Thursday, September 5, 2013

Harboring expectations

If you've picked up a newspaper in the last five years, you'll know that Gen Y is comprised of entitled jerks who freeload off their (helicopter) parents and hop from job to job with reckless abandon. If you're a member of Gen Y, you know that the "job hop" is usually a necessity - until you find a company willing to hire you full-time, you take on internship after internship, knowing you'll likely be replaced by a new sucker after six months. All this, as the weight of student loans bears down upon you - is it already the 15th of the month, again?

Listen, I'm not the 27-year-old who believes that we should be given a cookie and a McMansion upon completion of undergrad. But I graduated in May of 2008, and the first job offer I was received was as a professional grocery shopper for the elderly. (One hundred thousand sparkly rainbows to my mother, who agreed to pay my September 2008 student loan payment so that I could avoid adding "Adept at locating low-sodium navy bean soup mix" to my resume.)

Through what can only be described as a CareerBuilder Miracle, I landed a front-desk position at an ad agency. I became Fed Ex's best customer and maintained supplies of hard and soft licorice bits so as to appease my fellow employees' discerning candy palates. Once, I gave our client - the CEO of a food company - an expired Diet Coke and he called me on it. I learned that "New Business Research" was code for trolling LinkedIn with the voracity of a stalker ex-boyfriend. (The day they added the "who's viewed your profile" feature was a bleak one indeed.)

I leveraged that role into a writing-focused position at my current company, where I've happily stayed put for three years. On paper, I look more established than the statistics report - I'm a loyal and long-time employee, I don't live with my parents, and I pay my bills on time.

Here's the thing - it's a big fat lie. I purchased my car from my stepgrandma to avoid taking on another loan. I recently moved in with generous friends so I don't have to pay more in rent than I would on a modest mortgage. I swing by my parents' house to steal fresh fruit like Aladdin in the open-air market. And perhaps in the most millennial move of all, I work side jobs so that I can put money into savings without skipping sushi night with my girlfriends.

I'm not alone - 35 percent of employed millennials have started their own businesses to make ends meet. By my count, I've spent at least half of my PTO running my "side businesses" - which include coaching a dance team, and taking on marketing and writing clients that don't conflict with my non-compete. Every time I hear about how lazy and entitled we 20-somethings are, I mentally relive the four hours of vacation time I spent huffing school bus fumes on the way to dance camp.

By circumstance and yes, because we buy $5 lattes too frequently, members of Gen Y are still less stable than previous generations. But I've found that with a strong support system, a surprising amount of cunning, it's possible (and unbelievably fulfilling) to piece together a life that resembles the one I'd always expected.


LH said...

I hate age-ist remarks of any kind.
I like this post. And I am in agreement with it.

TMW said...

Love this, G.