Author / business / generations

“Gen-Y Attitude” – Work

Gen-Y’s have been struggling to find jobs. Many of us went to university to pursue our passion only to find that there were no jobs in our field or they wouldn’t pay what we thought they would. Even if there were jobs, the competition was far more intense than we expected and we were filtered out by the smallest of margins. In combination with school debt, it is not surprising that many of us ended back up in our childhood homes, hoping our dreams would come true. Some call us whiny, entitled, or self-important, but is that really the case? Are we really lazy people hoping for a magical door to open? In this article I examine if these titles are deserved and how we really feel about work. 

We were raised by Boomers, who as I discussed in A History of Boomers, had to initially give up on their initial dreams, hope to find a job, stuck it out for years, and now fall into three categories: retired, still hired, or running their own business, ranging from consulting part-time to running multiple franchises. They wanted to give their children a life they couldn’t have, encouraging them to follow their dreams.

Harvard Business Review showed the phrase “follow your passion” rarely appeared in any printed material before 1990 (when we were in our informative teen years) and suggested that millennials are the first generation to be raised with an attitude that doing anything less than your dream job is a failure. We all chose our undergrad degrees based on what we were passionate about, not always being 100% sure what jobs existed or what lifestyle it would bring. We took the path that we were told would lead to careers. Unfortunately, what we were told did not match what existed.

StatsCanada reports one in four millennials with a university degree are employed full-time in jobs that do not require that level of education. This number increases to 1 in 3 for those between 25 and 29, many of whom have returned for post-undergrad education to try and get an edge. The problem with that plan is that everyone else is doing the same, schools are opening their doors, and the flooded market has stagnated salaries (Yahoo!Finance). Much like the high school diploma and bachelor degrees in previous decades, the post-graduate degree alone is no longer enough of differentiation to ensure you the dream job or salary…let alone support a family. Demand means revenue and between the decreasing entrance grades, restrictions on failure rates, and introduction of B-level schools, prestigious degrees are no longer a sign of being the creme de la creme due to sheer numbers. The National Post released a great article commenting on the “qualification inflation”. I’m just like a large percentage of my fellow MBA grads, getting a degree to get us a job that we hope will turn into a career in a salary range that will below what we were told we would get…at least to start.

Carrying $28,000 in debt on average and with increasing housing prices, we are understandably disappointed with the outcome. Our younger Gen-Y siblings are hesitating before charging into university, considering trades and internships. If we are not able to achieve our dream, we hop jobs until we find one that is a close second. This process has been a rocky one with the recession and many of us have moved back in with our parents out of necessity. The cost of living has also increased while the starting salaries associated with higher levels of education have stayed relatively steady. “Families of the Baby Boom generation could once achieve a middle-class status on the earnings of one high school educated person, it now takes two college-educated earners to achieve the same standard of living.” (Psychology Today). This makes it difficult for us to branch off on our own.

Some say we are “lazy and entitled”, expecting jobs to just magically appear. I think this represents a small minority much like there is always a small percentage who live their dream in it’s entirety. While we may complain, I would argue the older Gen-Y’s like myself have accepted that, at least for now, we need to find a job we enjoy enough to start our careers and get experience. After all, we can always start our own companies later in life like the late Boomers are doing now. Younger Gen-Y’s are starting down this path as well, although they may also stick to part-time jobs to fund their lifestyle or passions. In either case, we want to enjoy our work as we have watched our parents and we need to enjoy what we are doing to put in that type of effort.

Is this entitled? Perhaps it is, but remember that we were raised by Boomer parents who gave us everything we wanted and by a society that promoted higher education as the path to a successful life. It’s hard to appreciate how privileged we have been when we are facing uncertain futures that, while we are starting to accept, are not how we envisioned it. Once we find a position and company we enjoy, we throw ourselves into it with passion and energy that, along with our tech savvy ways, allow us to complete our tasks fast enough to not have to spend as much time at work.

It’s been tough, but interviews with Gen-Y’s show that they are optimistic that things will work out and are willing to put in the effort to enjoy what we do. We might not define our lives by our title, but we want to take pride in our work. We share a lot in common with Boomers, both having a rough start to our working life and expressing our displeasure of the circumstances in our own ways. Boomers had to protest to discover that their own needs and desires were paramount. In fact, a Time Magazine article from 1967, they described young Boomers as “dangerously deluded dropouts, candidates for a very sound spanking and a cram course in civics” (Psychology Today). Like them, we are accepting we might have to give up on some of our ideals and dreams to accept what we have and be happy we have it, although we are willing to spend more time hunting for it as we have the ability to do so.

Several articles I read emphasize the importance of looking at the individual, not the generation. Much like Boomers, Gen-Y is spread over a 20-year period and we see very different personalities between older and younger Gen-Y’s as I have tried to highlight a bit above. Lets focus on finding jobs that we enjoy so that we can show that we are outgrowing our “entitled” label and are ready to get to work.

2 thoughts on ““Gen-Y Attitude” – Work

    • Great article! May I be so bold as to say you meant “and” not “but”? I fully agree, if you are passionate about working in third-world countries, there are amazing opportunities out there and with some elbow grease you can live your dream. Sadly, many of us (myself included) do not want to follow that path and find ourselves in today’s highly competitive market.

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