Millennials were told they should study hard and they would get good jobs instead of becoming tong sampah loh (garbage disposal men). Yet there prevails a handful of young adults who are disenfranchised about why they haven’t yet tasted the fruit from labouring as university students and gotten the jobs they think they deserve.

There are somewhat justified arguments that millennials are narcissistic, privileged and entitled individuals with exceedingly high expectations about the kinds of jobs they deserve, the jobs they can get and the amount of responsibility they can/should handle. Indeed, since a questionnaire used to assess narcissism (the Narcissistic Personality Inventory or NPI) was developed in the late 1970’s, narcissism scores in college students is seen to have drastically risen over the recent years.

What this means is that we’re looking at a generation of adolescents with a heightened sense of self-importance, superficial self-appraisals, and increased levels of self-obsession and grandiosity.

This finding was largely taken from an American demographic but is it safe to say millennials in Malaysia also exhibit increased levels of egocentrism given globalisation and exposure to western media. I’ve ventured to find out by simply asking employers what they personally think about today’s Malaysian millennial and their job attitudes. There were many varying responses, but the following aptly sums up the consensus shared among most.

“I think the problem with these kids is that they are mollycoddled from a young age by their parents. It doesn’t matter what teachers or others think – their kid is always special and are never the ones in the wrong. What happens is that a lot of them grow up thinking they are better and special and thus more deserving of high level jobs with high level pay when they start working. When they realize that the working world treats them no different from everyone else, they’ll blame and complain about their bosses and jobs for their inadequacies. A lot of times they’ll just leave their jobs to find another that’s more worth their time,” says Melani Delikan, owner of Merdekarya, PJ.

On one hand, it is easy to blame modern media for selling faux superficial lifestyles and identities, indirectly reinforcing the idea of what high status careers are. On the other hand, it can also be argued that the age-old Asian stereotype of Malaysian parents coercing strongly encouraging their kids to be engineers, doctors or lawyers perpetuates the belief of what respectable jobs are.

When this demand for their kids to pursue white-collar jobs is coupled with mollycoddling, does it come as a surprise when millennials become bitterly shocked when they realize reputable firms aren’t begging to give them their dream jobs? So who’s to blame for millennials’ preoccupation with high status careers and why wouldn’t many consider alternatives in ‘less favourable’ business sectors such as agriculture and waste management if they feel disenfranchised with their current jobs/unemployment?

Undeniably, working your way up to being a specialist surgeon or investment banker entails better career prospects and pay grades, but the issue of debate isn’t on justifying the financial security and prospects of white-collar jobs – I’m saying how did we get to a point where most millennials don’t (or wouldn’t) even consider jobs such as operating a hawker stall to be practical and viable alternatives? I suspect this has to do with the importance of status and identity to a lot of young adults – that the idea of working at a farm isn’t as prestigious or glorifying as owning a start-up firm.

It’s safe to say that this emphasis on white-collar jobs subversively devaluates other professions whilst prioritizing status and image over practicality and upstanding work attitudes. As long as society continues to prize status and associate success solely with a suit and tie, millennials will fail to see career opportunities in other less glamorous fields.

With this in mind, it then becomes less warranted to accuse millennials of being entitled to certain jobs when they are brought up in a society that heavily endorses white-collar professions and being a distinguished individual.

Should we then stop encouraging future generations to pursue conventional corporate jobs?

Absolutely not – what we should do is stop nurturing a sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations and start promoting the value of all professions. Only by destressing heavy emphasis on status and prestige and focusing on the importance of grit, hard work, and sound work ethic can we truly stop crippling our generation from developing realistic and healthy attitudes towards work and the value of varying professions. It is in this manner can we better prepare and mould a generation of individuals that are open to approaching diverse trades where their uniqueness could truly come to light.

Does this hold true for the millenials in your work place? 

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