Let’s talk about Gen Y.

Gen Y bashing is hardly a new concept to us. The generation born between the 1980s up until 1994 are often slayed in the media as being narcissistic, lazy, disloyal and are often said to have unrealistic expectations of life and where it is taking them. That’s not saying there’s not articles trying to defend Generation Y – but for every article that defends them it’s easy to feel like there’s another five, bagging them out yet again.

Gen Y

It’s gone as far as the New York Post claiming Gen Y are the worst generation ever. A US academic even wrote a book classifying Generation Y as the ‘dumbest’ generation. Closer to home, public figure Mia Freedman recently stated this in a video that was aired on her popular site Mamamia.com.au:

“It took me a lot of years to realise the good things about Gen Y. And the good things are…well… they are ummm,” she says before trailing off and then half-heartedly suggesting that the one good thing about Gen Y is that they are good at ‘finding their own happiness.’

Fellow Gen X-er Andrew Daddo stated that while Gen Y were good talkers, they didn’t really seem to have much substance in what they were talking about. Mia then goes on to say, that as an employer of Gen Y individuals, she has to keep them constantly interested.

To me, that raised the question of is having to keep employees constantly interested necessarily a bad thing? Isn’t it better to be working with a team of individuals that want to be constantly stimulated and learning new things? Wouldn’t that therefore work better for a company, particularly like Freedman’s, that is based in the all encompassing and ever-changing digital world?

Moving on, the debate between Gen Y and Gen X seems to usually be broken down in a few different categories:

1) Gen Y thinks they are hard workers, Gen X disagrees:

Daddo states in the interview: “My understanding is that Gen X thinks they have a work ethic, and Gen Y do not have a work ethic. Gen Y think they have an incredible work ethic, and should be Gen X before they’ve done any work at all.”

While this is obvious stereotyping, trying to defend all Gen Y and say they have an incredible work ethic would also be stereotyping. However these statistics can dispute this argument a little:

  • A recent survey found that 67% of Gen Y volunteered in 2013, a higher statistic than that of Gen X and the Baby Boomers.
  • More and more students are undertaking internships and working for free for longer periods of time, due to an increasingly harder to crack job market
  • While doing internships, it should be noted many students also work on a casual or part-time basis and study full time.

2) Gen X believe Gen Y don’t have the same commitment: 

I’m going to use the great old internship debate to dispute this one. I’ve watched a friend juggle a part-time job, full load of university work and still manage to find the time to intern three days a week. In fact, the majority of people I met at University have all undertaken either internships or volunteer jobs where they worked for no pay 1-2 days a week at minimum.

When it comes to issues of actual paid employment, In some ways however I do understand the Gen X argument here. If Gen X and the Baby Boomers were to land a job they weren’t happy with, they’d still work hard and stick it out, and I think Gen Y can be more fleeting when it comes to their employment options. But could this also have something to do with the way we were raised? In school and at home it’s not often you have teachers or parents saying ‘Oh by the way, if you can do the job okay but you don’t love it, just stay put.’ More often that not, we’re raised to chase our dreams.

Gen X has also had their share of doubt: Time's Gen X cover story, 1990.

Gen X has also had their share of doubt: Time’s Gen X cover story, 1990.

For Gen X it can be increasingly frustrating employing Gen Y people and having them not stick out the job because it’s not their ideal or dream work environment. And for Gen Y, it seems pointless and waste of time to be in a job that you’re not passionate about. So do Gen Y have the right mindset in striving to achieve their goals and dreams, or is it time they learn to become more realistic?

3) Gen X believes Gen Y wants it all, and deserves it now:

I won’t so much digress this notion, however as a member of Gen Y I believe we have been raised not so much on the basis we deserve it all, but more so on the basis that we can achieve anything we put our minds to. For example in modern times, it’s much more common for society to be accepting of the fact that a woman deserves to have a career as well as a family, if that’s her prerogative.

We’re told the world is our oyster – travel is accessible to a lot of Gen Y individuals and opportunities may be more plentiful than what they were to our parents or grandparents…so why are we made to feel like this is a bad thing if we take advantage of this?

I didn’t go into my internship with the idea that I was going to be employed after three months and deserved to be. I went in, to gain experience to help me land a job later on. When I was offered a full-time job did I think I deserved it? After 10 months of working for free, yes I did. Was I devastated when they pulled the plug on the position with barely any notice? Absolutely.

Gen Y may believe they deserve a great job, but it’s not without their own setbacks and disappointments along the way, regardless of how young or how new to the workforce they are.

Perhaps it’s time to put the ongoing debate of ‘who has the better work ethic’ aside and appreciate each generation for what they bring to the table. After all, every generation faces different obstacles which makes comparisons harder to agree on.

Words by TAHLIA PRITCHARD, who will admit to quitting a job after a month, purely because she didn’t like it #classicGenY. 

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2 thoughts on “Let’s talk about Gen Y.

  1. Pingback: BULLSH!T Discusses: Life after graduation – an Australian horror story. | BULLSHiT

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