My Two Cents on Generation Y

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

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3 Responses to My Two Cents on Generation Y

  1. I’m super lucky to have gotten a great job right out of college but I also think part of that was due to me learning on my own and getting experience before graduating (it’s the tech industry, which is a bit easier to learn on your own so I started when I was in middle school).

    That said, I’m 3 years into a well-paying job and I still have over $40K in student loans. It’s ridiculous. I’m LUCKY to have a job that allows me to pay this off but some of my friends aren’t in the same situation. They’ve gone through college and have jobs that barely cover their living expenses let alone their loans. My fiance was lucky to go through college without any loans due to her scholarship but now she almost has the same amount of loans for her masters degree. Her education, I think, was worth it because in her line of work it’s hard to get a well-paid job without a graduate degree. For me, I think I paid more for the experience and klout of my school than anything that contributed directly to me being a better technical worker.

    I’ve been involved with campus recruiting now so I see lots of students that came from my same school and are looking for jobs. I can easily say that my experience is not the norm… these guys and gals are looking for technical positions, graduating with business-technical degrees, and they just don’t have enough experience to even warrant most internships we offer. It makes it hard when another student with more relevant experience comes along because they have an upper hand.

    I think overall it’s hard to find work for everyone. My mom, who recently finished her masters degree, is still having a hard time nailing down a job. I don’t know if it’s specific to a certain generation or not, it seems like it’s an issue all over.

  2. April Marie Nattick says:

    Sorry, Folks, (That greeting is dated, which helps you realize that I was born in 1945). Yes, you have been lied to, the society you inherited is fraught with greed and you missed being taught the importance of values, common sense, how not to self- indulge, and that you succeed by doing any and all jobs well. Above all, you missed learning to be creative in all the aspects of life.

    the first doctor I had as an adult, took 21 years to get a 7-year university degree. He worked for 2 years, saved his money, and paid for 1 year of tuition. He repeatedly sold pots and pans , going door to door, every 2 years, then back to university for another year, and so on, until he graduated. He was married, had 2 kids, and his wife sold knitting to help with the bills. Later, when the children were older, she set up a business teaching knitting and sewing. As a Doctor, he also became a competitive wine-maker and won several awards!

    That’s just one example of how people succeeded! His children had learned how to cook and clean house as they were growing up, happy to get their annual Christmas gifts of a pair of shoes and socks. One grew up and became a chef and the other started a cleaning company.

    Their happiness came from everything they touched, because they cared and they were proud of every little achievement they had. It is important that you realize that you create happiness… It comes from inside you and you have to spend your time and energy to make it grow from within!

    Decide what you want to do and do it. You’ll find a way! Remember, if you are what you have and you lose what you have, who are you? (Someone wiser than I am, said that!)

    Smile at the mirror when you get up each day, and I’ll bet you get a smile back!

    April Marie

  3. Dave Fenwick says:

    Your college degree will change the long term direction of your career. The entry level job is so you can start figuring out how things work in the workplace. After a few years of experience, you’ll no longer be an entry level worker and you’ll actually pick up responsibility. College teaches that responsibility.

    From a purely GenY perspective, I’ll tell you straight up that one of my colleagues and I had nearly the identical conversation about GenX (which we’re members of) back in 1992. Every generation goes through the growing pains of trying to figure out where they fit. Every generation also has those few that feel a sense of entitlement once they get out of college. Personally I think society has managed to burn out GenY more than GenX with the academic expectations we’ve laid on them. The world still needs forklift drivers, and those drivers really don’t need to know calculus or understand Socratic philosophy. They need to know how to move a pile of lumber from point A to point B. Society has really messed that one up.

    I’m a pretty successful GenX software engineer and more than half of my personal friends are blue collar workers that make every bit as much money as I do. At the end of the day, I often envy the fact that when they leave work they see a pipe assembly completed or half of a house built and when I leave work I see code that I know is going to end up shelved in favor of something that only meets 50% of the requirements of the system. Over the years I’ve learned to live with that envy. Not because those people are more successful, richer, more competent, or even happier. I’ve learned to live with it because it’s the greater reality of life. The grass will always be greener somewhere else.

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