Are Young Professionals the ‘Entitled Generation’?

It’s no secret that our generation of young professionals is frequently called “the entitled generation.” Thanks to the mentality instilled in us as children that the future was limitless, increased social mobility with its subsequent relaxation of class divisions, coupled with the impact of technology, it is argued that we are constantly in search for the “next best thing.” That, we do admit, has some merit. This mentality creeps into our professional, social and personal lives, as well as in our everyday interactions.  

We want the best table at a restaurant, best suite in a hotel, best seats in the house and better cars, better jobs and better dates and relationships. Oh, and a promotion would be nice too, thanks. Today’s YP never wants to settle. We surround ourselves with successful people, make dinner plans at the coolest restaurants from our latest Apple products and are as selective with our mates as our clothing. This refusal to settle could be the reason why thirty is the new twenty and that people are opting for later marriages, delaying having children and holding off on mortgages in a constant search (and wait) for only the best. As one of our cherished single YP girlfriend says, “I still have a few prime years left in me; it’s not time to settle yet.” 

While our YP climate of seemingly limitless options is undoubtedly a positive progression from the more predetermined lifestyle of our parents’ generation, has it come at the expense of modesty, basic social graces, and old-fashioned tact? Are we in fact the spoiled brats we are too often made out to be?

Okay, so we may all be guilty of wanting more. But we don’t think it is a negative thing if we actually consider what it means to be “entitled.” The expectation for material things without any work is something even the most spoiled YP left behind in their early twenties – around the same time we started to pay our own bills. Now, we may be enamored with material things, but more so as a reward; something tangible to taste, touch or feel for all of our university all-nighters, hurried lunch breaks at our desks, and social sacrifices on account of our jobs. After all, we work hard and have earned it, so why can’t we enjoy the fruits of our labour?

The young professional’s love and need for technology only perpetuates the idea of “the next best thing.” Not only are we forever tempted by the latest version or model, what were once luxuries – cell phones, cars, washer and dryer, air conditioning and computers – are all basic necessities. The media doesn’t help, constantly bombarding young professionals the message that we are inherently important, that we deserve the best of everything, and that we “have arrived,” increasingly selling an idealized lifestyle rather than actual brands and products. The problem arises when we start over-coveting material goods or needing the absolute best of everything at all costs, or defining ourselves through them in a case of the “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses.”

“Having material wealth is wonderful, but take a step back if you notice it’s becoming an obsession, like it does with so many YPs these days,” says Kimberly Moffit, Toronto psychotherapist, relationship expert and fellow YP.  “There’s no need to compete in absolutely every aspect of your life, and sometimes the worst table in the restaurant can be the best experience if it’s filled with great friends.”

Though we couldn’t agree more, we do admit that YPs are socially selective and choose our engagements carefully. On Saturday night, most strategic YPs won’t commit to plans until the very last minute, when we can weigh all of our options. Good catch or not, we rarely make a first date on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night because there is usually something better happening. Admittedly, this has affected our social graces, rendering us “flakier” than our parents’ generation. We are all guilty of RSVPing and not going when something more desirable comes up or waiting to reply to text messages in case a text with the promise of a better time comes through.

So, we may want the next best thing socially, but we have also been called entitled in the workforce. Critics say us modern-day young professionals expect fun, fulfilling work, with flexible hours, good salaries, and ample vacation – but also to be respected and praised, too. They say we believe in limitless career and financial growth. Older generations are quick to claim that we enter the workforce with a mentality that we are smarter than or parent-aged coworkers and don’t pay our dues at the bottom of the totem pole the way that they did. We beg to differ.

Our recent reader survey results show that the naysayers may be eating their words. In fact, Notable readers had modest expectations in terms of salary; 44.8 per cent of Notable YPs polled said they expected to make $30,000-$45,000 in their first job. We know countless numbers of YPs who followed their passion over dollar signs and worked their first job for next to nothing to gain valuable experience. When asked if they would go broke for a year if it meant perusing other passions, 22.9 per cent said they’d never, but 50.5 per cent said they would think about it and 26.7 per cent replied that they most likely would. They did, however, expect to see rewards for their hard work, with 32.5 per cent claiming that they expected to make between $70,000-$85,000 after 5-7 years in the workforce, and 27.6 per cent expecting over $90,000.

We still want more than our parents had, however, with 59 per cent replying that they want more than their parents were able to provide for them. When asked if their parents still spoil them with lavish trips, expensive gifts and shopping trips, it isn’t surprising that most of us have outgrown these things. But what was surprising is that 41.9 per cent replied with  “no, they never did.” In general, 62.9 per cent feel that if they work hard, work their way up the ladder, and catch a few lucky breaks, their future will be pretty good.

There is a difference between an attitude of entitlement and wanting the next best thing. When we think of entitled, we think of an unappreciative “the world owes me something” mentality, not “I deserve the best of everything because I earned it” mindset. “Young people suffering from ‘affluenza’ need to reconsider their role in the world and realize that contributing is more relevant than taking, said Dragon’s Den’s Brett Wilson. In terms of splurging on that new designer suit or Hermes bag, we say go for it, as long as you are giving back to the community through other ways in your balanced 360-degree life.