workforce are not discrete about sharing this disposition. Economical crises and record low unemployment rates have been the trend the past few years. Mass layoffs are regularly featured in the news, affecting Millennials’ parents and many others they know, which sends the message that employers do not have loyalty to their employees. Thus, Millennials have no motivation to be loyal to their employers and jobs.
    Internet, TV, and satellite radio, etc. provide instant communication. Advanced technology providing instant communication created globalization, which makes numerous essentials significantly cheaper. Technology has changed products and services considered luxuries into standards.
    In the old-ages, gathering information and data was time consuming with few resources aside from card catalogs and books’ subject indexes. Now, we have instant access to almost all desired information with only a few mouse clicks. As a result, Baby Boomers accuse Millennials of being unappreciative and allege they lack “experience” because they have never known a life without instant communication.
    Today’s technology provides a way to personalize just about anything, for example, personal computers, personalized music selections on Pandora and personalized profiles via social networking Web sites. The seemingly infinite personalized options fuel our individualistic culture, encouraging self-expression and promoting self-interests and self-esteem. We are indulged in ourselves. From this aspect, it’s agreeable we are the “self-esteem generation.”
    Millennials are a generation comprised of whiners and fighters. I think of myself to be a fighter with rare tendencies to be a stereotypical whiner. I’ve found the majority of tasks require significantly more effort as I’ve become older. I’ve accepted the reality that not everything can be answered or accomplished through the means of Google and Wikipedia; however, I use Internet resources whenever I can – and yes, Google is my online home page. My generation definitely has more advantages than the generation before mine, like they had more than the generation before theirs, and Millennials will hold themselves superior to the next generation, and so the bullying continues…

  95. Mr. Sledzik,

    I agree with the majority of your blog; however, I do have to disagree with some of it. I was born in 1990 and cannot remember having things just given to me. I know my parents encouraged and gave positive feedback in my schooling and extra curricular activities but if I didn’t do my absolute best, they would let me know. I was also very independent and given a lot of responsibility at a young age, which you mentioned and I do agree with this. But on the other hand, like Camille mentioned, a lot of my sorority sisters have NEVER had an responsibility and cannot do the simplest things on their own.

    I believe a lot of the descriptions of our generation stem from more than just technology and rewards. How a person’s parents were raised (economically and geographically, for example) plays a big role in what a child will turn out like. Not just the things we are given from society contribute to our generation’s type.

    I do agree with you that we think we should get a job right away and I think that comes from hearing that a college degree will get you a job and then the economy went south causing a different discussion. But that’s something I don’t like to think about so I won’t say anymore!

    Great blog and discussion starter! Thanks!

  96. Camille really sums up exactly the emotions I feel towards Professor Sledzik’s article. I really can not add anything more to her except to say that along with our priveleged technology and support we have all had growing up; it’s also interesting to note the educational side growing up. Not only did our parents (GEN-X) spoil us with words of affirmation despite our failures and successes with school, sports, and life in general; but, our teachers, for the most part, in high school and middle school were most likely never the extreme “tough-love” type. Now, there are exceptions, of course, but I think our entire generation, from parents to teachers to coaches and family members, in retrospect of our relationships to them and our general work ethics, we have always been spoiled. So, when millenials have always and only known words of affirmation, the first hint of criticism and failure is going to ruin them. That’s sad, isn’t it? The fact that our generation has gotten so caught up in laziness and a low work ethic in not only our education but in relationships, the workplace, to the point that criticism can’t even be taken in without tears or complaints. We need to toughen up and grow up my fellow millenials. Praises and thanks to Prof. Sledzik for “waking” us up to the reality of the “self-esteem” issue within our generation. People need to hear that, or the future generations are going to think they are superhuman.

  97. Mr.Sledzik,

    Wow! This was an excellent post and was truly needed at this time. I can admit that I was one of those “Latch Key” kids and every now and then I look to my mother for guidance or just when i need a spurt of encouragement. As a millennial myself, I can speak for some who have actually had one of those “Tell it like it is moms”, if she thinks I did “A” work then she would congratulate me and if I didn’t she would show me where I went wrong. However, I do not necessarily believe that our parents have “created a false reality”, but somewhat gave us a sense of hope that we can succeed in life. I believe that without our parents doing so, then some millennial would fall apart, drop out of school, or not survive in the workforce. There are many millennial who are athletes, in organizations, who have to balance homework and still get criticized after pulling all-nighters. I’m not saying that we don’t need criticism, i just think most millennial in our generation work really hard and are not praised but criticized for the most part. Like Kim said, not everyone fits that stereotype.
    On the other hand, i do believe that some criticism is necessary, especially for those who clearly don’t even try. We need more professors like you to open the eyes of those millennial who don’t work hard and prepare them for the future.

  98. Bill,

    I am really impressed to see that your blog on this topic has received such acclaim. I certainly appreciate the traffic that has been kicked my way as well. My site doesn’t quite get the commentary that yours does, but I am attempting to rectify that by launching a Millennial blog, twitter and facebook account tomorrow… but as I said I won’t plug shamelessly…

    In any event as I read the roster of the Millennials commenting on the blog over the last week I begin to wonder if… 1) They are getting it… as in…they seem to have figured out that if they agree the harsh criticisms will go away… the amount of “chuckles” your post received while the Millennials were reading it definitely makes me think.

    I also wonder if 2) It is a good thing or a bad thing that they are getting it. In terms of what a lot of non-millennials think about millennials, I feel like not getting in terms of social awareness was one of the biggest complaints. So now if they are starting to get it… is there a change in attitudes coming or is it merely an attempt to placate those in charge. Just some more random ramblings from my overly tired mind.

    I must say I really appreciate how you moderated the blog and the massive amount of comments you have gotten. A lot of bloggers I have been reading, ESPECIALLY those are the @HarvardBiz blogs should learn the skill.


    • Thanks for the props, Asaad. This thread has lived on largely because my pal, Professor Bill Handy, assigned his students at OK State to read it. I only wish I’d had more time to interact with them.

      If you’re gonna blog, I believe it’s important to stay faithful to the conversations you begin. I haven’t lost interest in this one, but it’s week 14 of the semester, and I’m not thinking a lot about blogging right now!

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  100. I would like to start by first saying that while students may complain about you being a tough teacher, from what it sounds like your classes seem to be the kind that are the most beneficial. Being yet another “millennial” posting on this blog I can say I fully agree that our generation is way too “babied.” I grew up with dreams and optimism being thrown in my face, being encouraged to do whatever I was passionate about and I would be a success. If the encouragement for effort isn’t enough even the actual action is to the point where it is basically handed to students. Things such as class work are to the point where assignments are handed to students basically already completed. Greek life is full of “study files,” there are tutors on campus who will essentially write papers for you, and last but not least the internet provides pre-written papers for little to no cost. With all of these resources in hand how is the generation known as the “millennials” supposed to learn to do anything on their own. Even things as simple as communication are the point where the require no effort. Facebook chat, text messaging, blackberry messenger, all of these communication tools make it almost impossible for one to communicate with face to face interaction.

    Mr. Sledzik, in regards to your post on “Empty pitcher” method;
    I agree that many students now come to class expecting professors to fill them with all of the pieces of information they should know and then be tested over. Learning is just that, learning the students should be active in the classroom in order to take in the most information. The input from other students and the conversations on the side of the lecture are the parts of classes that I not only remember the most but find the most useful. These conversations are the ones where you learn the “Why” and the “How” aspects of the concepts you are being taught rather than simply reading a slideshow, which is why I say your classes sound like the ones I find most useful.

    In regards to Jason Keller’s post;
    I agree completely in your argument that boomers and millennial’s together could be quite successful. The idea of the combination of the two generations shouldn‘t be taken lightly. The passion and creativity of the millennial’s and the realistic views of the boomers is exactly what it takes to be successful.

    I very much enjoyed reading this article along with the other posts. It is interesting to see people’s different opinions. All in all I’d say the GenY that has responded has agreed it’s time to toughen up and “shape up or ship out.”

  101. This was an amazing post. Growing up I was always taught that second is the first places loser, and still today I believe that. You are right in saying that Millennials are some what of a generation that has this since of entitlement or at least we think we do. With so many technological outlets the Internet, cell phones, TV, etc.,we are spoil no doubt, resources are endless. The ways of communication has changed, the reason we found ourselves being touchy about criticism is that the forms of communication have altered our ability to function and expect responsibility for ourselves. We are the generation that hides behind our cells phones, computer, or whatever form of communication that suits you. I know personally I was taught to never take harsh criticism to heart, there is always a positive that comes of it. I really enjoyed reading this and I believe you have a great grasp on what us Millennials are all about.

  102. I liked this post. Before going over this in class, then reading your post, I never realized how different the generations really are. As a millennial, I can look back and see almost every characteristic somewhere in my life. My favorite shows were on Disney or Nickelodeon. As a child playing little league softball or basketball, we either got trophies or medals at the end of the season. And our teams were usually coached by one our parents. Even in high school each sport gave a “Hustle” Award to someone. My parents can and usually are overprotective. They told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. I use the Internet all the time, even if mostly for facebook. And I never really had to lift a finger in high school for my grades. I’m still learning that it is quite the opposite in college. In my history class you can tell that my lecture professor is a Gen Xer, while my discussion leader is a millennial. When my professor is talking in class he never gives any sort of praise and believes that you have to work your way to the top. My discussion leader, who grades our homework and papers, will always write good job and give constructive criticism on how to make your paper a better paper.

  103. I agree with most of the comments on this post. I am also a Millennial. The lifestyle of my parents and the lifestyle of friends around me fit perfectly with what is being stated in the post. My parents always told me I had a bright future and that I was good in every sport I did. It depends on the child to learn that what there parents say is out of love and sensitivity rather than truth. I learned that I wasn’t as smart as my parents told me when I started getting bad grades and I also learned I wasn’t the best basketball player when I sat the bench. I knew my parents were just trying to boost my ego rather than see me depressed when they always complimented my actions.
    I do agree that we, as Millennials, do live our lives through technology. We wake up by alarms set on our phones, are constantly getting emails and using technology in the workforce or at class and go to bed watching television. We don’t sit through enough criticism because society is giving up on us; therefore, we don’t know how to handle it when it hits us. Some of us do cry and others try to make themselves better. Either way, we do learn.
    Bill, I grew up in Kent. Awesome place and great post! You really made me understand and think more about how our society is formed. Thanks!

  104. As a millennial, I would like to say that you are completely correct. I find so many of these characteristics to be ever apparent in both my peers and myself. Growing up in a single-parent household I find that I rely on my mom to talk me through many situations I need to overcome. I ask her to help me solve the most miniscule problems, but I would like the acknowledgement when the problem is finally solved. Growing up with my mother being so focused on mine and my brothers every little accomplishment. In the classroom, I never had to work really hard to make the grades I wanted to. The schoolwork seemed to practically do itself. I didn’t’ find challenge in many of the tasks I had to juggle. If I forgot an assignment or did it poorly, the grade usually got bumped up, just because the teacher liked me. I thought this ability made me a good student and that my 4.0 GPA leaving high school actually meant something and was impressive.
    Going to work when I was sixteen was extremely eye opening. No one is going to reward you for accomplishing a task when that is what you are supposed to be doing. You become just another worker to the company, easily replaced or removed. Despite what we initially thought, we don’t know everything coming out of high school. In college, no one really cares about what you accomplished in high school or how important or valuable you think you are.
    Going to college was practically a culture shock. I went from a graduating class of thirty students to the town of Stillwater with a population of almost 40,000, most being students or alumni of the university. In college, you are just another student. This post was inspiring to me because it helps to be reminded that professors weren’t just being mean when they said I did poorly on an assignment. I didn’t work up to their standards, which drives me to do better the next time, causing me to be a better student. This article drives me to alter these negative characteristics that I possess as a millennial, even though it kills me to admit to them, to become both a better worker and a better student.

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  106. Even after I read the first paragraph I had to laugh a little bit. I am a Millennial and the first thought that came to my head after reading the opening paragraph was: “This is so my parents.” There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that every description of the Millennials is correct to a tee. Throughout the rest of the article I find myself thinking “That is so me” or “I have a friend just like that.” Like other people have said though, a stereotype like this can’t always describe ever person. It’s not fair to assume that there are no hard-working Millennials or none that do work and expect nothing in return.

    The biggest focus in this seems to be the over-protective parents. Although I would agree with that, I would have to say that parents simply do it because they love us. Maybe their parents were the same with them, I really don’t know. But I completely agree with Kim’s statement on this, it’s hard nowadays for parents to see their children fail. I know for a fact my parents would never want to see me fail, they are, and always have been, the people I automatically go to when I’m in trouble or need help. And that will probably be true for the rest of my life. I think our generation is different than some of the others in that because now , instead of parents just being parents, they are also seen as friends, at least in my case and the case of some of my friends they are. There is a different relationship now for a child and there parent which I think is the reason the Millenials are turning out the way they do. I don’t think that my parents created a false reality at all. There are some times I know they have let me fail just to teach me a lesson. Just because a parent makes a child feel special for accomplishing something, doesn’t mean that kid is going to think that everything they do right makes them amazing.

    I feel like some parts of this are making the Millenials out to be more naïve than we really are. Just because we were brought up with rewards and praise, doesn’t mean that we are completely blind as to how the world works. We haven’t been into the “real world” and experienced certain things for ourselves, but I’m sure not every Millennial sincerely believes that they are going to get their dream job when they immediately graduate college or that they are going to be the CEO of some company automatically because we think we are awesome. As much as some of us would like that, we know the difference between reality and dreams. And it’s not just our own skewed perception of reality, actual reality.

    I do agree that there are some negative things that could stand to be changed. But I would definitely have to say that not everything about Millennials is so bad.

  107. Wow! I hope the fine students at Oklahoma State will forgive me for not chiming in much this week. I’ve read your comments as they came to me via email, but my own students are monopolizing my time here in Week 14 of the semester. Thanks to all of you for joining the conversation — even though it was often amongst yourselves! I’m flattered that Professor Handy finds value in what I’m doing here.

    But let me say, I didn’t expect quite as much agreement and nodding of heads from the Millennials. Maybe the sociologists doing the typology of the generations are on to something. If so, prove them wrong, OK?

    For every rule there are exceptions. So it’s up to you to be “exceptional.” OK, that’s a little corny. Whatever.

    One thing I really dislike about the academic world is its obsession with categorizing stuff. That’s what social scientists do. And I get that. But I gotta tell you, I’ve advised a lot of Millennials here at Kent State who kickin’ ass, here in school and in the profession. A few of them chimed in on this thread.

    As I said in the post, your generation is energetic and inquisitive. But you are also young and impatient. That’s not an attribute that’s unique to the under-30 crowd. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Bill, please don’t apologize, we’re crashing your party and don’t expect you to play host. Even I am having a hard time (as you can see I am responding to your post 2 days later) keeping up with all the comments. Yes, end of the semester is a bear.

      Thanks again for your support and help with this project. More from me later.


  108. I neglected to mention in the earlier comment that this post should top 10,000 visits sometime later today. ToughSledding has already surpassed 20,000 visits this month. Not bad for a niche PR blog written by some obstinate old hippie!

    I have NO IDEA why the numbers are significant, and I seriously doubt my dean will be impressed. But I wanted to say thanks to all of you for boosting my already-inflated ego. And for being part of our discussions here these past 10 days.

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  110. Mr. Sledzik
    Thank you so much for posting Dear Millennia: your parents lied to you because it made me realize how much of a whiner I really am.
    Having parent both in generations (baby boom and Gen X) and myself a Gen Y you blog has opened my eyes to a lot of things, but there is somethings I don’t agree with. For example, “We were giving everything handed to us on a silver platter!” Growing up I had to work for what I wanted, because my parent were broke. It taught me the importance of money.
    Yes,failure is a scary thought but I noticed that when I fail at something I get right back up and try it again and again until I get what I want. So if I said I wanted the “corner office” then I’ll get it, but I’m willing to start off with the shabby broom closet first and slowly work my way up!!!
    Criticism is sometimes a little frightening to (okay a lot scary),but it is great. that is one way we grow. I’m not going to lie in high school I hated to be criticized but once I got to college I quickly understood that it was all apart of growing in a particular field of study what ever the case may be. So when a professor knocked me down a few notches, I’m like ok what can I learn from this.
    So thanks again for posting this blog and allowing my professor to assign this as an assignment and keep up the good work!
    Thanks Elizabeth

  111. Bill, this was an incredibly interesting and thought provoking article and I truly enjoyed spending time reading through your post and everyone’s comments. I am a nineteen year old college student, making me a Millenial myself. After reading the qualities that make up a Millenial, I found them all very similar to my generation and your observations are right on! It is funny thinking back on being a young kid in sports or activities and getting a trophy or a certificate for everything. “Spelling Bee Participant” or “The Positivity Award” were a couple of random awards that I can remember off the top of my head. Although I thought this was completely normal, reflecting on this it is very strange that our generation was this praised and spoiled. Did our coaches, parents, teachers, etc. really think that this would help us in the long run? I have to agree with Sam Durbin’s comment about being active in everything in high school, maintaining straight A’s, and having time to socialize and just assuming that everything would continue like that in college. Man, was I in for a surprise or what? The real world is not like at all and as Millenials we need to realize this. Not everyone is going to treat us the way we were treated when we were elementary school students. We need to start being able to take criticism and accept it because that is what will help us in the long run. I am anxious to see what this upcoming generation will be like. Will be baby them even more or will we realize our mistakes and provide a little more “tough love”? Excellent post and I am very glad that we were assigned to read this article!

  112. I admit it. I was that little girl who cried anytime anyone told me I did something wrong. I was also that little girl who desperately desired praise for making a good grade or playing a good tennis match, even if I really wasn’t good. I am still that little girl in many ways. This article hit home for me and made me think of myself as a Millennial in a new way.

    Before reading this, I guess I thought most everyone gets bored easily, requires praise on a regular basis and even thinks that they are “above average.” But, it truly is just my generation. Yes, I believe it is mainly due to our parents telling us how great we are and that we can do absolutely anything we set our minds to. But also, the media has had a great influence in our lives. The Internet, television and cell phones are a few of the many distractions that have told the Millennial generation “you can have it now.” Therefore, I think this is one major cause of my impatience in life for everything. I don’t want to wait to get a promotion or have a good, high-paying job when I’m older. I want it as soon as I get out of college. The reality is, the world doesn’t work that way.

    I’m starting to feel sorry for the workplace, companies who are currently hiring us. Most jobs have expectations they wish their employers to fulfill, and as a Millennial, I’ll say firsthand, if the boss doesn’t tell me when and exactly how to do it, the job won’t get done. Why? Because I hate failure! I’d rather not do a task and say I wasn’t told how to do it, rather than try on my own and fail.

    Although I have the mindset of a typical Millennial, I completely agree with and admire your view points on this subject. I think it will just make us weaker if we don’t have a reality check and realize that our parents lied to us. Even if we don’t want to hear “you screwed up” or “you’re wrong”, we need to. How else are we going to improve and learn from our mistakes?

    I really appreciate your post. I’m much more aware of all the complaining I do, how little of effort I actually put forth in things, such as school work and summer jobs, and how much praise I expect to get from my parents and others. After reading this, I want to prove to myself that I can work hard. I also realize that it’s OK to mess up if I learn from my mistakes and improve the next time.

    Thanks so much,

  113. I admit that sometimes I want praise for the jobs that I have done. However, I was raised with the “tough love” kind of love. I have been taught that hard work pays off and that praise isnt always required when a job needs to be done. I grew up on a farm in southwest Oklahoma and sometimes there are just things that have to be done. I didnt get praise for waking up at 5 a.m. to bottle feed a newborn calf or break ice for the horses in the winter. It just needed to be done and had to be done if I wanted to continue to have a cow-calf operation. I believe that rewards are neccessary but getting a ribbion just for participating in a talent show … that is a bit ridiculous to me. I would rather not get a ribbion for participating if I lost… Just work harder next time to win.

    I have been raised to never quit, work hard to win and do your best no matter what. I dont win everything, I wont even pretend like I do … but I take failure in stride and do my best to evaluate what went wrong and change it next time.

    I dont believe my parents lied to me and I believe that growing up in agriculture and FFA has a lot to do with that. I know that I can accomplish what I put my mind to, it make take more that one try, but I will accomplish it.

    Thank you for sharing your point of view! I think it it is important for you to share what employeers may be feeling, especially since some of us are hunting for jobs now.

    Thanks so much,

  114. Mr. Sledzik,

    After reading this blog and the comments there after, it is obvious that the majority of the Millenials agree with what you had to say, including myself. My parents have always been supportive of me, even in my moments of failure. In high school, i was able take all of my tests after studying 10 minutes before class. Until chemistry. From reading the replies, I feel that you and Mr. Hood have a lot in common. He was critical and unyielding, and would not give slack for anyone. Before his class, I was often referred to as the “teacher’s pet” or the “suck up” of the class because I had a knack for being able to work around assignments or raise my grades by sweet talking. Kids hated me. Then I received my first “B” in his class, which led to my first “C” as well. I was devastated, my parents were disappointed, and whining/groaning/complaining became and every day thing at 2:15. Although most of my peers agreed with me and would join in my rants, I noticed there were those that would roll their eyes. Those were the “fighters”, the ones that faced challenges and overcame them by hard work.

    By the end of the year, I finally realized I had just experienced my first “real” class and instead of taking on this challenge, I resorted to losing. From that point, I have never been referred to as the “suck up”, because i sucked it up and understood life is what you make it, and if you don’t earn it, eventually you will fail. I respect you Mr. Sledzik, because you are students’ version of my “Mr. Hood”. I also met a Marine a couple of years ago that I admire more than anyone in the world. He has earned everything he has received and has done it with a complete modest heart. He has never given himself credit for anything, and knows exactly where he stands in life. I have never met anyone like him, and he is the epitome of the “fighter” in the our generation.

    I’m Tracey Young, and i approve this message.

  115. Mr.Sledzik,

    Sometimes I think that I was born in the wrong generation. As a Millenial myself, I was raised with encouragement, not praise.I believe that Millenials behavior comes from their upbrining. Everyones upbrining isn’t the same of course and some peoples parents actually make them work hard while giving “real,” criticism.

    Because of how my parents are or maybe its just the person I am, I have tough skin. I have never needed praise for everything I did right, although its good to know once in a while that what you are doing is appreciated. Criticism motivates me. It makes me want to do better and be better.

    As Camille said, growing up my parents didnt have much,especially my dad. Now he is a successful business owner and is living comfortably. From this, my dad has taught me that life wont be “peaches and cream.” You have to “pay your dues.”

    I have taken this and applied it. Being in college has taught me that I am just average, and I’am OK with that. Making a C in a class isn’t above average, but I will not drop it.

    However, their are a lot of parents in Generation X who did not grow up with a lot, as I said above. Now they are successful and want to give their children the things they didnt have, which is understandable.

    Social media has also affected this generation more than any other generation. The web, texting,and television has given us this false depiction of getting what we want when we want it.

    Its embarrasing and sad that workplaces have to adjust their policies or etc… just to accomodate us.
    I am a very sensitive person, but I do think its possible to be sensitive, but not wear your emotions on your sleeve.

    As others said, I am greatful for professors like you because I know that once I leave your class, I will be prepared and ready for the “real world.”

    I look forward to more of your posts!

    Best Regards,

  116. For the most part, I agree with this post. I am a Millrnnials and I fall under a lot of the topics that were mentioned in the blog.

    When I was younger, I liked to be awarded for every good thing I did. As I have gotten older I don’t expect my parents to award me for as much if anything. I have grown out of the stage where I depend on people. I’ve learned that I have to be independent and not depend on others. I still ask my parents for their opinions on things because they are my parents.

    The paragraph that describes me is where it says, “And most work their butts off. They respect their parents and listen to Led Zeppelin.” I don’t listen to Led Zeppelin but I do work extremely hard and always respect my parents.

  117. I graduated with a PR degree from Newhouse and they don’t let you out of there unless you have stains on your finger tips from the three-years worth of red ink that lined your papers. By the fourth year, if you hadn’t figured out how to fix those mistakes you probably weren’t graduating.

    I recall actually feeling ashamed when I misspelled a name in my mock press release.

    Anyway, when will the word “millenial” go away?

  118. *Ignore the previous comment. I accidently hit submit.

    For the most part, I agree with this post. I am a Millenials and several of the topics describe me, but most describe me when I was younger.

    The paragraph that describes me the most is where it says, “And most work their butts off. They respect their parents and listen to Lep Zeppelin.” I don’t listen to Led Zeppelin but the rest describe me. I have to work extremely hard to get to where I want to be and always respect my parents.

    The section I don’t agree on is when it says that we want to be awarded for everything we do. When I was younger that did describe me but as I got older I grew out of that stage. This may be the view of most of us but I don’t fall under that category. I’m not an only child and was pretty spoiled when I was younger but as I matured I grew out of that stage.

    I also agree with the paragraph saying the Millenials need to take a punch. I think I have tough skin but a large portion of the Millenials don’t. I see this daily in my student body. “Some rise to the challenge, others fold,” describes my generation.

    For the most part I agree with this. Some sections describe me but some describe how I was when I was younger. I think and the end it depends on how you were raised.

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  120. Bill,

    Hands down to you, for hitting the nail on the head. As a millennial, I have grown up receiving nothing but encouragement (which is good) but never enough constructive criticism. Thank you for your bluntness! As I was reading your post, I found myself nodding in agreement with your opinions on my “self-esteem generation”. I know many “whiners” and “fighters” and am definitely guilty of whining when I did not receive the praise or reward that I thought I deserved. However, I was fortunate to have parents who believed in independence and taught me at a young age that I needed to learn to do things myself and to not whine, as it is an unbecoming trait. Others are not so lucky. I think a lot of our “issues” can be contributed to the “helicopter parents”. Yet, since most of us are becoming young adults and we now think for ourselves, we share a part in the blame as well.

    I have to qualify with your statement of “your parents lied to you” because I believe that it is important for a child to be uplifted and encouraged in order to build self-esteem (I know I have millennial written all over my forehead) but I can see where my parents, as well as others, may have sugar-coated things and even lied to us. My parents would always tell me “do your best-that is all we ask. If you do, that will be enough.” This is true for my parents but sometimes my best is not good enough for others standards. Ouch, that is a tough pill to swallow. However, I know that if I would have gone through school with teachers like you, I would be much more prepared to hear someone tell me my work is not good enough… Too bad I am not there yet. It is a good thing I have still got some time in school before I fully experience the “real world”.

    I am not even going to try to justify our impatience- it is real, transparent and most of us are aware of it and are still not willing to wait. We are accustomed to instant meals, messages, acceptance and, information. What is so bad about that? Nothing until the internet goes down, the power goes out or we have to obtain information the “old-fashioned way”, through books. *Gasp*. However, we can place some blame on our parents. They are the ones who picked us up as soon as we cried, enrolled us in every extra-curricular activity as five year-olds, and got us cell phones as soon as we could convince them that we needed them. They allowed us to push the boundaries and demand more, now, now, now!

    I cannot tell you how many Participation ribbons I have from various sports and activities that I ‘participated’ in growing up. At the time, all that mattered was that at the end of the meet, game, or recital, I got a cool ribbon to show my parents so they could say, “Wow, great job! You are the best!” That is where the lied. To be brutally honest, I was far from it. I was uncoordinated and was most definitely not the MVP in everyone else’s eyes but my parents were loving and could not bear to deliver the “knock-out punch”. This has both hindered and helped me; I received encouragement to try new things but it also made it very difficult for me to accept real defeat and criticism. I think the answer is (as stated many times in other posts) to be found somewhere in the middle. We need praise but we also need the truth. But as a general rule of thumb, it is usually best just to rip the band-aid and pull the tooth and get it over with. Thanks for posting such a thought-provoking topic!


    Abbey Lyle

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  125. Bill:

    I’m 52 and I keep a good relationship with many younger people, including several ‘millennials’. In addition, my wife has taught at UofNV for 12 or 13 years and most of her students are 18 to 20 years old, so I hear about her students and their attitudes.

    Remember in Men In Black? Remember when Will Smith is trying to get Tommy Lee Jones’s attention? Allow me:

    Hey, OLD GUY…

    Sorry, but I had to say it. What you’re saying is true to some extent, but it is hand picking stereotype and applying our ‘old guy’ standards to the group in question.

    Yes, there are more bad college students, but that is because there are more college students. When I went to college for my first degree (1976) I was on the leading edge of a revolution. Before then college had a specific purpose, which was to skim the top students who sought a scholarly career and put them in college. At some point people started promoting the idea that everyone should go to college. A flood of scholarships and grants paved the way for a growing number of high school seniors to get a degree…or at least take some college classes before they spent the semester drunk and flunked out.

    Eventually, the mindset changed and college became ‘what you do after you graduate.’ Soon people who had no business going to college were doing it just because…well just because. I don’t know what percentage of high school seniors should go to college but I know we exceed that quota. What is happening now is that these non-student students are sitting in a classroom and of course they don’t do the work or understand why they are their.

    So my feeling is a lot of those bad example students are students who are going through the motions of going to college when they should be following another course in their lives.

    In every age group I see negative issues; however, I have two daughters that fall into that age group and I know many others. Here’s what I see:

    Millennials have figured out how stupid the Chain of Command is and they don’t respect someone just because they have a title. You have to earn their respect and not just be older or be more self-important. I like that!

    Millennials do respect people that respect them and do look up to people that have more valued skills and knowledge. Just because someone did a Doctoral Thesis 20 years ago doesn’t mean they’ve kept up with what is happening in their field now. We have too many State-run colleges that have professors counting the days until retirement and bitter that they have to wait. (I’m not accusing you of this, but give me five days on most State-run college campuses and I can find 10 or more professors that shouldn’t be teaching anymore.)

    Millennials may have been raised in a positive-reinforcing environment, but they are also more optimistic and idealistic about how things could be, which is sorely needed in a Tea-Party-we-hate-everybody-who-doesn’t-think-like-us-and-the-world-is-going-to-end environment.

    I know that young people irritate old people…it’s the way it’s always been, but I’ll go with their ideals of youth over cynicism every time.

  126. Bill,

    I think you did an excellent job on this post, as a Millennial I think that your description of us is perfect.

    Looking back, I remember my parents praising me for how amazing I was in sports, when in reality I am the most unathletic person there could be. As Millenials we do expect praise, our hours of dedication may not be anything compared to what others have done. Just the other day I found myself complaining to a professor that I could not understand why I had failed a test when I had spents days studying. We expect them to treat us just the way our parents had treated us in the past by praising us and giving a reward that clearly was not worked for.

    I think that you did a good job on defining the Millenials as well as on this post. Nicely done, Bill.

  127. I think you hit the nail right on the head with this one. It seems almost this entire generation of Millenials takes just about everything for granted considering their parents are always there to pick up the pieces when things don’t go their way. As a Millenial and living among many of them, I completely understand, and agree with just about everything said here. Today it seems that adults don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings for being inferior so they do give out trophies for just about everything. Kids need to learn that this is not how the real world operates and yes, you will fail in life. No one will pat you on the head and say “Thanks for the effort” when you do fail. Helicopter parents have definitely created a false sense of reality for their special little child. It is time to wake up Millenials.

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  129. Our age group is spolied with the use of the internet. We are spolied with the use of spell check and other editing resources online. Half the time spell check does not even edit everything correctly. Therefore, when it comes down to it, our generation is spolied with technology. When entering media and structure, I found it hard and time consuming. We had to be the spell check. I do believe that are generation does have to work hard for to reach our goal to success. But if you reached success with it being easy, is that truely success?
    When it comes our generation entering the workforce I agree that we are impatient because our goal right after we graduate is the find a job and make money. I disagree though in “paying dues”, I feel that my generation is paying their dues. Working as a intern in many different companies and building your resume is hard work. I find that as paying my dues. Of course when you do get a new job one was to work their way up.

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  131. i run MBA programs at a university in switzerland. as GenY hits our classrooms, many university professors are quite overwhelmed by the demands of many of these students. has anyone done any “real” research on how gen y is changing didactical, pedagogical issues at the exec learning level? intergenerational teaching and leadership is constantly on our minds and actions, but i would love to learn more… (’64 – end of the Boomers… who has 4 Millennials at home… )

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  134. Micah, there is a double standard being applied here by our parents’ generation. Oh, by the way, they are the ones for whom we’re currently working.

    Like it or not, our parents created us, in some cases coddled us and over inflated ourself worth (paraphrasing the author, my experience is different, will save stereotyping for another post). Yet they, our professors and teachers did very little to coach us through the transition from college to the workforce.

    By the way, the tone of your post feels like you think you’re an exception to the rule. You can probably see why I resent “one of our own” shouting that he’s not like others, while throwing us under the bus.

    For the record, my parents praised me when it was earned, pushed me when I could have more or better, and made sure I knew that less than my best wasn’t good enough. Do I take critism well? Not always. Am I loyal to my company? I’ve been here 5 years, am very thankful for the opportunities given/earned, but will not be a lifer.

    The real problem is not Millennials, it’s the attitude that I’m cut from the same cloth as the person next to me. My father would probably agree as a product of the 60’s, as he didn’t fit the stereotype of free love, free drugs, make love not war.

  135. hmm not sure about earning their respect, however seeing i’m twice the youngest millenials’ age, I expect respect, and do not demand it rudely.

    • Anon, I try to respect my elders as I was taught, but I also expect they do so in return.

      Given the state of the workforce, the reality is that millennials will be advising and contributing alongside people twice their age. My opinion HAS been discounted simply because of my age, my experience on that topic ignored. When that happens, I’m sorry, i won’t be returning the respect.

      It helps now that I’m balding, makes me at least look at bit older 🙂

    • How can you expect to get something that you do not give in return? Every indication is that you see yourself as being superior than the people you teach…they are people, not ‘Millennials’. You have made derogatory generalizations about a certain age group and you expect them to respond by saying, “Yes sir, you are very wise, please teach us.”

      Teaching should come with a healthy dose of humility, not arrogance. We have no power to ‘teach’ anyone anything. People can stand in front of a room and talk all day about what they know, but it doesn’t mean it’s relevant, nor worth learning.

      We can only facilitate learning. That means the professor/teacher must adjust his or her methods with changing times and attitudes. When our students fail to learn the first place to look the facilitator, not the student.

      Don’t kid yourself, ‘expecting’ respect is a demand and it is rude.


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