Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
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.