Millennials hustle harder

Social media, publications like Time and even Martha Stewart magazines have all contributed in recent years to the hegemonic idea that the millennial generation is lazy.

The millennial generation can be defined as individuals born between the early 1980s through 1997 or 2004, depending on the source. A more apt description may be any individual labeled as “narcissistic” and “lazy,” according to a 2013 Time magazine cover story.

However, a 2016 CareerBuilder survey found that 29 percent of workers polled worked multiple jobs or had a “side hustle”, or side job, in addition to a full-time position. Of workers aged 18-24, 39 percent worked a side job, and so did 44 percent of workers aged 25-34. This is compared to 29 percent of workers aged 35-44, 22 percent of those 45-54 and 19 percent of those 55 and up.


At Oakland University specifically, Career Services Consultant Carol Anne Ketelsen said she has noticed a majority of students who visit the office have multiple jobs or a job in addition to an internship required by their major.

So why are college-aged workers and post-grad individuals hustling so hard in the modern workforce?

The first reason is that the economy, college loans and the median salary for recent graduates makes it necessary for these workers to have multiple means of income.

In 2009 and 2010, the starting salary for a college graduate was $27,000, according to a study by the Heldrich Center, as reported by The New York Times. Heldrich Center also said that students have an average of $20,000 in student loans to pay off after graduation.

Beyond paying off student loans, access to higher education is becoming increasingly limited.

“I think students today have to work so much because of the consistent and ongoing state budget cuts to higher education and the flat wages that their families have been experiencing for decades,” said Rebekah Farrugia, associate professor at OU. “The solution this mindset offers is that people just need to work harder and longer and they will eventually succeed.”

Recent Oakland alumna LeeAnn Brown has similar reasons for working at both Trader Joe’s and Verde Media as a content strategist.

“I do think that too many people have to have multiple jobs just to make ends meet, but that points to the much larger issue of our economy and the rate of pay not matching how much it costs to live alone, much less support anyone else,” she said.

Oakland senior Tim Brown currently works at a church, Omaha Steaks and as an Uber driver. He said that he has worked multiple jobs throughout college for financial reasons and because he likes having a full schedule.

“In order to live that lifestyle in this moment, I have to work this much,” he said. “It’s definitely for money, but I also just don’t do well when I don’t have things to do.”

Some millennials are taking on multiple jobs in order to stay busy throughout and after college.

Ketelsen said that, after graduating, some students are unsure of what to do with their free time if they are working a nine-to-five job, so they take on night jobs.

Business entrepreneurship major Christian Kettenbeil is currently a minority owner of Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters in Detroit, is co-founder of Ace High pomade, works for University Housing and is starting up a drone photography company. Kettenbeil has worked at more than one establishment throughout his time at Oakland because of his many passions.

He helps run Ace High’s Etsy store. Etsy is a popular side hustle for millennials, as it facilitates fast and easy transactions of unique products.

“I just dip my toes into a bunch of stuff,” Kettenbeil said. “[In terms of] money, I’ve always been able to get by . . . It’s not really a necessity. I do like being busy. Having a back-to-back day is an ideal day for me.”

Finally, the experience gained from having more than one job in different industries and the drive to constantly be improving pushes some millennials to work so much.

In 2015, 24 percent of millennials gave up vacation time, whereas 19 percent of Generation X individuals (those born from the 1960s to ’70s) did so, according to the World Economic Forum. The same article described 43 percent of millennials as work “martyrs.”

Brown said that having a few different jobs has helped shape her as the motivated individual she is.

“I do think that having these two jobs has helped me with time management and taking things one step at a time, as well as helping me to respect any job position that anyone has or any place they are in life,” she said.

Her position at Trader Joe’s allows her to work toward a full-time position at Verde Media, while still having a livable income.

With many individuals finding new ways to supplement their lifestyles or stay busy while following their passions, the concept that millennials are lazy does not seem to match for every person within this specific generation.

“There’s maybe one or two cases where I’ve seen people that are lazy,” Kettenbeil said. “Even those people have dreams that they’re working on . . . So many of us have so much going on, and nobody notices it.”

The generations before have set a precedent of hard work that ultimately leads to success, and millennials are following in their footsteps, adjusting to new societal expectations and economic pitfalls.