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Op-Eds

The millennial work ethic

If you think millennials are the "me" generation, you miss the point. We know there is more to life than work.

Dear Previous Employer,

You may think that you have gotten the best of me, but you have not. I am a millennial. You may think that you have put me in a bad spot, but you have not. I am a millennial. You may think that you can threaten me, but I am not afraid. I am a millennial.

I didn't write this letter on a program that I installed with a disc on my computer, I wrote it on the cloud. I didn't grow up hungry during the Great Depression, I grew up safe and comfortable. I didn't walk to school uphill both ways, I took a bus.

I was told from the time I was a baby that I was loved and special. Does this make me a worse person? No, it makes me strong and confident. And you may take my confidence for arrogance, but don't be confused. I am confident because I have been guided by the teachers, mentors and loved ones in my life. I have studied history, biology, chemistry, writing, algebra, theology, music and social sciences, and I am better for it. I have moved from my hometown to another state, and I am stronger for it. I have met hundreds of people different from myself, and I am wiser for it.

So, when you tell me I can't work from home; when you tell me I can't have more time off; when you tell me I'll only be allowed six weeks of unpaid maternity leave, I'll tell you good-bye. Because when I grew up, people told me I could be anything. They told me I didn't have to settle for "good enough." They told me that there are many opportunities out there, and if I leave a job, another job will be waiting for me where I can be better and stronger.

These are the reasons why I left your company. You view me as difficult, I say I am uncompromising. Maybe you think I am not dedicated because I prefer to go home to my family by 5 p.m. I say I put my family first. The world is changing — not slowly, but quickly.

We are the generation rising. And soon we will be the VPs, the CEOs. And you'll see a new kind of workplace, where family comes first. Because when you think millennials are the "me" generation, you miss the point. We know there is more to life than work. We know that family and friends, laughter and memories, matter so much more than working until you're dog tired.

And you may disagree. Of course you do. That's how you were raised. But this is how I was raised. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my life. I value the time I have away from work. I recognize that hard work will get me far in my career, but I understand the importance of balance and moderation that will lead to a happy life.

So think what you might about millennials. We are the optimistic future. While you ponder the good old days and tell me "that's what's wrong with the world today," I will continue to make the world better.

We are the voices you hear now. We were quiet at first, but we are growing louder, and soon you will hear us shouting from the tops of mountains. As millennials, we fight to make our world fair. We see injustice and we act. We have been raised to know that we matter; each life matters. We demand better care, better government, better education, better technology, better food and better working conditions. And you will fade and we will brighten as your generation did in your time. Now it is our time.

Watch me. I will rise to a new height. I am a millennial.

Erin Heilman, who lives in Columbia with her husband and hound dog, is a marketing specialist for a medical software company. Email: EACHeilman@gmail.com; Twitter: @ErinHeilman.

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