It’s amazing what being busy will do to you… I’m feeling really good today, despite being a little sleep-deprived. While I miss the freedom of half-time work, my full days aren’t so bad. I like being busy. I’m challenged, and I’m learning. I think I can do a really, really good job.
I read an interesting article today from NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (drawn to my attention by the blog Boston Girl’s Open Wallet, which makes my somewhat compulsive budget tracking seem mild). Basically, it talks about Generation Y (AKA Generation Next, Millennials, etc.) and their attitudes towards work. I am at the older end of this generation (born in 1981, graduated from high school in 1999), but I think a lot of this applies to me, and the conflict between how I feel about work and the examples my parents have set for me makes a lot more sense when I look at it through this lens. Basically: our Baby Boomer parents worked, worked, worked and then asked for more. They stayed in their jobs. They were more practical, I think. And then they told us that we could do anything we set our minds to, that we should do what we love, that we should be passionate about our jobs… Even though (at least in the case of my parents), they were actually more concerned with making ends meet than they were with pursuing their dreams.
So what does this mean for our generation? We graduated college just after the economy took a dive, and suddenly we were faced with the reality of making ends meet by taking what we were offered, realizing that holding out for the dream job wasn’t paying rent and Old Navy could (if rent was exceptionally low). NewsHour criticizes us for expecting too much — vacation time (even unpaid!), quick advancement up the bureaucratic ladder, even “being millionaires and fantastic [sic] successful by the age of 40.” I think the situation is much, much more complicated than a permeating sense of entitlement.
Consider this: according to Holly Beck at WireTap Magazine (as well as many others), young adults have very low rates of health insurance coverage. Often health insurance (which is nearly unattainable if your workplace doesn’t provide a group plan) comes with a managerial position. It’s not that we completely disregard seniority and expect coveted positions handed to us on a silver platter — we need these jobs (and the “perks” that come with them) to meet our basic needs. (Yes, folks, health insurance is now a perk, not something we can expect from a decent job…)
In response to the vacation argument, consider that work no longer takes place in an office between 9 and 5. Thanks to e-mail, laptops, cell phones, and BlackBerries, our work can be done from anywhere, and many of us end up working on our so-called vacations anyway. In a recent conversation with a friend, we talked about a possible visit and our lack of vacation time, and decided that if she got a cheap ticket, she could work from my apartment or a coffee shop on a Monday, extending her trip without dipping into her precious two weeks of paid vacation. And two weeks?! As this New York Times article points out, just keeping in touch with friends and family takes two weeks.
So, I say to The Man on behalf of Generation Y: The pension promises you made to our parents were empty, and the security of their jobs was a myth. If you can’t support our basic needs and someone else can, why do you deserve our loyalty? We’re not a bunch of entitled brats whining, as NewsHour puts it, “work, work, you want me to work even more? How lame. I think I’ll I.M. my friends and tell them how lame you are, asking me to work even more.” We want to do meaningful work, and we know better than to wait until we retire to have fun. All in all, I think we are a smart generation. We’ve grown up with significant technological advancements, and (so far) take change in stride. We’re an idealistic generation, too, and we view work as one facet of a satisfying life. We wish you would, too.