I am part of Generation Y, an all-encompassing phrase used to define those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. It’s a phrase that can easily contradict itself and can be a compliment or an insult depending on who you’re talking to. It’s synonymous with a greater awareness of community and globalisation but also with an inability to communicate with others (unless through Facebook). It’s defined by both tolerance and confidence but also narcissism and a sense of entitlement.
Basically, it’s not too easy to define, except by a short range of birth years that people still disagree on. It is also known as Generation Me, which sounds worryingly like it will be an epitaph.
What everyone seems to agree on is that Generation Y has a lot of self-confidence, we are adaptable, relatively unfiltered and open minded. Unfortunately this can also be seen as arrogant, disloyal and rude. What I don’t understand is why many from the generations preceding us are so surprised by the sense of entitlement that is so ingrained within my generation. We were told by the Baby Boomers and Generation X that if we worked hard we would move up the career ladder, we would all buy big houses and that we would be able to retire at 50. Now we’re being told that there is no career ladder, we need to save 80 pence per pound to afford a deposit and we might be able to retire at 83 but only if we keep our money under a mattress where the banks can’t gamble with it.
It is within this economic reality that many people of my generation are supposed to be starting their careers. What I have seen in recent years is young adults adapting to the new world order (or whatever the press is calling it these days). This has led to a generation that is perhaps less motivated by material prosperity but ultimately to a generation that can adapt. In short, Generation Y is diversifying.
I started as an admin assistant and am now effectively a project manager. Admittedly, I was lucky to work for a company that saw my potential and supported my personal development but I was only given that exposure because I volunteered to try everything. People in the business weren’t necessarily moving up to make new roles available so I diversified. I had the opportunity to pick up a number of different skills through different projects and this eventually led to promotions and more responsibility.
For me, this was all within the same company but for many of my generation it can be through a number of different roles or organisations. Now this might look like disloyalty to some, but what it really represents is young adults doing everything they can to stand out. They are building up experience in the only way that is available to them. The way a lot of Generation Y sees it is that if you can’t move up in your company; why not learn a new skill by moving sideways? If that doesn’t work, why not try a different company?
Long story short, I think the older generations need to cut us a little bit of slack. There is evidence to suggest that every generation throughout the last hundred years was seen as lazy by the generation preceding it. Of course there are exceptions, but most of my generation aren’t lazy and don’t want handouts, many would rather stand on their own two feet because this is how they were taught to define themselves while they were growing up.
There are many people in my generation who are competent, conscientious and capable; they just haven’t been given an opportunity to show it yet. But give them a chance, they might just surprise you.
Client Development Executive