I’m a millennial. There. I said it.
What do you think of when you hear the word millennial? In today’s world, that M word can carry a negative connotation. It makes a lot of us work as hard as we can to prove that negative connotation shouldn’t apply to us. And if you aren’t a millennial, learning that someone is might immediately influence your perception of that person.
Growing up as a millennial and being stamped with that label wasn’t something I was ever proud of. I definitely fell into the “work as hard as we can to prove the negative connotation shouldn’t apply” group. And I am sure many other millennials felt this way, as well.
You see, I come from a small town in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York (actually, it’s the most beautiful place on earth, and if you haven’t been to the Finger Lakes, you should go). In this small town, I grew up in a middle-class family with both parents and two older siblings. My parents worked hard for everything they had and everything they provided for us. They made sure that we had every opportunity to do whatever we wanted with our lives. I didn’t know it at the time, but they taught me work ethic, grit, appreciation and the value of a dollar. So, I never really felt like the millennial label applied to me—because, to me, being called a millennial was a bad thing.
Stepping Into the Real World
It wasn’t until I was about a year into the workforce (the real world, as they say) that I truly understood the negative connotation that comes with the word millennial.
So, there I was, a college grad with tons of working experience from internships, sales positions, marketing jobs and more with no idea what I wanted to do. This scared me, but it did not deter me. I was set on landing a job that would not only pay the bills but also allow me to save money and live the life I dreamed of. The pressure of graduating, getting your dream job, making a ton of money, buying a house and traveling is real. Even more so today with social media.
I landed a job with an awesome startup company in Syracuse, NY. I didn’t know it at the time, but being the seventeenth employee at a startup on a trajectory to double in size every year meant that I could grow with the company and have a very long, successful career path. So, what did I do?
I sat in a room full of my peers, the CEOs and everyone in between and announced that I thought I should be making more money—that I was worth more. I was turned down, and I look back on that day and wish I could take it back. How many of those people thought I was acting entitled for being bold and asking for what I felt I was worth? Was I embodying that negative connotation of millennial that I worked so hard to prove wrong?
Quite frankly, I look back on that moment in my career and squirm in my seat. Plenty of people ask for raises because they feel they’re worth more—and plenty of people get them. But because I was a millennial, I ran the risk of being called entitled—and I hated that anyone would think that of me.
Time to Self-Evaluate and Make a Change
After that day, I thought to myself—who was I? Who had I turned into? Was I entitled? Don’t get me wrong. I knew I had a strong work ethic, I came in early and stayed late. I went above and beyond in my role. So, what was my worth? Should I have been making more money? Honestly, I couldn’t answer those questions then, and I still can’t today. What I can say is this: after I got over the embarrassment and humiliation of that day, I really started to focus on a few things:
- What was I worth and how is that determined?
- How do I get to where I want to be in my life, financially and personally?
- What was in my control and what wasn’t? What should I be focused on to be successful?
The first step for me was making a change. I knew what I was doing wasn’t working, it wasn’t what I wanted and, most importantly, it wasn’t me. I had never been entitled to anything. Like I said, I worked hard for everything I had, just as my parents taught me.
Joining Townsquare Interactive and Looking Back
That’s how I ended up in Charlotte. I needed to make a change in my life that would force me out of my comfort zone and put me in a position to earn my success. I was grateful to find the opportunity here at Townsquare Interactive. I was hired in June 2013, about nine months after Townsquare Interactive opened its doors. I loved the startup environment that was similar to my job in Syracuse, and I felt like I would be doing something I was passionate about and be able to start building the foundation for my career.
I can look back now and see how I’ve grown and changed my mindset in the time between my first job and my job with Townsquare Interactive. One of the hardest lessons I learned as a young adult is the importance of finding people who value your work, whether you’re a millennial or not.
Proud to Be a Millennial
Today, I still call myself a millennial, and I am proud to do so. As a millennial, I am someone that is ambitious, collaborative, inclusive and independent. I might have had missteps along my journey (this certainly isn’t the only one), and I am sure there will be more.
So, I think of myself as not only a millennial, but also as an employee, a coworker, a friend and a boss.
I have experienced growth in my career at Townsquare Interactive, and I am very thankful for the opportunities that I have had; however, I am also grateful that I was able to go through situations that tested my morals, my work ethic and my drive. I am better today because of it.
If you can learn anything from my experience, I would hope that it’s something along the lines of: be comfortable with making mistakes—you don’t know it all now, and you never will. Success, money and job title are things that will come with time. The most valuable thing that you can have is experience. Without experience, you aren’t able to prove your worth or earn respect.
Finally, make sure you focus on what is in your control: your work ethic, your passion and your attitude. We only have so much time and energy as individuals, so make sure you use it wisely.
About the Author | Katlin Botsford
Katlin is from a small town in upstate New York—which she will argue is one of the best places to vacation in the summer. She worked in search engine optimization at a small startup after graduating from Le Moyne College with a degree in business administration and a concentration in marketing. While summers in upstate NY are amazing, the winters are cold and snowy—so Katlin moved to Charlotte, NC. Shortly after moving, she joined Townsquare Interactive and has since forged her way up her career path to become Director of Client Success.
Katlin enjoys spending time with her family and friends, doting on her niece and nephews and pretending she can decorate like Joanna Gaines.