Dear Interns,

Your generation has faced a large measure of scrutiny over what older generations perceive as a pervasive entitlement and insatiable need to be recognized among you. Social media erupted recently as a result of a war of words between millennial accusers versus millennial defenders. Of particular note among the voices for the defense were well articulated arguments centered on the state of the economy, unemployment rates, debt load, and the inherent shortcomings of broad-stroke stereotypes. However, there was also a thread of defensiveness and justifications as if there was a recognition of slight truth in the accuser’s arguments because of extraordinary circumstances, unfulfilled promises of opportunity and the natural byproduct… dashed expectations. My point here is not to evaluate the relative merits of either side of the disagreement. My intent is to encourage you to avoid the argument altogether by seeing it as a rare opportunity to flourish because of the criticism. Did you catch that? Because of the criticism.

As with most things in life, words alone rarely win over people’s hearts. The war of words over the state of millennials’ relative worth in the workforce won’t be won through argument. It will be won through an intentional and consistent proof of your worth through the diligence of your efforts. Think about our culture and the identifiers you have been tied to: social media attention spans, technology enabled instant gratification, low levels of engagement and loyalty as an employee, complacency and an overall lack of work ethic. These are stereotypes, to be sure, but stereotypes (true or not) are real perceptions and most folks live up to or down to what is expected of them. What isn’t expected of you is old-fashioned, careful and persistent effort. While trends ebb and flow, diligence never loses its value because it is a key factor in the establishment of trust. And in the fake plastic world of digital interaction, authentic human character is gold among a panorama of slag.

In general, there are fewer job opportunities available to you right now. It’s an employers’ market for finding and hiring young talent. So we, as employers, can be more selective by choice. But out of necessity, we need to be more selective as well because the economy has slowed to a more sustainable level of growth and that means that we cannot conceal our hiring mistakes with surplus profit. Being lean and sustainable necessitates identifying and selecting just the right people. For ipsoCreative, and for many other employers who cherish humans and long term sustainability, the value of character traits such as diligence can’t be overstated. We simply can’t afford to serve alongside humans with low grade character who work down to subpar expectations or who give up because the challenge of thriving among difficult economic conditions is too great. These current employment conditions have provided you with an opportunity to prove your mettle. If it were easy, everyone would be flourishing. Simply put, the assiduity with which you work is your opportunity to flourish and may even be an eventual path toward silencing your generation’s critics. Diligence is a matter of character and time always reveals that beauty.