The Toronto Star’s front page was all about Generation Y this past Saturday with the playfully titled “Generation Why Me?”
Basically, it’s about how everyone in their 20s is screwed.
First, we meet Angelika and Lucasz:
Angelika, 26, was full time on the door line at Chrysler, where her parents still work. Lucasz, 27, made moulds as a machine operator, a skill he learned from his father, who still works in the trade.
They were planning to have children. Then, in March 2008, Angelika was laid off. Lucasz lost his job a month later. That set off a chain of events that still has not ended.
Those circumstances suck, sure – though I question whether someone who worked for Chrysler has the right to be at all surprised that he or she lost her job — but are kind of typical for a recession. These are the kind of things we need to look out for.
In fact, if I were to make like every other blogger and write a big list of RECESSION-BUSTING TIPS they’d really be little more than:
- Don’t buy things you can’t afford
- Don’t buy a house unless you’ve done some research and can afford it
- Especially don’t buy a house in a new development in a suburb, you moron — it will be worth nothing exactly five minutes after you move in
- Do everything you can to make yourself irreplaceable at your workplace
- Seriously, you want to have kids? Right now? You’re young! Why don’t you wait a few years?
It’s not complicated. If you’ve come into things with only student debt – without a house, kids, two cars, a boat, a buddy in Nigeria you’re helping secure a family fortune, etc. — you’re likely going to be able to ride this out.
After the section on Angelika and Lucasz, however, the article takes an interesting detour:
It crashed down for Huda Assaqqaf, 24, too.
Assaqqaf believed university would bring a stable career. Armed with a food and nutrition degree from Ryerson, she embarked on a job search in 2007 that has yielded nothing but frustration and contract jobs, none of them in her field.
She now works part-time for Access Apartments, co-ordinating personal support workers for people with physical disabilities. “For an office job, it’s not very bad.”
Now, without reading too much into this, am I crazy or does that actually sound like a pretty good job for a 24-year-old to have?
The article disagrees, saying that “this is not what was promised … Generation Y grew up being told that if they were willing to work and study hard they could have it all: well-paying, fulfilling jobs that provided all the comforts.”
This, I guess, is the entitlement thing we as a generation always get charged with. Critics say that we’re whiny and that we expect too much.
But that’s both a simplification and a generalization – it implies there’s some kind of personality defect that’s infected everybody in their 20s, making them ultra demanding and particular when it comes to their career.
For those who truly fit into the ‘entitlement’ mold and get all grumpy that they’re not working their dream job five minutes after graduation, I have little sympathy. First, you went to university, not a vocational school – you were meant to develop broad thinking skills, not on-the-job training. Second, would you really be so contented with such a linear life? Where’s your sense of possibility? Where’s your sense of adventure?
Reading between the lines of the article in The Star reveals something else, however – something that I think is more interesting and, indeed, more universal: the Generation Ys coming out of post-secondary right now are products of a machine that doesn’t quite work right.
It’s not that Generation Ys feel entitled to great jobs right out-of-the-gate, it’s that they are told – often and repeatedly and with great vigor – that they ARE entitled to great jobs. Because they’re getting this credential – this degree, this diploma, this golden ticket – they’re set for life. Our educational institutions like to believe they’re like factories: pumping out smart, professional kids, ready to jump right into employment.
Schools have been foisting this on students – and their parents – for years, and it’s only now that it’s catching up to reality.
And, honestly, that’s a good thing. Credentialism is a dangerous idea. Sure, lazy hiring managers love it, but inevitably it leads to empty suits with MBAs getting CEO positions at failing companies while drop-outs run successful businesses like Microsoft and Apple. It’s a sad and boring world where degrees and diplomas are valued more than skills and performance; let’s try not to live in it.
So what about the twenty-somethings in the article? Some of them are facing some crappy luck. Others, seemingly, are doing pretty well for their first job right out of university. Jobs that don’t directly relate to our field-of-interest, contract work, internships, volunteer positions, depressing stints at retail: these are all valuable things that can add to your skillset and bring you closer to your goal.
Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re doing badly because you’re not a homeowner with kids and a steady union job by the time you’re 30 – that’s not the world we live in, and no one should make you feel entitled to that.