Among my many magazines read yesterday in transit was Macleans, and this piece on how the current economic crisis is facing my generation, or Generation Y, or Net Gen or the Millennials, or whatever you want to call us. The piece, entitled “Dude, Where’s My Job?,” essentially asks the question: What happens when the most entitled generation ever hits a recession?
Says Lianne George, who wrote the piece:
It was only 18 months ago that the Wall Street Journal ran an article outlining the lavish demands of a new generation of workers, known collectively as Gen Y. At the time, the thinking was that this group—ages 30 and under—had employers over a barrel. For one thing, there were relatively few of them, and employers, facing an imminent wave of boomer retirements, would be competing for the best of this young cohort. Also, since this is the Internet generation, they were believed to possess magical and mysterious tech skills that would prove invaluable in the workplace of the future.
Emboldened by these dual advantages, Millennials set their expectations high. Not only did they want fun, fulfilling work, with flexible hours, good salaries, and ample vacation, they wanted to be celebrated, too. Literally, feted. Savvy employers had taken to embracing measures like prize packages for a job well done, “public displays of appreciation,” and, in the case of one manufacturer in Texas, retaining a “celebration assistant” in charge of helium balloons and confetti. This was smart business, according to 30-year-old Jason Ryan Dorsey, a self-appointed Gen Y expert—who consults with companies like Kraft and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts about the peculiarities and preferences of his generation. “Marking milestones is major,” he told Forbes magazine. “No birthday should go uncelebrated, and the first day on the job should be unforgettable.” Which is great, except for one thing: what happens when the most entitled generation in history slams into the worst job market in 30 years?
I’ve been wondering the same thing.
I harbour a bit of resentment towards George’s generalization of my generation. Socio-economic background, of which mine hovers somewhere between working class and middle class, plays a huge role in someone’s expectations for adulthood, no matter your generation. She refrains from noting she’s speaking about a specific class of Gen-Yers.
However, I see her point, and I’m not entirely guilt free. Born between 1978 and 2000 (ish), we have enjoyed the lazy pleasures of internet-quick-and-easy information since we were at least teenagers, and parents, trying to distinguish themselves from their own parents, who have told us how special we were from day one. We’ve seen ourselves reflected in ads, in more film and television than any generation before us, and have been handed credit card applications since we were way to young to deserve or understand them (as George notes, the message to us has been: If we want it, we should have it… She also notes we have more debt that any generation that came before us, a reality I’m just coming to terms with now).
I went to undergrad between 2002 and 2006, at a very privileged university full of the stereotypes George describes. And I’ll admit it rubbed off on me a bit. I left the school under the impression that my generation was the luckiest ever, about to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and en route to taking over the world. That ambition has driven me ever since. But now, I’m watching as many of my contemporaries are losing their jobs, or finding it completely impossible to find one. In Canada, 27% of the 71,000 jobs lost last November belonged to people under the age of 25.
And I’ve thought to myself, maybe its for the best… Its humbling us all very quickly, and giving us a small taste of disadvantage and hardship that perhaps, once this recession relieves itself, will make us all better people (and better workers) because of it.