I sat in Local Coffee at The Pearl, chugging some of San Antonio’s best Americanos, with my college ring from Trinity University weighing down my ring finger as I scrolled indefinitely through job postings that I wasn't, technically, qualified for.
Their requirements read “3-5 years experience needed,” or “Masters of Arts preferred.”
I applied anyway and kept scrolling.
I received a lot of emails saying exactly what I expected them to say: I didn’t qualify because I didn’t have enough experience. Other emails shocked me, saying the contrary: I was over-qualified and that the employer “couldn’t afford me.”
Perhaps the most shocking response I got came from a secretarial position I applied for in San Antonio’s bustling Medical Center.
“I hesitate to hire someone of your age, especially with someone who has a liberal arts degree,” the email read. I wish I had framed the damned thing.
I’m a lazy Millennial. At least, that’s what I’m told by people who have never met me, let alone know me. But I’m here to tell you why we "lazy Millennials" are not (only) lazy, but creative, aspiring, and driven individuals.
I was born in 1993 – a time when "Sleepless in Seattle" hit theaters and became an instant hit, when "The X-Files" aired its first episode, and when Matthew McConaughey stole everyone’s hearts in "Dazed and Confused," immediately making it everyone’s favorite '90s flick. According to an article by Forbes, a Millennial is someone who was born between 1980 and 2000. So I was right smack in the middle of the years that comprise the “Millennial generation.”
As a recent graduate of Trinity University (class of 2015), a small, private liberal arts school in San Antonio, I was still trying to find my footing in this grown-up world. I majored in communication and minored in Spanish, and I wouldn’t trade my time and experience I received at my university for anything in the world.
There’s not a large population of students at Trinity who are from San Antonio, so when I started there in the fall of 2011, there was only one other person in my class who I knew beforehand. I was lonely, and on top of the loneliness, I felt inadequate. I didn’t feel like I could keep up with the academics.
I remember nights when I would sit on the balcony of my freshman dorm and call my father in tears.
“Dad, I can’t do it. I can’t keep up. My work is piling up. I just failed my statistics exam. After this year, I want to transfer,” I said.
After the summer break, I decided to stay on for the ride. I’m glad I did. After switching my major four times, I found one that I loved, and in that major of communications, I found my passions: people, pop culture, and writing.
One of the things I loved most about Trinity was that our value as academics, as students, and as people was always stressed to us. One of the reasons I decided to stay through the hard times I was experiencing was because I had a professor tell me that I had it in me to push through and succeed.
Here’s the problem: people like me spend four years of their lives earning degrees that hold no value to a lot of employers because their degrees aren’t “specific” enough. I think a lot of employers fail to realize the value of Millennials because “Millennials” is the new buzzword that’s floating around.
Don’t get me wrong, I just started working at an amazing law firm here in town as a staff writer, and on one of my first days, the CEO of the company came to greet me.
“Jonathan, whenever you have an idea, I want to hear it. Young people like you are naturally innovative, and people like me need to hear what you have to say,” he said.
In the past few months, I’ve experienced both ends of this spectrum regarding the treatment that many Millennials receive from Baby Boomer employers. Employers should take advantage of the liberal arts education that a lot young people are getting.
We can solve problems differently than other people can, we can think of innovative and more efficient ways to do everyday things, and we can use some of our experience from our art history classes to talk about color schemes when designing a logo for a tech startup downtown. The possibilities are as endless as the Emily Dickinson stanzas we analyzed in our American literature classes.
My point is this: I am glad I’ve found a workplace that acknowledges my value, even if I am not a deeply experienced specialist in any one thing, I do have some experience in a vast variety of studies, and I can use that to help advance the company and keep it relevant to my own generation.
What can we do to help bridge the gap between our Baby Boomer bosses and the Millennial generation? We can work together – whenever and wherever smart employers like the one I’ve found are willing to take a chance on us.
*Top image: Jonathan Hernandez and friends pose for a photo after graduating from Trinity University. Photo by Jonathan Hernandez.