I am a Millennial. A part of the generation that seems to receive unwarranted and harsh criticism for following our dreams and attempting to make the world a better place through our passions. Born into a society that still harbors manual labor and working into a grave (Generation X and Baby Boomers) we have seen the technological boom where brainpower will outdo brawn any day. Our parents provide the disparaging glances as we move from job to job, not understanding that finding a perfect fit and a perfect job is possible and dammit, we will do that. I am a Millennial, and I'm proud to say that because we are the most educated generation ever and possibly the one that will make the biggest splash in changing our world - socially, economically and environmentally. We aren't a weak generation, rather we are one that will push your disproving looks back in your face and move on to bigger and better things. We are what you wanted to be.
A Millennial in Architecture
There's a whole big debate about my generation and its place in society, but I won't get too carried away in that for now. Instead, I want to focus in on the fact that I am a Millennial in architecture, a field littered with old white guys over the age of 65, still working and still thinking that intern architects should be paid little or no money until they've paid their dues. Recently, architecture has seen a sheer drop of practicing professionals and an even larger fall of those who are pursuing licensure. The Great Recession put a catastrophic dent in the numbers and as the economy recovers, we - the Millennials - are finding opportunities in every place. We won't work for free, instead we will demand higher wages than any other intern ever because we know our own value and will not be undersold. We are a generation of dreamers and entrepreneurs and we're not going to wait around for the world to possibly treat us well, no, instead we will make the world treat us well. Here's what makes us so different and so much better than all those other generations before us - through an architectural lens, of course.
We won't be walked over
Those old white guys that still preside over most AIA chapters and studios everywhere hold the belief that the younger generations know nothing (see #6 below). While we understand we must work our way to the top and learn the ropes, do our time and experience the entry-level woes, we won't be your CAD monkeys. We won't sit around and do pointless work for little pay for 90 hours per week. We seek to create value in what we create, if there isn't much value in the work we're doing why would we be doing it? While many of our parents and grandparents were told how the world worked and did their tasks as drones, we now know there is a better way out and won't be told to do meaningless trench work that may or may not move us to a better place. We aren't intimidated by those who are older than us, we respect each person equally and do not let age or experience deter us from feeling important in a room full of people.
We won't be undersold
Money isn't everything, but with an overburdening debt to income ratio in most recent graduates, we need to make more than just $12/hour. While it's a tough time to ask for more money for entry-level jobs, it has to start somewhere. We will not take a job for less than we are worth because we then decrease the value of our knowledge. We paid a lot of our own money for our degrees and the knowledge that came with them, so why would we expect such little income in return? In the post-Great Recession world, we have to identify ourselves as having a higher worth than previously understood. We are hard workers and intelligent young professionals, underselling ourselves would not only be an insult to what we've accomplished thus far but also would hurt the next generations (with even more debt) ability to make what they are worth. Architecture has long been known as a field that "you just don't go into for the money", yet the projects we work on carry more worth than most other professions. We deserve to be paid for the time we invest into our work because we take it so seriously. We want to ensure that all understand the true value we can and do bring to the world, financial means always help.
We won't be stuck to one job
We start a new job and it isn't what it promised to be. Maybe we're doing mostly pointless work, maybe the hours are too long for too little pay, or maybe it just isn't the right fit for our goals and dreams. Whatever the case may be, we don't really feel the need to overly attach ourselves to a company. Since pensions and other long-term incentives don't really exist anymore, the only thing keeping us at a job is whether we like it or not. With a resurging economy, we can now be even pickier with where we land, and don't expect us to just stick around because a job pays well. If it doesn't align with our goals and beliefs we will abandon it for the next best thing. In such a competitive field such as architecture, there is always a better job, or maybe our own company would be the answer. Whatever the case may be, the fact that there is always something more to work toward only constitutes our abilities and desires to jump around.
We are dreamers, believers and implementers
Many of the older generations critique us because we're "unrealistic" dreamers. We should, in their opinion, stay the course of a job, task, etc. and do what you have to do to get by. Who follows dreams, movie stars and rock'n'roll singers? Actually, the Millennials do and we do a very good job of it. We will let our passions drive us to do things that will change the world. We will dream, believe in that dream then actually do it. While older generations may have talked about their dreams or thought how nice it'd be to follow through, we actually take action and make them happen. If it fails, we make adjustments and keep moving forward.
We are hard working individuals
Contrary to popular belief, we are hard workers. No we aren't forging metals in a mill or digging ditches, but we're working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet while we find our dreams. If those jobs are architectural or not, doesn't matter, we need to do what we have to, right? We will work long hours if the work is worth it and we will do whatever it takes to make it all happen. We may get the reputation of 'lazy' because we don't take on tasks we don't see value in, because why is that worth it?
We are the most educated generation yet
The student loan crisis speaks volumes of this truth. But in case you don't believe me, here's a Forbes article that chronicles the fact that our generation is more educated than any other. We understand how the world works, we know it's unfair and we do know how hard it is to make it. That won't ever deter us, though because we have a confidence in our skills and we enjoy the challenges. Our educations have been pushed steadily on us by our parents, something we value more than most other things today.
We can't fathom waiting
...when we could make it happen ourselves. We won't let the world pass us by. We'll put our necks out and take risks. If that means leaving a comfortable job that wasn't all our dreams had envisioned for instability in living our desires, we will. We want to climb the ladder that we are working so hard to scale, but in turn we want to be given more responsibilities, more power and more say. If we see our careers are in peril because we aren't moving up the proverbial ladder as fast as we think, we'll move on, no waiting necessary.
Millennials are a tough bunch. On top of being steadfast and persistent, we are probably also one of the most disliked groups because of our abilities to adapt and liberal thinking. We are doing things differently than our parents and grandparents because the previous course wasn't working. It's time now to focus on progression and our generation as well as those to follow hope to build upon what we've forged thus far. While I can certainly understand why my questioning of authority, persistence and belief in self-worth could anger other generations, that's no reason to discredit all that we do. Have some faith in us because soon enough, we won't be competing for your jobs, you'll be competing for our talent.