Poor Gen Y, now you get a taste of what Gen X dealt with in our 20s!

April 29, 2010

The recession is over. Haven’t you heard? The media are sure now that we’re all back to prosperity and we’re out of the woods now. The only wrinkle is that the jobs don’t seem to have returned. And according to an article I read in Macleans Magazine this week (ok, the article ran a few weeks ago, but I’m that far behind on my magazine reading. It’s been a busy month!), the poor Millenials, aka Generation Y, are getting the worst of it.

Silly me, I thought those hit the worst were the out-of-work middle agers who lost their secure jobs when they most needed to pay the mortgage, daycare bills and feed their families. But nope, I was wrong. It’s the poor university grad who has to take on some crap job that they are overqualified for because the perfect work experience isn’t dropping into their laps. And I quote:

When Amanda, who asked that Maclean’s not use her last name, got her undergraduate degree in math last June, she wanted to get a job as an analyst. But after four months of unemployment, she took an entry-level position at a Toronto IT firm. While her friends who graduated with similar credentials just a few years earlier started out making about $40,000, she’s earning $30,000.

In fact, most young people entering the job market now are making less than peers who found jobs two or three years ago.

Aww, poor babies. But it sounds a lot like how my entire generation felt coming on the heels of the baby boomer generation. And I think we had it worse, because this recession is just a set back for Gen Y, not a permanent state of affairs like the ones I lived through. I quote again:

Whereas the recession in the early ’80s replaced full-time jobs with part-time jobs, and the one in the ’90s replaced traditional employment with self-employment, this downturn seems to be replacing permanent jobs with temporary jobs.

Um, sorry, but that was exactly what happened to my generation when we left school. There were almost no career jobs. We were all underemployed. And permanent jobs were out of the question. We were lucky to find temporary or contract work. Heck, I built a career out of temporary and contract work..

Why is it tragic that these over-coddled kids have to work their way up and into a career? We did it and most of us are just fine. And back in my day, living with my parents past my early 20s was entirely unthinkable. I worked as a secretary, copy writer, whatever it took, while paying rent and buying food all by myself. Why can’t they do the same?

Post-script: I just re-read this and I think I’m maybe too hard on Gen Y. It’s not their fault the demographics worked in their favour, giving them, up until this recession, anything they wanted in the work world. It’s their parents’ fault. 🙂


Generation X can take care of themselves, but Gen Y thinks they are so special, it’s okay to be taken care of

March 7, 2010

A new study released recently in the U.S. illustrates just how special Generation Y, or the millennials, really think they are. And yes, I am a bitter Generation X-er, but I normally save my contempt for the baby boomers. This study may show the optimism — in the face of a bad economy — by the current bunch of 20-somethings, but I can’t help being reminded of how coddled their generation was by their boomer parents.

The “Generation Next” study, released February 24 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, says 18-to-29-year-olds — “millennials” — remain optimistic, despite a job-killing recession, two wars and the threat of terrorism.

According to the study, while Generation X says, ‘I can take care of myself,’ millennials have no problem with shelter. They say, ‘I get it, I’m special. You want to shelter me.’

I am again reminded of an episode of American Idol, where a girl was auditioning, and not very well. The judges told her to stop, that she couldn’t sing well and should give up any hope of a singing career. She exited the room and told the camera that the judges were stupid. She knew she was terrific, she knew she could sing, and nothing they say could change her mind.

And why should it? Her parents likely told her for her entire life how special she was. Building children’s self esteem was what boomer parents were all about. My parents, and now in turn me to my kids, taught me that I can be great, if I work at it. That failure is a part of life, and it teaches you how to better yourself.

I worked my way through university, I paid my own rent as a young adult, and I made decisions for myself. I want my kids to do the same, and not just because I am too cheap to pay for their university, although I probably am. All that taught me how to stand on my own two feet, a key skill in this century.

It’s the same in the workplace. I don’t expect an employer to take care of my future — I have to do that myself. I have RRSPs, not a company pension. I pay my own way for professional development, and take advantage of every opportunity to build my skills and expertise. My dad worked for the same company his entire career. I’ve moved around so much it’s hard to list every employer or client I’ve had. This is the modern workplace, and if Gen Y expects to be sheltered, will they be able to succeed in the same way Gen X might?

And whither Generation Z, as my kids’ generation will likely get named? Will they learn self-sufficiency, or will the boomer hangover make them also reliant on shelter from above?

Are my kids Generation Z?

July 27, 2009

I read Douglas Copeland‘s novel Generation X when I was in my 20s, and it really put a fine point on all the angst, anger and alienation I’d been feeling my whole life living in the shadow of the boomers. It defined my generation for me, and gave me such clarity about my life.

Now that I’m a middle aged, parenting Gen Xer, I observe subsequent generations with a more detached view. I know now that not everyone is defined as easily as I felt Generation X defined me. Still,  I do find generational definitions have some merit. Like the way Generation Y is defined as having strong egos and an endless supply of self-esteem.

My favourite example of this was an episode of American Idol (which someone of course pointed me to on youtube back when) when a really bad singer had her tryout on one of the early episodes. The judges told her she couldn’t carry a tune and should stop trying to force her singing on anyone. She left the room head held high and told the camera “I don’t care what they say. My parents always encouraged me to believe in myself. I know I’m good” or something to that effect. Gen Y grew up with their boomer parents constantly feeding them positive self esteem to the point that these kids had their cups running over with it.

Anyhow, that’s old news now. Gen Y has grown up, and they’re becoming parents now too. They are learning humility to go along with esteem, just like we Gen Xers learned humility to along with the chips on our shoulders.

But whither Generation Z? That apparently is the moniker given to the next group of kids, which according to some demographers includes my kids, born in the early 2000s.

I read a column today by one of my favourite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, called What Generation Z will be like at work. She says that Gen Z kids will not be team players (that’s my youngest!), will be more self-directed (my youngest again), will process information at lightning speed (my oldest for sure and possibly my youngest) and will be smarter (both my kids, but of course I say that, they’re my kids!) than Gen Y. So perhaps my boys are smack in the definition for Generation Z. I hope they won’t grow up bitter like my Gen X gang, nor self-absorbed like some Gen Ys tend to be (Please don’t flame me. You know it’s true!).  Of course, considering the back talk my older one has been exhibiting the last couple weeks, maybe he’s still in the Gen Y cohort. Or not.

Are your kids heading towards the definition (so far) of Generation Z? Or is it too soon to predict what our kids will be like as adults. Discuss.