Meet Four “Lazy” Millennials
Millennials are not getting much love these days. If you do a Google search for the phrase “millennials are” the top five autofill suggestions are: lazy, having less sex, dumb, poor, and stupid. In all fairness, if you do a similar search for baby boomers or generation X you get similar disparaging suggestions. Still, it seems as if millennials, more than their predecessors, have been branded as being the laziest of generations.
Most of the news reports and assertions that criticize the work ethic of millennials are based on anecdotal and unscientific data. For example, I recently did a search with the prompt, “millennials are lazy,” and one of the first links that appeared was based on statements from lifestyle businesswoman Martha Stewart. Although some might seek Martha Stewart’s advice on recipes and home décor, her social scientific insight is not what she is known for.
To illustrate the industriousness of these college students, and as a way to debunk some of the societal myths surrounding millennials, I conducted a micro-study of four millennials from my sociology department. I asked them to calculate the hours they spend each week on various activities and to also comment on the negative judgements of their generation. Here are some snippets of insight from these four “lazy” millennials (listed in alphabetical order).
Matthew Alfultis is a 21-year-old sociology major with a concentration in criminology and minors in disaster studies and Spanish. Last semester, Matthew took 15 credits that included an internship with the District Attorney’s office. He is also in his fourth year on the college swim team and spends roughly 3 hours each day training between morning and afternoon practices. Matthew tries to block off 2 hours in the morning and 3 hours at night to get school work done so as to maintain his 3.55 GPA. Fortunately, Matthew’s commute is a mere 10 minute walk to campus.
Most of his friends being involved in athletics, so Matthew finds that his busy schedule is commonplace. The majority of students he knows are either working or have internships in addition to their schoolwork. It’s not surprising that Matthew thinks that “the whole notion of our generation being ‘lazy’ is a complete farce.” As he points out, “millennials have to deal with an extremely competitive job market that demands a lot out of recent graduates and most companies offering ‘entry level’ positions want 1-3 years of experience right from the start.” In such an environment, having an internship or job while attending college is almost mandatory and “balancing work, school and extra-curriculars can be challenging.”
Annecy Cruz is a 22-year-old sociology major with a 3.57 GPA. In the fall she took 12 credits, spending approximately 10 hours in class each week and another 25-30 hours of schoolwork outside of class. She also works 30 hours a week at a women’s clothing store. Between commuting to school three days a week (45 minutes each direction) and to her job (approximately 5 hours a week), she spends the equivalent of a long work day (9.5 hours) in her car each week driving to and from school and work. Annecy does not have any time to be involved in clubs or organizations on campus but she does have about 3-4 hours of chores that she has to get done at home each week.
Although Annecy says that she “strives on being busy” she also noted that, “I don’t really get to hang out with my friends who aren’t at New Paltz or work with me just because everyone is so busy. It’s hard to get a day where our schedules don’t overlap so that we can get together and hang out.” To those who think that millennials are lazy, Annecy says that they are “100% mistaken.” As someone who has taken out student loans to pay for college, and is finishing her degree with any eye toward going to law school, Annecy wishes that such critics would realize that “a majority of us are busy working and balancing school life at the same time, maintaining good grades, studying, and doing homework whenever we get a chance to.”
Rachel Danzig is a 21-year-old sociology major with minors in deaf studies and disaster studies. Fall 2016 was her last semester in college. She took 13 credits, spent about 12.5 hours a week in class, and another 9 hours a week doing school work. She worked 40 hours a week during the semester as a server and bartender-in-training. Like Matthew, she lived just 10 minutes from campus but she did spend 5 hours a week commuting to her job. She was also involved with the ultimate Frisbee club on campus, which took up another 4 hours a week of her time. Her GPA in her last semester before graduation was 3.67.
Rachel’s approach to working hard and staying busy is motivated by a desire to “have a degree already so that I can focus on trying to finally have a life. Hopefully if I work hard now I can enjoy myself later.” Although she gets frustrated when she hears people say millennials are lazy and entitled, she offers this critical sociological response to these common criticisms: “It's not that we aren't successful because we're lazy; we're not successful because the standards are so much higher. College is a requirement not an addition to education, and we have to pay that off before most of us can think about moving out of our parents’ homes.”
Jazzmin Williams is a 23-year-old sociology major with minors in communication and psychology. As a full-time student, a full-time worker (with two jobs), and a plus-size model who maintains her own YouTube page, Jazzmin is busy seven days a week. Each week she spends 8 hours in class (taking 13 credits), 23 hours doing schoolwork, and 5 hours commuting to campus. She works 32 hours a week (including some overnights) as a direct support professional in a group home for mentally disabled adults and another 8-10 hours as a mentor for a young man with autism. Between these two jobs, she spends 10-15 hours commuting to and from work. Her activities as a plus-size model take up another 5-6 hours a week. Through it all, she has been able to maintain a 3.1 GPA.
For Jazzmin, this busy schedule is part necessity and part choice: “My week is busy because I have so many things to do. I work two jobs because I need the money to pay for my bills and school. I model because that is my dream, I have a YouTube page to promote myself, and I go to school to obtain a higher degree.” For those who think millennials are lazy, Jazzmin had this to say: “Take my schedule on for a week and tell me if that is lazy! I work my butt off to get what I want in life and to be told I'm lazy is false. Most of my peers are hard workers and have dreams and goals they are pursuing. So lazy is something we are not!”
Admittedly, these student profiles are not intended to be representative of all millennials or even of all college students. But I will say that most of the students I meet these days are overwhelmed by how busy they are. And this is not just the situation at my campus. College students across the country, even across the globe, are demonstrating such high levels of stress that many researchers and health-care practitioners regularly refer to the campus mental health crisis.
If you are millennial who is reading this post, or if you know a millennial, what do you think about millennials being called lazy? What’s your experience or what have you observed from other young adults? Although it’s easy to be swayed by all that we hear in the media about millennials it’s important to keep in mind this bit of sociological advice from Jazzmin Williams: “Before you judge a whole generation, make sure you study and know some facts about that generation.”