Dear members of Generation Y (or more simply stated, 20-somethings),
I am concerned about some members of your generation. It seems like the enthusiasm, optimism and excitement that has branded you is fading fast. The past two posts I wrote about cockpit parenting and being naively optimistic about your careers inspired hundreds of comments. These comments, along with my work coaching and speaking to 20-somethings, affirmed my suspicion that many of you Gen Y'ers are beginning to get so discouraged you are becoming bitter at a premature age.
It's not all of you. In fact, I am noticing a distinct polarization of Gen Y that I am calling "Gen Yes" and "Gen whY me?" The Gen Yes'ers are those of you who are saying "yes" to your current situation. You are working, proactively looking for a job or embarking on an entrepreneurial path. You understand the opportunity your generation has to make an impact on the world. You are responding and taking responsibility. The Gen whY me'ers are those of you who are upset over your current situation. You hate your job, feel underemployed, are unemployed or resigned to living at home. You feel wronged by the government, educational system, corporations or your parents. You are angry that your generation is going to have to clean up the mess previous generations have made.
So if you are a Gen whY me'er, consider looking more in the direction of yes. I get it. Your challenging reality check is coming early in life. But reality is reality. You cannot change it, but you can change how you respond to it. You have two choices: either sit around and play the complain/blame game or accept it and respond in proactive ways.
A bad job market and economy is not new. It's something our nation has seen many times before; this is just the first time you are being affected by it. And your generation is going to be crucial to turning it around. Now, you may be thinking, "Hey it's not our fault that the economy is in the can, so why is it our responsibility to fix it?!" My encouragement (and request) is to look at this as an opportunity rather than a responsibility and break free of the entitled and coddled stereotype you have been painted with. Unfortunately, I see many 20-somethings admitting defeat before you have really even begun to play the game of life.
I am sorry that you have graduated into a recession and that all the advice about "finding your passion and the money will follow" has let you down. I apologize that a college degree does not come with a job guarantee. But is that the only reason you went to college? Think about the self-discoveries you made, the opportunities you had and the friends you have now. College is an incredible investment in your life experience, not just your work experience. Stop devaluing your education just because you don't feel like you're getting paid back for it now.
I wish I had the authority to apologize on behalf of the government, corporations, the educational system, the media, your parents and anyone and everyone else that you are blaming right now. As a younger member of Gen X dedicated to supporting members of Gen Y, I feel like an older sibling who is cheering for your success and cringing at the ways you are sabotaging yourself. Is complaining about the job market getting you hired? Is being angry at the "system" changing anything? Is living at home with your parents supporting you in creating your adult life?
The answer is no. So what can you do instead? Change your attitude and be proactive rather than reactive. Your attitude determines the choices you make, how you interact with the world and eventually the results you live with. Shift your perspective on how you are looking at your current situation. Gen Y is known for out-of-the-box thinking, so get creative in taking steps toward your future.
And just declaring your career goals like you did a major is not enough. Please don't just apply for jobs from your computer, call a few family friends and then give up, using the economy and job market as a scapegoat. Building a career takes time, an aggressive pursuit, creativity and a willingness to be adaptable. If you have a dream, it may require a moonlight pursuit while you work pay-the-bills type of jobs. You may even take a job that feels "beneath you." Don't look at this like a travesty that will leave a scarlet letter "U," for underemployment. It's a step, and it's not permanent. I realize that if you have a degree, and especially an advanced degree, this is hard on both your ego and your pocket book. Just take it in stride and know that it won't last forever. And I guarantee that the better your attitude is about it, the faster you will move into a job opportunity that feels more like a fit. You do not have to figure your entire life out right now; trust that the steps will unfold as you move forward. But please get moving!
Remember, complaining about all the ways in which life hasn't turned out like you planned is a terrible investment of your time and energy. To better prepare for any career, practice spending your time wisely. Better investments involve making yourself useful and seeking inspiration. There are always opportunities to serve and put yourself to work in the most uplifting ways simply by volunteering. Get out of your own head and go help someone else. Also, resist the temptation to judge Gen Yes'ers as privileged, lucky or possessing some quality that you do not have. Reach out to fellow members of your generation in the Gen Yes category and ask them to be your peer mentor. Rather than separating yourself from them by comparison, choose to learn from them instead.
Become part of "Generation Yes." You are not victims of this economy. Your life is truly just beginning. Say yes to this challenge instead of attending the pity-party. Say yes to accepting the reality of what is rather than wishing it was easier. Say yes to opportunities that come your way instead of thinking that they are beneath you. Say yes to all that creativity and inspiration that is within you, and say no to the fear.
We need you. You are the generation that will change the world, and I believe you can. Do you? What will you do to become part of Generation Yes? I look forward to your comments below.
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