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Question 4

Are you in your position because of your actions or the economy?

Photo prompt #4: Use ten objects to illustrate how much of your current situation you attribute to your own actions and how much to the economy. On the left: your actions; on the right: the economy.

Love me or hate me for it. Call it self-righteousness, self-deserving, or call it what you will, but yes, I do feel entitled. It is almost as if I should feel a sigh of relief after saying it out loud, but I don’t.

I believe entitlement is a complicated quality, encompassing both positive and negative traits: positive traits that give me the drive to achieve my goals and negative traits that make me a little impulsive and in need of more patience in terms of my hard work paying off. The pull of the yin and yang of entitlement has one hundred percent played a role in my attitude towards both my current and past employment positions.

Entitlement is not a character trait that I am jumping up and down to admit, and it certainly makes me feel queasy to both own up to and disclose in such a public way, so let me try and explain it a bit. My sense of entitlement actually comes from a good place. It comes from a place where I believe that if you work hard for something than you deserve to have it pay off and achieve your goals.

Let me be clear. I do not believe anything should be handed to me, or to anyone else for that matter. I am not lazy and will never shy away from something just because it is difficult or does not come easy. I certainly would not be writing this blog if that were the case, as I sometimes find myself agonizing meticulously over every word.

Instead, I just believe in a simple formula of hard work that was instilled in me from a young age from both my maternal grandfather and my father. Both were hard working, hard charging, take-no-nonsense high school athletic coaches. Both were born of a different generation, and as I was growing up they individually pushed me to be my “best self” — whether it was on the soccer field or preparing for a spelling test.

While for most of my childhood I thought they were out of touch and couldn’t possibly understand anything I was going through, as I get older I seem to be able to appreciate the values they instilled in me more and more.

My grandfather and my father taught me that if you work hard and play by the rules, then it will pay off and you will achieve your goals. So my sense of entitlement stems from the fact that I believe everyone, including myself, deserves to have his or her hard work pay off. This sense of entitlement certainly plays out in my professional life, as I believe that I deserve to be among the best and will work until I achieve my goal. I will work harder, longer and faster to ensure that I accomplish whatever is in my sights.

The yin and yang of entitlement has helped me thrive in a professional work environment, but has also at times created friction with co-workers. At my first job out of college, I was hired as an assistant in the communications department of a small D.C. not-for-profit. After a few months, I quickly became bored with some of the more mundane tasks relating to my job and knew I was capable of more and deserved better for myself. I wanted to advance and learn more about communications so I set my sights on a promotion. I stayed late, picked up extra projects, and learned everything I possibly could about the projects my co-workers were doing.

My hard work paid off and within a year and a half I was promoted.

I know that my eagerness to move up quickly certainly rubbed some of my co-workers the wrong way and created some resentment, as there were people in my office that didn’t think I had “paid my dues” long enough, or that I thought I was “too good” to do some of the administrative tasks associated with my job.

While I readily admit there were probably days were I pushed aside responsibilities I was less interested in for more glamorous projects — and if I had to do it over again with more years of wisdom under my belt, I would be a little more patient about pushing for a promotion — my bottom line was that I didn’t go to college for four years to be an assistant and wasn’t going to settle for anything less than what I was capable of.

I knew the job was not one that I wanted to stay at forever, so I didn’t owe it to anyone to be content with being an assistant and simply wait around for some undefined amount of time for others to determine when I had sufficiently paid my dues.

I most certainly think my “go-get-it” attitude is what helped me climb the political ladder and experience career success early on, and I would certainly not have been able to survive in D.C. without a tenacious self-drive; however, it has been difficult to temper this inner drive to be my “best self ” in less competitive environments.

Take my current employment situation as a server in a restaurant, which has absolutely no bearing on my future and is just a job to make money in the short-term. Even here, I try to go in, work as hard as I can, and make the most money I can while I am there. I believe that this hard work should be recognized and rewarded, whether it be in the form of a good section or a good shift, and I am disappointed if that is not the case. Of course, in a restaurant this cannot always be the case and I have found it to be quite the learning experience to try and temper a character trait that helped propel such a large part of my early career.

I do not believe my attitude towards entitlement is specific to the Millennial Generation; rather, entitlement is woven into the fabric of our country in the form of the American Dream. The American Dream teaches us that we all have the right to a better life than the previous generation if we are willing to work for it. I think what sets the Millennial Generation apart is that we want to see our hard work instantaneously rewarded — and I certainly have seen firsthand both the positives and negatives of this attitude.


  1. Christine at 3:26 pm, October 17, 2012

    You make a good point. Older generations call us the “entitlement generation” as though we graduate college with the expectation of being handed a managerial position and six figure salary. That is not the case.

    I am currently in an administrative position making a small salary, but I just graduated and that’s fine with me. I am in an entry level position because I just entered the workforce a few months ago. I am happy to be here and to do less challenging work than I am capable of IF I also have the opportunity to learn more about the company I work for and the business ecosystem I am working in. I am not content to stay in an administrative position for 5+ years when I have a master’s degree, which (theoretically) shows that I am capable of much more than answering phones and organizing calendars.

    Entitlement comes when your student loan payments are approaching $800 a month and yet you are making minimum wage at a part time job that you’ve worked at for a couple of years. It comes when you feel like your prime time to gather useful work experience and your degree and hard earned money are going to waste. I believe many people of our generation would agree that we do not feel we are entitled to a specific salary or job title, but that we are entitled to a chance to demonstrate our knowledge and skills that we worked so hard to gain and enhance. We are not upset that we are not being handed everything we want; we’re upset that we don’t even have the option to work for what we want.

  2. GiveMeABreak at 5:49 pm, October 17, 2012

    The young people in my office also think they’re too good to do entry-level work. That’s not admirable. Not in the least. If you had responsibility that you shirked in order to reassure yourself of your own value to the human race, you are not only entitled, but you are also lazy. What’s worse is that you’re proud of being entitled and lazy. I am 28. I really fear for my generation.

  3. Christine at 7:42 pm, October 17, 2012

    In many cases I don’t think they’re so much in a mindset that they’re “too good” to do entry level work. I think it’s more a case of “Why did I just pay $200,000 for a degree if all I’m going to do is answer phones? I could do that with a high school diploma.”

    I am currently in an entry level position and do not believe I am too good to be doing my job. I do my best to make sure all of my co-worker’s meetings run smoothly, that I take good notes, and I am interacting with clients enough, etc. But I will admit that I am sometimes frustrated by the fact that I’m not adequately challenged by my work. And when the student loan bills come due and they are almost exactly half of my take home pay, I start to wonder why I have my degrees in the first place.

  4. Vincent Capone at 12:07 am, October 18, 2012

    Well said!

  5. Kerri Axelrod at 10:29 am, October 18, 2012

    Thanks for your comment. I think perhaps I was not clear enough in my post so let me try to explain a little better. I always got all of my work done and I never shirked my responsibilities because I was “too good” to do them. I would not have received a promotion if that were the case. In fact, I would often stay at the office three hours after my co-workers just so I could accomplish all of my work as well as the extra projects that were given. This is the opposite of lazy if you ask me.

    My comment about looking back and pushing aside projects that were less glamourous, wasn’t to imply that I didn’t get things done, because I always got all of my work done, rather it was an honest comment about how I would do things different with six more years of professional experience under my belt. I think we all could all pinpoint moments from our first jobs and say I would have handled that situation differently given my experience now. With time grows maturity and experience and that was all I was trying to say.

    I’m not always proud of the way I feel, and I think I state that clearly, but I did do my best to give an honest and open answer and that in itself on the topic was difficult to do. Thanks for reading and look forward to hearing your feedback on additional posts.

  6. Kerri Axelrod at 10:33 am, October 18, 2012

    Thanks, christine. I completely agree. I never felt that I was “too good” to do anything. Rather, I just wanted more of a challenge and was willing to work hard to get there. It sounds like you are doing a great job with your current position, and I’m sure that your hard work will pay off in the end. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  7. Kerri Axelrod at 10:35 am, October 18, 2012

    Very well put. I could not have said it better. Thank you for reading and for sharing your story.

  8. Matthew Karlsson at 1:17 pm, October 18, 2012

    There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and working hard towards a goal, and if others try to deny you that, then it seems more out of jealousy than anything else.

    That being said, there should be no entitlement regarding employment and a livable wage.

    Yes, as a nation we should focus on policies that move us in the direction of full employment and and wages sufficient to support a life, not just an existence, but in the grand scheme of things, the responsibility lies with the job seeker to make themselves marketable, not the other way around.

    There are too many students who waste money, go to college and come out with degrees in what amounts to basket weaving, which are of no marketable value what so ever, and then complain when they can’t get a job. (If you majored in English, History, Political Science, Womens Studies, and to a lesser extent Psychology, with which you can’t do anything without a PhD, that’s you.)

    Yes, college is about growing us into better individuals to function in a multicultural society and is about breadth, not jut focus, and all those other lovely sounding Liberal Arts concepts, but it’s also about preparing young adults for the workforce. If working towards being employable wasn’t a focus in college studies, then there’s the problem, and there really isn’t anyone else to blame.

    Those who I have some more compassion for are those who pursued a solid professional or hard science degree and still can’t get employment.

    We need to work as hard as we can as a nation to move ourselves in the direction where employment with a liveable wage is attainable for all, but this needs to be a high level goal, not an entitlement, or we will start slipping down the wrong path.

  9. Allan Morrison at 2:29 pm, October 18, 2012

    Good luck, but be patient. We didn’t have an internet in 1987 when I graduated. There was a recession on and there were pretty much no jobs. We had to make due. I am now a healthy, happy and well paid professional, but when I got out I:

    Assembled pregnancy testers for cows
    Sold encyclopedias
    Worked as an editorial assistant for a little bit more than it cost me to get to the office
    Washed Limousines on the weekend
    Wrote and signed a letter to a customer apologizing for being stupid (under direct orders)

    and a whole lot of other things. Nobody owes you anything. You probably know that but you have to own it too. That’s when you can just go into that low paid, unappreciated gig and get out of it what there is in it and nothing more. You do have to make your own future, but you have to live in your own present as well. It is what it is and it will leave it’s mark on you. How that turns out is partly up to you.

    Do you time where you must and keep trying. You will get to the other side, but nobody knows how yet. You just will.

  10. Sharon at 2:49 pm, October 18, 2012

    Some thoughts from a middle-aged, fully employed healthcare consultant. There are 2 comments in your piece on which I ask you to reflect. The first expresses the assumption that hard work and playing by the rules will pay off. The pay off, I presume, means financial success allowing you to live a life style worthy of the work. In reality, the results don’t always add up, many times unfairly. A person that feels entitled will assume that x (hard work) + y (playing by the rules) = z (pay off). The problem is that none of these are fixed. Let’s say z is a promotion. You are settling in to your new position and know exactly what is expected of you. Then, one day you find out your promoter just got fired. Their job is now being taken over by someone that doesn’t like you very much. Guess what, the formula for you just got re-calculated. It’s common for an employer to simply look at the formula and find it doesn’t work the way they want. And what you have to stomach is that there’s nothing you can do about it but try and overcome it. Your second comment is about the American Dream. You state the dream teaches us “….we all have the right to a better life…” The word right is emblematic of entitlement. There is no right, there is a chance for the American Dream. The chance of reaching it is quickly changing. Sadly, there are global forces at work making it harder for individual Americans to keep pace. The current global labor formula shows workers in India or China will accept harder work + unfair rules = lower payoff. That’s something we will just have to chew.
    In essence, we must adjust our world view. How we measure success must be adjusted. Nothing will be given to us, it must be hard won. And always, global-sized business entities (hello GOP president) will be making it harder and harder.

  11. Kara Wiseman at 2:39 am, October 27, 2012

    Awesome comment, Allan!

  12. Kara Wiseman at 2:46 am, October 27, 2012

    Sadly, I have been accused by many (mainly my family), that I feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to my career and life. I did always believe that if you hustled hard and were determined, life would work out the way you wanted it to be. As a co-worker of Kerri’s, who lived in NYC for many years, worked for top television programs at CBS, and is now serving at a restaurant in Boston and going through the job-hunt process, it is very sad and hard on my ego and confidence. My family has taught me that these feelings are my own issues and that no one ever said life was easy or fair. You deal with it and you keep working towards your goals and dreams. That is what determines the life and person you will be. I can honestly say, I hope one day I look back at this difficult period in my life and say it was the best lesson I could of ever received!

  13. Kerri Axelrod at 1:14 pm, October 28, 2012

    I can’t wait to see what life has in store for you lady. Something exciting is on the horizon. I can feel it.