As I ride my Vespa around the city (mother nature is spoiling me) I see all kinds of individuals walking the streets, crossing at the intersection right in front of me. Some are young, some are old. Some drive next to me in their Porsches (I sit higher than them hehe!), others in their big trucks. Big or small, we all coexists in a world of chaos and potholes, most of the time, we respect one another. This does not seem to apply in the recent publications I have been reading when comparing one generation to another. Lately, I have been noticing many articles negatively targeting, you guessed it, the generation Y. Also known as the millennials, GenY, or the Facebook generation. Those unfortunately flawed quantitative studies often neglect to include crucial factors like community, environment and politics that have greatly evolved through the years (Karen Foster, 2013). Most of these studies cause "this generation" to continuously make headlines for all kinds of criticism: GenYs are too much on their iPhones, are apparently unhappy, ask for too much, have a sense of "entitlement" (love that one), and last but not least in the work force, we have no experience. Ah! Interesting...In the hopes of enlightening and clarifying a few details, being a GenY myself, let's see what we were up to exactly, apart from being on our iPhones of course.
Diplomas, technology and more diplomas
Comparatively to previous generations, ours was strongly encouraged to complete the highest level of studies possible. In other words, getting the best tools to prepare us for our future professional life. Personally, I always saw school as many things, one of which being a set of multiple obstacles being thrown our way with deadlines, preselected topics and sometimes randomly picked team mates. As students, it's up to us to accept the challenge or not. It truly is a race to self-discovery while getting to the carrot at the end of the road. The idea is to learn and evolve through it. In parallel, new technological advances were continuously emerging: the computer got a mouse, the nintendo, the walkman that turned into a disc man and into an iPod, new computers, new softwares, new games, the internet and the list goes on. We mastered all of these and learned to develop new reflexes that are in high demand in today's job market. Much of what we learned though stemmed from situations that forced us to face dilemmas that aren't necessarily related to the actual assignments themselves and THAT is what enables personal growth and maturity, no matter what the experience was.
I'll give you an example: you finally finish your 40 page essay and your printer bails on you and never mind going to the store because it's 2AM. Now I know what you're thinking "you should have started your paper earlier" nope, not when your "partner" who was brilliantly chosen by the professor decided to procrastinate. Example no.2: you open an email from a friend in which there was a virus and your computer crashes, without warning, all your work is lost. Example no.3, you end up with a professor who gives you a hard time and your grades are suffering, what do you do? In all three cases, the objective remains the same: face the music and getting the job done. And well done at that (hmmm, similar to expectations in the work force I should think).
So what did we do, us GenYs? Well, we learned to work with those procrastinating team mates using our different strengths to move forward as a team and we got up very early, took the train and printed that assignment at school the next day to hand it in on time. We said adios to our files and beloved photos that the virus destroyed, reformatted our computer and NEVER downloaded anymore stupidities from web sites we didn't trust. We approached that intimidating professor, communicated our concerns and worked harder to earn his or her trust. We rehearsed, presented our projects, wrote our thesis, defended it, rehearsed some more, woke up at 5AM to get to the lab, pulled all-nighters, completed internships for free, snuck sandwiches and soups in the library (I was the master) to study longer. We went from floppy discs, to hard discs, to usb keys, to drop boxing. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that we did live through some interesting and pertinent changes and experiences that required effort, perseverance and facing our fears. What a great asset for an employer one would think! Yet, the first thing we are told when we enter the work force is: "sorry, you don't have enough experience". Really? Here I thought investing in learning, knowledge and recognized credentials was a prerequisite for the job market... Never mind the fact that back a few decades ago, there were less, if any, prerequisites for job hunters. Most were hired quite young and trained by their employers. This means they were given the chance to work at an even younger age than most of us GenYers applying for jobs and because of that, now have 30 years of experience. Point being, they were first given the chance. Imagine if Generation Y was given the chance?
Don't compare iPhones with typewriters! Times have changed. . .
Meanwhile, the needs of today's work force and the world of academics has rapidely changed. Unlike 50 years ago, where a woman could chose between, say, becoming a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary for example, we now have so many fields of study to chose from for both men and women. So many diplomas and universities to explore that it has become overwhelming! The possibilities are endless...and that's why there are career consultants and career guidance counsellors like me to help out (hi there! :) ). Additionally, Generation Y is more concerned in making a career choice that is very self-actualizing, one that has meaning. In Canada, the divorce rate was highest in the 1980s, which means this peak happened when most of us were just kids. Many GenYers (and we weren't the first) grew up knowing the repercussions of parents separating. Are we not allowed to learn from this and take advantage of working from home or benefiting from a good work/family time balance? Once again we hear "back in our days, we went to work and didn't ask any questions. We worked hard, did what we were told and got our pensions" fantastic! And kudos too! But that's just it. Back in your days, that was the trend. Workers had the same employers almost for their entire life. Now, in ours days, the creation of new positions is advancing at a fast speed:
"New analysis from McCrindle Research shows new industries and careers emerging faster than ever, with social media, digital advertising, and green jobs dominating in the last decade alone." -Susie O’Brien & Sophie Aubrey, 2013
Therefore, it is not quite fair to say that GenYers continuously hop from one position to the next. There are other factors contributing to the high fluctuation in positions and the needs of a company. Additionally, the school system fostered our curiosity, rewarded our participation in class and invited us to challenge our own ways of thinking and of the people surrounding us. We also had the opportunity to travel more and picked up on the different cultures of the world. No wonder that generation Y is so different and clashes with that of the previous. Yet, it fits nicely with what lies ahead. Times have changed and we have adapted to today's world. Yet, we keep comparing yesterday's "generations" to today's "generation" while subtracting today's work force needs and all that has evolved. Apples and oranges.
"We should be cautious about drawing direct comparisons between people who really, when it boils down, live in markedly different worlds. Moreover, the variation among people we’d like to put in the same “generation” should alert us to the danger of presuming we can know a person’s values and concerns based on when they were born.
Protecting our potential and enabling personal growth
That being said, having been exposed to a changing environment, this may explain why we perhaps are more welcoming to uncertainty and change. Add a factor of youth and a good attitude and we got a full tank of stress management ready to go. This is not to say that all GenYers have this winning combination but, just like every other "generations" we have our strengths, we should be learning from one another. Ok, we might be looking at our cell phone often, and talk in hash tags and take too many pictures (I actually print mine so I'm covered on that one). However, we care about the environment, know about all the newest trends, have done more volunteer work, are creative and importantly, want to work in a stimulating environment and learn from the experienced. What a great canvas to invest in n'est-ce pas? To the very least, if some of you still think we GenYers lack experience, don't forget that when we were growing up, many of you were the ones teaching us...You still are. Be the ones who will spark us, add fuel to the flame, not blow it out. The mentors who will help turn us into generation Y leaders. Lucky for me, I was given that chance and absolutely love what I do! No matter what though, everyone always has something to learn every single day no matter the age. Yet, I still think The Beatles era was the best in music ever and will forever envy all those who witnessed the evolution of rock and roll music.
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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