Some people call us entitled. Others prefer spoiled and lazy. Others still like to blame the values of "kids today" for the workforce's problems.
What Gen X sees as lazy is really just too many young people wasting their time being average while "trying to find their passion."
Before you write this off as generational treason, think of the last time your friend told you they could do better at their job, but that it's just not what they want to do. There is always some rationalization (read: excuse) about why they were late to work, their production is crap or their attitude sucks. They are searching for their next passion, which equals a lackluster performance in their current job. Unfortunately, this mindset is exactly why the entitlement stereotype exists.
For better or worse, we live in a world of instant gratification.
Gen Y wants what it wants and wants it now, or so the pundits say. Working one's way up a corporate ladder doesn't exactly invoke excitement these days. Fortunately, some companies are challenging the corporate structure. Innovative companies like Google and Zappos are taking stock of their human capital and investing in creating a work experience that's enjoyable and productive.
But not everyone's company is as innovative. Realistically, very few people get to start out their careers with their dream job. The rest of us have to spend long hours and precious energy developing early onset carpal tunnel and making coffee runs.
One day, the rest of us will find our passion and pursue it to the fullest. Until then, it's time for Gen Y to own up to the truth behind our stereotypes. It's time to stop being average while searching for our passions.
Success is never an accident.
Bill Gates didn't become the richest man in the world by biding his time and not giving his best effort. He decided that college was getting in the way of his career and removed a distraction that was preventing his success. That's different than wasting four years in college (amassing thousands of dollars of loan debt) in the name of being average, and then complaining about not being able to find a job.
Bill Gates and even Mark Zuckerberg decided college wasn't for them and got right down to business. Jeff Bezos was the valedictorian of his high school. Oprah was a radio host by the end of high school. Jim Skinner worked his way up from a local manager trainee to the CEO of McDonald's.
The point is that no one becomes successful by doing a half-job. It's okay to not have your final career path picked out by 25. You may not find your passion till you've been in the workforce for a decade or more. But that dream job, the one that's fun and exciting and challenging, isn't just going to fall in your lap, and being an average employee surely isn't going to get you there, either.
What's a Gen Y'er to do?
It starts with being great, now.
Call it pride in your work. Call it a success-driven mindset. There's even a biochemistry explanation dubbed "the winner effect." Either way, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Success means different things to different people. Find someone you deem successful and take a few pages from their book. Chances are your career idol was successful everywhere they've been, including that crappy entry-level job.
You may have the desire to run your own gourmet restaurant some day. Start down the path of success by being the best McDonald's manager around. If you're organizing the holiday office party, then plan the best damn party your office has ever seen. Not only will this save you and your co-workers from a boring evening, but you'll set yourself up for success in the future.
Generation Y is truly Generation WHY. We want to know the upsides, downsides and justifications for everything. It comes with being part of the information age. We aren't sheep willing to slog away for 30 years in a single company looking for that mediocre pension plan. Our loyalty to a company is dependent upon their loyalty to us. We want to know, "What's in it for us?" This is what makes our generation special, and also what makes older generations angry.
Whether that's right or wrong is not the point. The question is: what's in it for you, busting your hump in a job that has little to do with what you're truly passionate about?
The answer: success breeds success. It's not a switch you can turn on once you finally get where you want to be. (And good luck getting there in the first place without hard work from day one.) Become successful now, even if you're not doing exactly what you want to do with your life, and you'll be successful later, too.
(Ben Drake is a contributor to Brazen Careerist. He's an Air Force officer, grad student and the communications and branding lead at @beinfluential. Create your portfolio today and show the world what you have to offer. Brazen Careerist is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. This isn't your parents' career-advice column. Be Brazen.)