What’s Up with Generation Y?

Turns out it was hot all week up in my corner of the world. For those who say global warming is a myth I say bullshit to you. Maine is by and large a pretty temperate place to be in the summer time. High eighties and nineties rarely happen and there is still a large portion of the population that doesn’t even have air conditioning. I hate heat in any form especially when I am sleeping or cooking so I have a few window units but let me tell you this weeks’ blast of summer to the extreme made me realize that my units were not nearly as high powered as they could be. And by the way old houses while they can’t hold heat in the winter time when you want them to they hug the hell out of the heat in the summer time.

So while lots of great ideas passed through the noggin this week, I was simply too spent to actually do anything other than drink cold beverages and whine and say someone turn this fuckin heat down. However between gripe sessions I did do my daily reading and stumbled across this sweet piece of story. I am starting to think those folks at the NY Times need to hire me or some real working class folks impacted by the economy so they can stop writing these bullshit ass pieces or maybe its that the folks in New York are living in a bubble separate from the rest of us. So they are unable to get a clue on what real hard times looks like.

In any event, to recap this piece in case you don’t feel like reading. We have a kid from good upper middle class stock who graduated from college 2 years and has not found a job…oh but he turned down a job paying $40,000 a year at an insurance company because well it wasn’t quite the path he wanted to go down. So until recently this kid was living at his parents’ house while they provided room and board, he now lives with his brother in Boston and his folks are paying his share of the rent until the end of August. Oh my!  

I have a lot of friends who often say I sometimes seem older than my years and maybe that is true. Just the other night I was looking at elder boy aka the college boy now and thinking back to when I was his age. Well when I was his age, he was growing in my womb and I was getting the crash course in grown up life. By the time I reached the same age as the kid in the Times piece, I had been married, divorced on the brink of remarriage and actually was making a career change all by the tender age of 24. Nowadays I meet members of the so called Generation Y and the Millennials and often think damn, you are a lazy fuck.

Look, I never planned to become a crotchety old woman saying these things but I have to be honest in the past couple of years I have seen a disturbing trend where I encounter younger folks and the expectations are that they are owed more though they have done nothing to achieve it in the work world. Look, you cannot work a year or two and expect you are going to shoot up the ladder; you got to pay your dues.

It also says a lot about how this generation which actually my son is a member of has been raised when a $40,000 a year job is looked down at. In the real world and not just rural America plenty of folks wish they had a $40,000 a year job, no it’s not a great deal of dough but if one lives frugally it can be more than enough. Generally speaking a daily latte and weekly stops at the mall won’t be happening on such a salary yet you generally can be assured of the basics of life.

Before I decided to write this piece I actually spoke to my son since I did not want him thinking I was attacking his demographic and he said he understood where I was coming from. However he said he felt it was not the entire gen Y crowd that seems delusional about their worth but that yes by and large a great deal of his peers do see themselves starting at the top rather than the bottom.

Again call me foolish but I think there is a great deal of value starting one’s professional life at the bottom, first off you get to really see the organization, field, etc. You also are still at a point in life where you are still learning who you are , where you want to go and while making a great deal of money is nice when you are young there is nothing wrong with having a little. Even though I married young when I was between husbands I had the roommate adventure, quite the journey in young cheap living. Bottom line these experiences grow us as humans, every shit job we work in our early 20’s, every shitty place we have will hopefully stay with us when we grow up and become real adults.

But the younger generations today want it all, my son’s theory is that the media is to blame and while  I want to say nah…I think he may be right. Mine was the last generation not raised on a steady diet of cable TV, yes many of my peers were the early latch key kids but there were still kids like me who did have a stay at home parent and no TV. I have said before, I got cable for the first tine when I was an adult, in fact lately as I have been checking out You Tube and I have been stunned to learn there were actually videos for many of my favorite songs in the 1980’s, granted music videos of the 80’s were primitive compared to what today’s kids see.

The media that is constantly  bombarding our kids teaches them that in order to be happy and successful you need XYZ and sadly as a nation we have fallen for the same hype which probably has a lot to do with the financial crisis we find ourselves in. After all if I wear this label or that label I will be happy. Yet its this type of imagery that our kids have digested that leave them unable to function in the real world, after all if I watch My Sweet Sixteen on MTV or whatever reality show $40,000 often sounds like a very small sum of money and you get a kid straight out of college turning down what in reality is a adequate sum of money because we have a bling bling culture where we want lots of money.

So while I hope this is not taken as a slam on younger folks I will say it’s a lesson for us all that we need to look at the values we live by as for the young man in the Times piece, hopefully he won’t be turning down anymore jobs.

ETA: This is a link today’s letters to the editor of the Times that I think are worth reading about this topic and Scott Nicholson.

Burnt Out

I don’t like to blog about my job because one of the drawbacks of living in a small state like Maine is folks tend to know who you are so things like anonymity just don’t exist even on the web. Hell, a good portion of my Twitter followers are Mainers and it turns out the degrees of separation even on a site like Twitter when it comes to Mainers is probably about 2 degrees at best.

Yet as I have been reading some real cool blogs lately that talk about the non-profit sector as well as related articles, I feel there is a segment of the non-profit world that writers and consultants leave out. That would be those of us that work at the tiny of tiniest agencies. I am talking the agencies and organizations in many parts of the US that do serious front line work like food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters where at best there is 1-2 paid staff members and a cadre of volunteers that provide the services. The IRS recently instituted guidelines this year that all 501c3’s must now file a 990 so that they can get a better sense of who really is out there in the non-profit sector. The best estimate is that there is approximately 31% of all US charities have gross receipts under $25,000. That means until recently those folks didn’t have to file a tax return, yet that is a hell of a lot of agencies doing work and making do in many cases with some less than optimal situations.

I know because I work at such a place, granted our gross revenue is higher than the previous  minimum threshold required to file taxes but our budget doesn’t even tip 6 figures. Which when you consider the fact we are in the business of providing after school and summer programming for kids is a miracle. It’s a good thing we are faith-based because we are praying daily to keep the doors open.

Lately I have been encountering others like me though who love the work we do yet we are burnt out. However unlike life in any major sized city where even with the economic downturn if one gets truly tired of their job, one can generally make the decision to look for work at another agency it becomes virtually impossible to do that in a rural state. In 8 years of living in Maine, very little of mid and senior level management positions have turned over at any of the larger agencies in my part of the state. Of course not! Where would these folks go? Unless they are leaving the state or hanging out their shingle as a consultant or retiring from the work force, there simply is no place to go.

Which means for Gen X’ers or even some of the Gen Y folks the only viable options to get management experience is to take on the leadership roles at the tiny agencies. Yet after 18 months in my current position, I am burnt out. I wear multiple hats at my job, oh let’s share all the hats I wear: program director and designer, chief fundraiser and sole grant writer, director of volunteer management, manager of the actually site (though I do have a solid volunteer who works directly with the kids as well). On a bad week though I might even have to physically clean the facility! Two months into my position, my site guy was out on sick leave and I had to con the Spousal Unit into assisting me as I mopped and cleaned toilets. Yeah baby! Talk about the glamorous life of an Executive Director.

Though as you can imagine after 18 months of juggling all these balls in the air, it was only a matter of time before I started asking myself what the hell am I doing? I earn peanuts, have no paid healthcare benefits, thankfully I have a flexible schedule (why the hell not, I am the creator of the schedule) and generous paid time off. I will tell you that at the root of it all I love the work that I do, I love knowing our agency makes a difference, we are there for kids who have very little in terms of safe options after school and in the summer. Families trust us. Yet lately I struggle with the needs of my own family, since technically my gig is only part-time but like my predecessors I work closer to a 40 hrs a week schedule because simply put the job needs to be done.

In many ways the work I am doing goes against all I learned in grad school as well as in my job experiences in Chicago yet in rural and small town agencies it’s the only way to get the work done. Generally speaking I believe organizations have a responsibility to treat its employees well, pay them an acceptable wage and so on. On the other hand as the creator of my organization’s budget I know first hand what we can and cannot afford so realistically I can not get a salary increase when the money simply does not exist. Right now I would love to bring in a consultant to work with my board and jumpstart us towards creative and energizing ideas but that too is not within the grasp of our budget and none of my connections in the consulting world can take on a free job at the moment.

Previously I worked as a non-profit consultant with a focus on strategic planning and fundraising, most of my work was with small agencies and often we would have great sessions, renew the energy yet in smaller agencies without enough hands to do the work, such plans often go flat. So I am aware that even an excellent consultant can’t change the course of our ship without one hundred percent buy in from all participants.

So if you have ever worked or currently work in a small agency how do you stay sane? Share your tips and ideas.