Recently, numerous people have been posting on Facebook and other forms of social media, a Huffington Post article about members of Generation Y being unhappy, and can be read here if you haven’t seen it yet. In addition to the Huffington Post article, a rebuttal article has also been getting some airtime via social media, and can be read here. I want to add my opinions to this discussion, and facilitate more dialog amongst people who are from Gen Y and from those who are not.
I myself find myself as part of Gen Y, born in 1990 to middle class parents, I was fed the dream that I could be whatever I wanted. My parents allowed me to pursue my dreams and passions, and made numerous opportunities available to me that I understand many other people did not have growing up due to financial constraints. I was able to attend college without taking out student loans, thanks to my parents planning, and going against the advice of their financial planner and enrolling my sister and I in the Texas Tomorrow Fund (a program which locked in college tuition prices, so that education was much more affordable). I was given all the resources possible, attended a top university, and graduated debt free. All of this combined allowed me to move to New York after graduation, without the fear of student loans looming over me, and go after my dreams of entering the fashion industry.
I have been lucky because I have been able to reach for my goals. However, when I first moved to New York, I had an unpaid internship and a part-time, low wage, job. My monthly income was not enough to pay the bills, let alone my rent (which is incredibly low for New York). I had to turn to my parents, to whom I am very grateful, to help me out. Once my internship was over, a position I had taken to build up my resume, I began looking for a full-time job. I submitted countless applications, and regularly went on interviews. It became frustrating, having well-known companies call you in for an interview, only to be told that they had decided to go with another candidate. Clearly I was a competent and capable person for the job, but because of the economy, people with more experience were taking these entry-level jobs. This process finally came to an end after 5 months of applications and interviews.
I was hired for an entry-level position, the type of job I knew I would get. What I did not know, was that you probably do not need a college education for an entry-level position. This would have been useful to know, not because it would have deterred me from getting a college education, but rather because it would have helped my sanity. I know that in the long run, my education will open other opportunities to me. I also know that without my degree, I would not have gotten the position I currently have. But the truth of the matter is that someone with a high-school education could do the job that I am doing. I assume this is true for many other recent college graduates, and assume that they are feeling the same way.
I don’t think people give Gen Y enough credit. We understand that it takes hard work before you are able to grow your career. We understand that those of us who have a job should feel lucky, in this economy finding a full-time job is very difficult. What we do not understand, is why we work hard for years earning a degree, spend thousand of dollars to earn said degree, only to end up in a position that someone with a high school diploma, and some common sense could do. We don’t understand why we are expected to pay back thousands of dollars in student loans right after college, when our entry-level positions barely pay enough to live comfortably without loans looming over our head.
People say that Gen Y is whiny, but I don’t find this to be the case. We simply are not satisfied with our reality, because we were told to expect too much. I will admit that we are a generation of dreamers, we grew up seeing our parents being more successful than their parents and expect the same to be true for us. Truth be told, this still may be the case, and it is only because we are so young that we haven’t achieved our greatness yet. I think there needs to be an open and honest discussion about what no one is talking about. For most people, your first job right out of college is going to suck. You aren’t going to be paid enough, and the work will be boring and mind-dulling. Eventually, I at least hope eventually because I have not yet reached this state, you will be able to have a job that challenges you, and that you are really able to put your skills to work.
We also need to have an open conversation about student debt in this country. As I stated earlier, I was able to graduate without any, and for this reason I was able to move to New York after college. However I cannot imagine living here, trying to pay back my student loans, especially when my sole source of income was a part-time job. I am not suggesting that all student debt be forgiven, but rather that there be a grace period before people have to pay back their loans, so that they have time to grow their careers and have enough money to pay back their debts. We also need to look at the cost of an education, and how we can lower this necessity.
Once we are able to have an open discussion about the challenges Generation Y is having, we will be able to come up with solutions to these problems. I think it is important that we stop sugar-coating things and deal with reality and facts. Gen Y deserves the truth, and we haven’t always gotten it. This problem isn’t going to be fixed overnight, and is going to take more than just Gen Y’s effort. These challenges are not impossible to fix, but will take time and a conscious effort from every generation.
Are you a member of Gen Y? What are your opinions on the predicament we are currently in? If you are a member of another Generation, how did your career progress? What advice would you give to Gen Y? Leave your comments below or tweet @rileytoliver