Monday, July 13, 2009

Gen Y's Undeserved Reputation

"Generation Y", the population of nearly 70 million 20-somethings born in the mid-1980's and later, the "Millennials" are the fasted growing segment of today's workforce. Yet, Gen-Y has somehow formed a terrible reputation for itself. Young people today are known for being arrogant, attention-craving, and entitled. How did this reputation form? I do not know. And I wish it were not so.

As a member of this "plugged-in", ambitious generation, I too was coddled by overprotective parents who wanted nothing more than for me to have a healthy, successful life without making the mistakes that they did in theirs, nor having to struggle as they did. Instead of getting a paper route at age 15, we were sent to summer camps and joined soccer teams and school orchestras and did volunteer work in our communities. Instead of starting our professional lives at age 15, we, as a generation, generally were not expected to think about a career until 18, when it was "time to go to college". My parent's generation was much more focused, as far as careers go, than mine; my grandparent's generation even more so. When graduation from high school came, and money was tight, families seriously considered the pros and cons of sending their child to college. If the kid didn't have a good idea of what they would use their college degree for after the fact, then the kid didn't go to college. They went to work. The purpose of a college degree was to prepare oneself for the working world.

What I'm finding out now is that college did not prepare me for the working world at all. When I entered the College of William and Mary as a freshman, I had no clue what I wanted to study when I got there, or what I wanted to do for a living after school. I didn't know who I was, really. College helped me to explore myself, and find out what I'm truly passionate about. As I was trying to decide on a major, adult mentors in my life gave me this advice: "Major in something you love. Don't worry about how you will use that in your profession. Most likely, you'll go on to grad school anyway, and you can focus on your career goals then. Don't waste this great opportunity to learn about something you're passionate about now." How I wish I did not take that advice.

Alas, I did. I became a philosophy major, or as I like to think, I got a degree in something that covers all bases. I learned to think deeply about a myriad of subjects. Since I was having such a hard time deciding on just one subject to focus on, philosophy allowed me to explore them all. I took classes in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, ethics. Philosophy professors and students engaged in discussions about current events, while we read great literature by brilliant minds such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, and Kant. I enjoyed it, mostly. And I consider myself a well-educated young adult, with a true appreciation for learning and profound thought.

My recent graduation from college and thus deposit into the vast world of job-seekers has proved rather difficult, without a professional background in my education. I'm not only lacking that experience, but I also lack professional work experience in my fields of interest. My personality, interests and passions do not point me in the direction of professing philosophy at a college or university, and my internship experiences while I was in college were at an investment bank. Although a great working experience and environment, in which I learned new skills and met fantastic and enthusiastic hard-working people, through that two-summer long internship, I also learned that I do not wish to pursue a career in investment banking.

So what now? It's a buyer's job market, and there are plenty of laid off workers who have years of experience, glowing recommendations from previous employers, and are willing to take jobs for which they are overqualified, just because those jobs are available. Employers are happy to have proven, experienced workers on their staff, working for entry-level salaries. They seem nervous about considering Gen-Y people for their open positions because of this reputation that the Gen-Ys have for needing constant attention and close watching over, and guidance, while feeling entitled to immediate professional respect, high salaries and paid vacations. If I really thought that all "Millennials" fit that description, I would understand their hesitation. But, as an active entry-level job-seeker in Generation Y, I am offended by this large-scale generalization.

Generation Ys have a lot to offer businesses. We understand our fellow Gen-Ys, who are fast becoming the largest target audience and buyers for the majority of businesses. We quickly adapt to new technologies, and are constantly looking for new solutions that make life easier, effective and more productive. We are confident and ambitious, achievement- and team-oriented. We are not beyond asking for help, and as far as I can tell, that and those listed above are good qualities to have.

Here's my plea for help: I wish more Generation X's would take on a role as mentors to young adults, share their experiences and sentiments, so as to increase understanding and communication between the generations, and to break down that "bad rap" of Y's in the minds of X's everywhere...

1 comment:

ICT said...

Very often, your cover letter will be the first thing that a recruiter looks at when he sits down to do that all-important first sift. It is your first opportunity to leave a lasting and favorable impression and as such it should work every bit as hard as your resume, if not more so, to convince him that you are the best match for the job. Remember, the employer is looking for a really outstanding candidate and if your cover letter is in any way sub-standard or does nothing to tempt him into reading your resume, then he will not waste any further time on your application.