My generation, Generation Y, is struggling to find their careers. We are the 1980s to the early 2000s babies. When my mother and father were my age (which is 25, but please don’t tell too many people) they were married, had a beautiful home, my father had a good job, and my mother was taking care of two balls of energy (my brother and I). They had their life in order. I think I can count on my hand the people I know my age that are in their field of choice, are financially stable, settled, and sense that they are fulfilling their goals and/or life purpose. What is going on with my generation?
I wish I knew the answer. Generation Y has grown up alongside of the technological boom. We have been witnesses as cellphones went from being carried around in boxes, to very large bricks, to flip phones, to smart phones that can do just about anything your computer to do. In fact, we remember when computers were enormous and would take ages to connect to the internet using a dial tone. We remember AOL’s “you’ve got mail”, the popularly used AOL instant messaging, and Myspace. With all the technology advances we have been able to learn alongside each gadget and update our devices as the years went by. We are the connected generation. We watched it all happen.
When I go out to dinner with my friends, all phones are laid out on the table. It’s the 21st century version of the wild west. Our weapon of choice is laid on the table, ready to draw and fiddle with in case of a drastic life threatening emergency. (ie Boyfriend/Girlfriend: Can we watch Game of Thrones when you get home?) It’s depressing and a habit I hate, but also find trouble breaking it myself. Cell phone checking has the same effects as a yawn – when one person awakens their phone to see what’s new in the wireless world, all people present follow suit and check their phones as well. It’s the reflex. Why come to dinner at all? Though we have access to so many channels, messages, and tools we have trouble staying present and focused on the nowness of now. Our whole generation should probably be deemed Generation ADD not Y.
There are positives and negatives to being so knowledgeable when it comes to our high-tech gadgets. We get answers quickly. When we have a question, we instantly Google it to find out what the answer is. We are fast and most of us tend to work quickly. We are excellent multi-taskers. I found myself watching TV, looking at my homework on my iPad and checking my text messages on my cell the other night. How many gadgets does a person need? Can’t be good for your brain. We don’t appreciate everything that is going on around us in the present. We need to snap that picture in order to share it, or check in so others know the cool place we are at. (Guilty.)
We were taught by the boomer generation. We were taught to “explore your interests”, “do what you want to do”, “be happy with your job”, “it’s ok to change career paths a few times”. We weren’t told exactly how to do all this and I don’t recall being told that the job market was going to be abysmal while I was trying to “explore my career path.” I once read our generation is high performing, but high maintenance and because of the way we were raised that is probably true. It’s very difficult and rare to be able to start from the bottom and work your way up in a company. It is actually a good thing to work at different places and gather a vast variety of skills, but hard to market it to perspective employers. We want to join organizations at awesome salaries, with good benefits, and inspire change. We don’t want to be parts of a large assembly line, we want to be unique and valued in our work environment. Organizations are being told they need to adapt to our generations way of approaching communication. Reynolds, Campbell, and Geist (2008), stress in their Communication World article “The Generation Y Imperative” that organizations must evolve and adapt to our work ethic and communication channels in order to “recruit and retain new talent.”
Though I’m still not seeing organizations value the Generation Y skill set. Jobs I come across want 5-7 years of experience in the position you are wishing to fill. I have been working since the age of 14 and am quite certain that I’ve learned enough to take on most positions. It’s a different feat all together to try and prove that to an employer. And I easily would, if they would just sit down and interview me. The internet has allowed for employers to cipher through a million applicants without giving some a second glance.
If jobs that are out there don’t fit our ideals, we’ve been told that we can carve our own paths and/or start our own businesses. We are confident, but that could also hurt us. That leaves us struggling to find our calling while struggling to pay rent. Some have nicknamed us the “Peter Pan” generation, since most of us found ourselves back at home after college. So many people I know are living at home, or are still accepting “allowances” or helpful handouts from their parents. The jobs available to us are not paying enough to sustain our lifestyles. But maybe our lifestyles with our fancy gadgets, eating out, traveling, and extra expenditures is a little too extravagant for our modest pay checks. Here is where we encounter another big issue: Facebook and other social media channels keep us comparing our life with others.
We see Janey Blue just took a trip to Jamaica and we think to ourselves, “Well why can’t I travel to Jamaica too?”, “Darn here comes the Spring time with all the beautiful proposals, am I ever going to get married?”, “Christina Lee is starting her own business. If she can do it I can do it.” or “Bobby just bought a house! What am I doing with my life?” We are constantly comparing, longing and begrudging someone else of their own successes or happy moments because we want those for ourselves. This is of course silly. Our newsfeed is only providing us with the highlights that are choosing to be shared online by a handful of people. We might have a plethora of our own happy moments that other people would long to have that we simply can’t see or acknowledge because they don’t show up on our newsfeed. We have got to engage in our own lives and take pride in the work that we are doing now.
We might not have what others have, but gosh, most of us are living a pretty wonderful life. I think we all need to see this as an adventurous part of our lives. We are figuring things out, pioneering on our own, and paving the road for the next generation. Do we really want to have our lives all figured out already? Where is the excitement in that! I write this for myself as well because I constantly find myself stressing about my big next step. We are putting the world together for ourselves and we are blessed with the ability and opportunity to pick and choose. Yes, the job market is difficult, but the boomers will be phasing out into retirement soon and then it will be our turn.
So Generation Y… we’ve been told “Y not?” growing up so let’s keep using the “Y not?” mentality to do great things in our life times. Why not ignore our phones and talk to our friends? Why not find the cure for cancer? Why not fly to space? Why not start our own company that empowers children? Why not legalize gay marriage? Why not volunteer in our free time? Why not enjoy where you’re at and what you’re doing now? We only get one life so we might as well enjoy life now and keep pushing ourselves and others forward.