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You Say Entitled - I Say Uncertain

by Amanda Pagliarini

January 10,2011

Mark Zuckerberg is a year younger than me. At times this makes me feel a little behind.

Zuckerberg and I are among the “Millennials” – that nasty group categorized as entitled, disloyal, self-centered, and resistant to authority. In a sense, we are. It wasn’t that the world babied us as many in the baby boomer generation have asserted. The world we grew up in simply changed.

Our parents grew up in a time when families could live on a single income, thereby allowing one of their parents to stay home and care for children. Millennials grew up with in an economic climate that demanded two working parents – particularly due to most of our parents occupying separate living arrangements. Our parents were affected by the shootings of world leaders; we went to school with anxiety over our peers shooting each other. Our parents’ college degrees gave them a leg up; ours just give us a leg to stand on. Our parents’ generation watched as recreational drugs made their way from South America to disco clubs; our generation was making drugs in the bathtub to help us get through school exams. Our parents had to worry about being sent overseas to fight foreign battles; we have had to worry about surviving attacks as civilians on our own soil.

So yes, the Millennials entered the workforce with different perspectives than previous generations. The baby boomers entered the workplace with a clean slate and a spousal partnership that was designed to support each other’s efforts. Armed with debt and fear that marriage was more of a risk than a security, we came to work for a generation that turned up its nose at us in an economy that couldn’t pay us what it would demand out of us in expenses. Just when we thought our futures couldn’t seem more mysterious, we watched a trembling economy erupt into a full seizure. To further our bewilderment, it seemed the collapse was triggered by the same companies who directly or indirectly issued our paychecks. The hand that fed us – which previous generations insisted deserved our loyalty and respect – slapped us all across the face, snatched the bread back, and then forced us to watch as they ate it.

This is where Mark comes in. For the Millennials, he represents more than the social platform maker that enables us to reconnect with our 6th-grade science partner. He is our generation’s Ren McCormack of the business world. He, along with people like Naveen Selvadurai of Foursquare, Eric Ryan of Method, Ben Bator of TFLN, Sara Blakely of Spanx, Rob Kalin of Etsy, Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes, redefined the career path concept that previous generations adhered to. All are entrepreneurs who made a name for themselves before they hit 30, and who have shattered the lie that success waits for us in our late adult years after we’ve put in our time at the bottom.

Given these two approaches, the majority of Millennials now find themselves wondering what team they want to play on and in what position. Old Corporate America deluded the masses to believe that if they worked harder than everyone else, they would one day get to the top. The emerging New Corporate America has demonstrated that if we work smarter, we don’t have to stand in line. But is the New Corporate America destined to repeat corporate history, and allow greed to replace innovation, instincts, and integrity? And will Old Corporate America learn from its mistakes, or adopt new methods of concealing them for longer stretches?

We know that a Mark Zuckerberg only comes around once in a generation, and we can only hope the same holds true of a John Thain or Dick Fuld. Millennials must now find their place somewhere in between these corporate extremes. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that on one side of the spectrum sits a 27-year-old guy who had success in the billions while America’s long most dominating industry had losses in compounding amounts. But perhaps it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Old Corporate America’s fatal belief that everyone deserves to own a home looks a lot like new Corporate America’s insistence that everyone deserves a voice in the digital real estate market.

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