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As one of two people under the age of 40 at my workplace this summer, I find I am most impressive to some of my coworkers because I can type at a speed faster than 40 words per minute. In fact, it seems that our whole generation of 18- to 29-year-olds is fascinating to the older set simply because we thrive on digital technology. We’re experts on social networking and unresponsive iPods. We might as well have buttons on our forearms that make us recite entries from Wikipedia.

But Millennial workers like us aren’t satisfied with merely their own proficiency with technology. We might love our laptops, but we certainly don’t love staring at Excel spreadsheets or slapping data on cookie-cutter slideshows. And employers have taken notice, via a recent proliferation of books, articles and presentations educating them on the inner workings of our ambitious minds and explaining away the annoying sense of entitlement found in some of their employees.

In “Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce,” authors Chip Espinoza, Mick Ukleja and Craig Rusch seem to take the words right out of our mouths: “They work to live — not live to work. It does not mean that they are lazy. It does not mean that they do not want to work. They want work that is meaningful.”

It’s true, we’re always searching for the meaningful. Just look at our community service record. We’re not content with just being students, poring over labs and churning out papers. As Civic House Director David Grossman wrote email, nearly one-third of Penn undergraduates are currently involved in ongoing civic engagement activities, in accordance with the generational upward trend over the past twenty years.

However, the realities of the Great Recession aren’t working in our favor, and our hunger for self-realization has often been criticized as cockiness and laziness. The recent New York Times article, “American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation,” highlighted 24-year-old Scott Nicholson, who has been living off his parents and grandparents upon graduation and has remained unemployed for the past two years. The most scoff-worthy point of the article: he turned down a $40,000 salary with an insurance company because of his aspirations to get a high-paying corporate offer instead.

The same lofty dreams of other young American adults has contributed to the 23 percent who are not seeking employment at all, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But with a record 5.5 percent unemployment rate for even those who are college-educated, do we still have the luxury to pursue the jobs we deem meaningful to us?

From what Career Services Senior Associate Director Kelly Cleary has observed, some of those “boomerang” graduates in Scott’s situation do.

“For many students, moving back home means they can pursue a job or post-grad internship in a field that they are genuinely interested in but may have lower starting salaries such as a service gap year or entry-level positions with non-profits, or even private sector industries like public relations or advertising,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Those who don’t feel comfortable depending on their parents take the first opportunity out of the situation, be it temporary work or a job in a non-preferred industry, Cleary added. Oh, the horror, says the “follow your dreams” mentality in us. Aren’t these jobs going to be meaningless? Not if you consider the experience, and more importantly, the insight it will add.

As much as our employers try to understand us, we have to understand that we can’t always be engaged. We can’t always be put to tasks that are meaningful to us. It’s up to us, the notoriously innovative and optimistic Millennials, to make the most of every internship and job. In this economy, who knows where our next keystroke will take us?

Sarah Ryu is a rising College junior from Duluth, Ga. who currently lives in Harrington Park, N.J. Her e-mail address is

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