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.

13 thoughts on “What’s Up with Generation Y?”

  1. I’m part of the generation that your writing about and I concur that far too many are willing to take the easy way. I do think that there is something to be said for doing what you enjoy rather than simply taking a job because it pays well. If I had to it over I would have taken the gig at a non profit which paid quite a bit less than the insurance agency position I took following graduation. It wasn’t a job for me and the environment was extremely hostile and unhealthy. I forgot something fundamental and that was my own interest matter. I’m wiiling to do the work however I’m not willing to give away my ideals. I don’t expect my parents to pay my way while I explore my options.

  2. Thanks for breaking it down BGIM & Spousal Unit! I think I went off on a tangent with money mgmt.

    “Young folks think that going to college means they can bypass the grind.”

    I know students from college of various ethnicities who refuse to take any salary in the range of the 20’s so they go back to school for more degrees, start their own businesses, and market the hell outta themselves on FB & Twitter – but they are still broke.

    Honestly (I’m 29), college was pushed as a way pass poverty and the admission counselors almost guaranteed upper 30k salaries so I believed it too until I realized I needed to pay bills so I took a $28k job after graduation. I let go of any entitlement I had & learned how to stretch what I did have. Most of my friends close to my age only see the company cars (not sure they still do those), company blackberry, corner offices, and great sounding titles – it was what they were promised whether from their parents or college staff.

  3. I’m with Kate@BFF, I’m technically Gen Y, but none of these stories reflect my expectations, KIT hit the nail on the head w/ the “middle class white privilege” comment it’s only privilege that can allow one to make those kinds of decisions. It’s definitely a class issue, but it really comes down to how you were raised. I’m middle class, but i’ve been working since I was 18 supporting myself doing everything from hostessing to working as a 311 call center operation. The lack of work ethic is astounding, but when you don’t make your kids work for anything growing up, it’s unreasonable to expect them to understand that no one just gives you your dream job that has you pulling high 5 figures out of school with no work/ life experience. The media definitely has a huge influence, I’ll admit Real World was a staple of my childhood TV watching and amongst my demographic there’s this notion that you can live your life out loud and get paid. This also leads to unreasonable expectations about what success is and what it takes to get there. Parents need to turn off the TV, put their kids to work ( allowance for chores) and be honest with them about the hard work it takes to be successful. It’s hard, and sometimes boring and back breaking, but the only things in life worth having are the things you have to work hard for and there’s no way around that…unless you’re the kid in the NYT’s article whose parents are the cause of his misguided sense of entitlement and as a result will continue to provide for him until the “dream job” comes along.

  4. i feel like i’m the weird in-between generation (i’m 27)- i don’t feel like i’m entitled to anything, but i’d admittedly kind of lazy (and broke because of it!). but my cousin is the perfect example of being raised millenial- we’ll see how it plays out for her when she graduates college. her parents (anxious, grateful-to-conceive then 40-year-olds) told her everything she did was perfect. and then she had some serious problems when that expectation met reality in her teenage years.

    but really, none of my friends believe they are entitled- they are just happy to have jobs, and most of them work in a helping field not making a lot of money. i don’t tend to make friends w/ the kinds of people who are only interested in outfitting their big apartment with new furniture and big tvs anyway. just want to make sure the humble, helping younguns’ are represented here. 🙂

  5. I have to chime in along with my wife on some points. While the poor economy and the parents and the changing nature of the work world bear plenty of blame, there is a terrifying sense of entitlement among Gen Y. It started somewhat with Gen X, but Gen Y has taken it farther, and I’m afraid of what the following generation will look like if this continues.

    Young folks think that going to college means they can bypass the grind. They see it too often as a way to not have to pay the dues that others have. It’s insane.

    I went straight from my undergrad to a master’s program, so that I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in journalism, with a magazine publishing focus on the latter degree.

    When I left school to enter the work world, I did NOT go out with the attitude that I should be in a mid- or upper-level editorial role…but many people these days assume that.

    No, I got a job as a staff editor doing product write ups right out of school, making money in the low 20K’s (and this was in 1991). Yes, within 9 months, I was a special projects editor with more engaging and worthwhile duties, but I didn’t get a raise for it. No, I had to leave that company to become a staff writer (note word “STAFF”) on a magazine. After a few years, I rose to become a managing editor. I didn’t launch right into being a manager overseeing other writers. I had to learn the ropes and prove myself in lower levels first, before being given more awesome responsibilities.

    My wife has to deal with people at times who come in wanting to learn how to RUN an agency (college kids) but who don’t want to actually do the WORK of keeping it running. They want to learn how to manage but now how do actually do all the duties…while my wife, the executive director, is willing to clean toilets and mop floors.

    It’s a sickness that has taken firm hold in Gen Y, and I hope it can be eliminated before it makes many in that generation into useless and self-entitled lazybones…and before it infects a new generation.

    None of us is above learning the ropes and paying our dues.

    To go straight to the middle or the top means that people who don’t know enough would be running things, and that’s worse than the incompetent boobs already in charge.

  6. I agree with Terry that parents are often the problem; in the case of Scott Nicholson his parents enabled him and he has no work ethic. I think we are actually talking about 2 separate issues, one is money management and I will be the first to say I had issues but growing up poor while it did not teach me how to manage money did create a hunger to work.

    What I am seeing with some members of Gen Y is a distinct lack of work ethic because if a job does not pay what some perceive as an appropriate sum of money they don’t bother to give it 100%. Every single job I had when I was younger started off at the bottom and I worked my way up. The job I had that allowed me to eventually live on the lakefront in Chicago started off paying peanuts and after a year or so there I was able to create a better position but I had to start somewhere.

    So while poor money management skills cuts across many generations I think a distinct lack of willingness to get ones foot in the door and work up is a more recent situation.

    Terry, my kids are quite apart in age and I very clearly see the anxiousness you talk about in parenting especially with the youngest one. I think we the parents need to get a handle.

  7. I read this article during the week but I agree with Terry on some points as well as your son. I think most parents are the problem so you can’t really blame most young for being lazy or inflating their own worth. Then there are people my age and older who seem to think too highly of themselves. Constantly spending spending spending trying to live the “good life” but get upset with the government and blame the recession because they are not getting the money and/or job they think they earned.

    I don’t see one group (age or race) in particular that needs a reality check and I do not think living in poverty will teach anyone how to live frugally or teach them gratitude. Some (not all) learn from growing up poor but, trust me, I have seen some (most of my family) who continue their bad habits without a clue never learning anything. BGIM, you talked about how you grew up poor but then got a great job, went on shopping sprees, and didn’t bother to save/invest but are now living a frugal life. Then some (not all) who are rich have turned out to be really grounded & appreciative of the womb they were fortunate to be delivered from. In my opinion, this is not really a generation thing.

  8. I read the first page of that NY Times story and the video, and I wanted to beat somebody’s ass – and not the 24 year old lucky enough to live in utter comfort in his parent’s big house.

    Damn but middle class white privilege pisses me off. They are shrinking like crazy but still promoting the myth that this is “recession” is just a minor inconvenience with stories like these that do not represent the general population, white or any other race.

    Girl! Have a got a story to tell you! I’ve been so stressed and busy last week that I haven’t had time to finish writing it. It’s about this very issue. If not tonight, maybe midweek I’ll post it.

    Well, take care.

  9. I think it almost goes even deeper than you describe with the media influence. I think it is not just the media or the kids. It is parents. My generation of parents (a bit older than you), who suddenly wanted to perfect the art of parenting and somehow create a perfect world for our children (even though we weren’t raised that way — at least I wasn’t). We could do it better than OUR parents, and somehow a belief that all kids could be perfect, that failures and flaws and differences could also be obliterated by doing the right things: right toys, right schools, right classes, right medication, tutoring, college, internships. Although I did bring some of this anxiousness to my parenting (it’s hard not too with the youngest in his last year of high school), but I also learned early on how this message hurts children and interferes with our joy in our children. They are all different. We’re different. Everyone can’t be the “same”.

    My eldest graduated college two years ago and the reality of life hit her in the face. She waitressed and lived at home and finally moved out on her own, still waitressing even though she wasn’t sure she could make it financially. She’s been scrappy, moving several times to find a good living situation and actually, now finally working at a good job, completely off the path she studied, and completely on her own and quite possibly not her “career”. It is sales so we don’t know “the salary” but it looks like $40K could be the figure. She’s ecstatic!

    Another child of mine..the last..has not done ‘what he should’ in school. Smart enough, for sure, but he hasn’t done all the things he’s needed to do to have those college “opportunities”. He’ll still get into a good state school and I’m sure he’ll have a very successful life based on his personality and innate skills, but the school system has been disapproving because he couldn’t sit still in second grades, or was disorganized in 8th. It’s not good. We didn’t meet him where he was. But the message all along has been guess what, despite average grades..you aren’t good enough. In conferences with teachers, I’ve had them tell me, I wasn’t trying hard enough!

    I don’t know how a recent grad could turn down a 40K a year job — maybe it is not wall street money but its definitely good money for almost anyone in their young years. I guess it had to be with his parents’ blessing and perhaps..given my theory..at their behest…you know..not perfect enough.

    I agree with your son. It isn’t all kids but many kids do struggle with this message that they’ve been raised on. But aside from the kids in this article, I think a lot of kids right now, recent grads, are discovering that life isn’t all that the message conveyed. In some cases the parents are discovering it too, many being out of work and losing homes.

    Thanks — thought provoking piece.

  10. i am with you on this one…we have seen so much of this – its crazy! i agree that TV plays a huge part – puts those expectations way high. thanks for being brave enough to write about it!

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