This guest post is from my super smart and talented friend, Staci Spears, DVM. We’ve been friends for a long time, and she’s recently completed her DVM training and is now an awesome veterinarian. Passionate for animals and Jesus, she’s a female Millennial professional working in the sciences. Go Staci! Listen to her story—the story of the Millennial Professional.
The word millennial typically brings all sorts of images to mind. Hipsters with thin mustaches, plaid scarves, thick glasses. Youths sipping artesian coffee while perusing Instagram on pricey Macbooks. Grown-up children who would rather watch Netflix in their parents’ basement than do so much as get a job. And of course, it’s no wonder this generation turned out the way it did, right? These kids were told they could be anything! They were given trophies they didn’t deserve! Obviously the snowflake generation would grow up to be lazy, demanding, and irresponsible. The thing about those stereotypes is they couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I want to tell you about the millennials I know. Now technically, a Millennial is any person born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. My peers, specifically, are somewhere in their mid to late 20s. Most of the millennials in my peer group are young professionals, either in brand new careers or finishing up graduate or professional school. Most of us are also in STEM or other equally demanding fields. I would love to tell you our story—the story of the Millennial Professional.
In high school, we were told we could do and be anything, so we were bound and determined to live up to that potential. We went straight to college after graduating, as was expected of us in the late 2000s. We threw everything we had into college. Grades were of the upmost importance, and we aggressively pursued scholarships, internships, and extracurricular activities. This is where most of us first came into contact with alcohol and drugs, because we were also taught to “work hard, play hard.” These unhealthy interactions would go on to affect us later in our lives and careers. As individuals, we struggled with work/life balance, and our record was marked by ambition, not laziness. No achievement was ever good enough. We struggled to meet the expectations placed on us, having been taught that we were our only limit. Those participation trophies left their mark, too. We know (and we knew then) we didn’t deserve them, so now, many of us struggle with imposter syndrome.
After graduating college, we met new challenges in our careers. Some of us took entry level positions at large firms, developing business acumen or working our way up the company chain. Others, myself included, decided to pursue higher education in the form of graduate or professional school. My particular poison was veterinary medicine. These professional paths brought new challenges, not the least of which are greater pressures to succeed, 80-100 hour work weeks, and either low pay or new mountains of student debt. Yes, these are the results of decisions we made, and yes, ultimately we hope to receive a return on our investment. In the meantime we live in crappy apartments, eating Ramen, waiting for the cellphone to call us back into the office/hospital/etc. We get our dopamine kicks however we can, whether that’s from social media, take out food, or unhealthy relationships.
Some of us have a handle on this whole adulting thing: balancing paying bills, cooking healthy food, working out, and having a social life in with a full-time job. Others of us struggle a bit more. Almost all of us have some level of chemical dependency, whether it a nagging coffee habit or full-blown functioning alcoholism. I won’t bore you with the statistics on millennials and prescription drug addiction, but it’s a bleak picture. For those in the medical field, compassion fatigue and depression are on the rise, and it starts while still in school. At home, some of us are lucky to be in functioning relationships. Others are already in broken marriages, or can’t make a relationship last longer than a few months. We are stuck between trying to figure out how to have it all, and realizing the demands of our work don’t allow for much dating time. (Props to anyone out there patiently dating and supporting a young professional—you’re doing good work!)
The world is a millennial’s oyster in that we grew up during the information age: we adapted quickly to the internet and cell phones, and used to our advantage and enjoyment. In general, our creativity and individuality is celebrated by modern culture, and many of us are fortunate to have employers who recognize our youth as an advantage. However, as millennials, we also have some serious problems, and they aren’t always what the older generations expect.
What Millennial Professionals Need
So what do these workaholic, stressed-out, coffee-addicted kids need?
First and foremost, we need Jesus. We need to rely on a strength that isn’t our own. We need to remember this world is temporary, and we need the eternity perspective. The millennials who are Christians need to remember that we are in our fields because the Lord placed us there. We are His representatives to our fellow scientists, doctors, and business partners.
But what we also need is the love and support of those who’ve walked this path before us. To those in the older generations, please remember to treat us as individuals with problems that can’t necessarily be summed up in trivial stereotypes. Please don’t believe what the media tells you about us. When you talk about millennials, please remember you aren’t just referring to the individuals struggling to find jobs who might still live at home, or the young entrepreneur who values creativity and ingenuity over stability. You’re also referring to doctors, lawyers, engineers, and social workers. You’re demeaning the young professionals who have sacrificed the better part of their 20s, sometimes sacrificing family, relationships, vacations, their very youth and health, to make a career and reach your definition of responsible.
Most of all, we just need your love. Please, just talk to us, love us, and pray for us.
Dr. Staci Spears is a recent graduate and current practitioner of veterinary medicine Metro-Detroit. She is currently in a veterinary internship where she works largely in emergency, but has special interests in veterinary ophthalmology and aquatic animal medicine. On her rare time off, she enjoys theatre and cinema, karaoke, horseback riding, and spending time with her border collie and cat. Her relationship with Jesus is the on thing that grounds her busy life. She would like thank her family for their support, and God’s ever-present grace for allowing her dreams to become a reality.