A Millennial While Black

As a millennial, it seems like everybody is giving you unwanted advice left and right. Anything we do is up for criticism. We don’t work enough for corporations? We’re lazy. We work too much? Suddenly, we don’t take enough vacation time. Received participation trophies when you were growing up? That’s probably why you’re not excelling now. It’s totally something that you’re doing wrong. Won’t accept abusive management tactics? It’s because you’re clearly an entitled little shit. How dare you ask for a good work-life balance and a company that treats you like a human being?

When houses aren’t selling enough, Millennials are blamed for not buying them. Never mind the all-around inflation in prices while minimum wage is pretty much stagnant. If we go to college and don’t get the desired career job, it’s something we did. Maybe not enough unpaid internships, not enough extracurricular activities or just not enough drive. Who knows? It was probably because of all that social media. Either way, it was your fault.

Black Millennials aren’t strangers to this though. Growing up Black in a world where the odds are stacked against you, it’s common to hear the phrase, “Work twice as hard to get half the reward.” It’s normal. It’s everyday life for young, Black people to pushed much harder, criticized and punished much harsher if we mess up. Being denied a fair start and then condemned if we don’t go beyond the finish line. To be honest, the extra judgement that comes with being a Millennial is just another layer on top of a crappy sandwich.

The most criticism comes when trying to find a job. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I’ve been more aware of being a Black Millennial than when job-hunting. It always hits the hardest when I put in so much time and effort applying for those particular positions. The ones that relate to my field of study and I think, “You’ll never know unless you try.” Then, I apply and wait. Most don’t go anywhere but every now and then, I’ll get a phone call for an interview and slam dunk it. But for various reasons (whatever they may be), that dreaded email floats into my inbox with the generic “we liked your interview but have decided to go with another candidate.” The only time I’ve ever appreciated those emails is when one recruiter gave me a heads-up on the company deciding to hire internally. Otherwise, the rejection is eye-roll inducing.

Internships also leave a bitter taste in your mouth because it’s been hyped up to be a foot in the door. Going to college, I was always told that internships were the major key. If you got an internship, your chances were automatically increased. Sure, you weren’t paid for your time, but you were paid with “experience” and the slim chance that they would offer you a position when you graduate. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible. It’s happened to an acquaintance of mine. He was offered a position and needed to relocate, but nevertheless, it was a career position.

However, I’ve also had a friend with an internship at a local news station, just like me. And I’d say he was even more passionate about media and production than I was. Still, that didn’t help him when the station wouldn’t return his phone calls. And that’s the cold reality of being a Black Millennial. Sometimes, not even going above and beyond as an intern will get you that fancy position. You may get a company who likes you enough and is willing to make space to hire you. But it can be hard to weed out companies who are looking to actually hire interns and ones who are looking for free labor.

And this is just a few of the many obstacles. Do well not to point them out too much, though. You’ll be accused of making excuses. All you can do is keep going until you find your footing. Change up your strategy if you feel like you’re stuck. And if you feel stressed out, it’s okay to take a break. I know there’s the general belief that if you’re not contributing to society 24/7, then you’re wasting your time. But it’s bullshit. It’s okay to take a short break. Play a video game, stretch, mediate, listen to music, do whatever helps calm you down. Adulting is pretty damn tiring and everybody deserves some self-care.

There isn’t much we can do individually to change how society views the latest generation. Or how complicated the job market. All we can do is keeping going until we can live comfortably and hopefully, make a change for our future families.

Millennial life is often a crapshoot. A Black Millennial’s life is often making sure we’re not playing against someone that has loaded dice. And the most immediate way to fight against that is to support your fellow Black Millennials. A helping hand and a few encouraging words go a long way. It’s a welcomed change to balance out the constant criticism.

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