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Generation Y: Lost or misunderstood?

September 18th, 2013 by

An impartial perspective on why we are really misunderstood and...a little lost!


Lazy, entitled, frivolous, egotistical. Those are just a few of the adjectives and stigmas many boomers are using to describe those born from 1980 - 2000. Generation Y is fighting an uphill battle many before them never had to…while carrying over $20K loans on their backs, barefoot.

Increasingly in employment news, we are hearing about the lack of jobs many Gen Y individuals are facing. Spending most of their twenties focusing solely on earning their degrees - or some might argue ‘over-educating’ themselves - these individuals are not having much luck finding a field in which they can put their education to practical use. And yet the blame for the lack of employment opportunities rests with both sides.

Would you like fries with that financial statement?

In my research for why Generation Y individuals are experiencing an immense void in job opportunities, I came across a revelation that was quite striking…the truth is, some are lazy and entitled - not wanting to pay the dues required to achieve the success of their predecessors; wanting the corner office as soon as the employment contract is signed; and pouting when assigned a cubicle.  Yes, a cubicle...what self-respecting individual with three university degrees and a variety of professional designations under their belt settles for a cubicle? So yes – some do demonstrate signs of entitlement.

Factually speaking...

The truth is, many of Gen Y may have the necessary education to understand the fundamentals of their desired field. However, what is taught in school is grounded on ‘what happens in a perfect world’ and does not always focus on ‘what to do when the debits and credits don’t balance’. When this happens, anarchy ensues! This is why I am a firm believer that students should obtain work experience while studying. Even a part-time job can teach you skills that are crucial in any work environment - for instance, time management, discipline, anticipating needs and multi-tasking. Also, many employers are more likely to hire individuals that have struggled through school while holding a job, as compared to those who have not. I know because I was one of them. Employers were quite impressed to learn that I held down a full-time job while in college.

When we were young, our parents taught us that school was everything  - stay in school and all else will fall into place. What they failed to mention was there is no such thing as a free ride to the top floor. While school supplies you with the tools to succeed, only work gives you the opportunity to apply those skills. Hopefully, you can then climb the corporate ladder to the top.

Old age proverb: If you stay in school, you can be anything

Translation: If you only stay in school, you will miss out on being anything. This dilemma is centered on the pressure from our predecessors to obtain the highest form of education. We were told that we needed a university degree at a bare minimum, and then perhaps an MBA, and after that, a specialized professional designation. No one mentioned we actually needed to work! Consequently, there is a cluster of individuals who are extremely educated and ‘book-ready’ to take on the responsibilities of upper management, although most do not possess the necessary skills to transact the day-to-day ad hoc requests and dilemmas that will transpire. Also, having a generation where the majority of individuals are highly educated with a lack of work experience leads to a deficiency in low-level workers.

Indeed, it seems top line focus has led to a gap in the ‘workers’ category. This poses a hierarchical conundrum: With everyone vying for the top dog position, who will be the worker bees that actually perform the daily duties? And with this problem, immigration will turn into a front line focus in order to fill the gap of lower level positions - which, of course, does not solve the homeland problem.

A healthy serving of the drones-for-hire pie

Being a Gen Y individual myself, I would argue that the opportunities that were available to the boomers are no longer available in today’s world. Gone are the days where a work environment was structured as a learning environment. Where working individuals were given the relevant work tasks that would allow them to develop the skills they required in order to obtain the professional work experience needed for the designations or certifications being pursued. I have spoken to a few graduates who feel this lack of attention or better yet, training, is the reason they are educated and unemployed. I am not talking in absolutes; of course, there are employers who are dedicated to grooming the younger generation with the necessary skills and experience needed in order to successfully accept the torch when it is handed over. Conversely, there are too many employers looking to hire students working towards their designations/certifications only to have them complete the same tasks day in and day out. Would this be considered bad planning or selfish tendencies?

  • Bad planning

Why hire a professional student to do the job that an individual with no interest in career advancement could easily do and be quite content? Most of Gen Y want to be stimulated, as they are thirsty for knowledge and wanting to put their degrees to good use – although they find themselves working as drones for organizations that don’t take a keen interest in the very reason they were hired.

  • Selfish tendencies

Hiring an individual who understands the concepts of the position allows for managers to take a step back in the training process. They can better focus on their tasks while not feeling the need to explain everything, therefore cutting training time. It’s no wonder Gen Y is feeling a lack of stimulation and ends up complaining - the education they were made to believe was their golden ticket is not being utilized to the extent they were promised it would.

The future could look…rather unprofitable

We’ve clarified that calling Gen Y lazy and entitled is a generalization. I hope I have proved the hypothesis that frustrated, misunderstood and unmotivated individuals can be easily (and wrongly) perceived as lazy. I also hope organizations will be more willing to develop programs to assist the younger generation in making their mark. In order for organizations to continue to maintain profitability margins, an investment in human capital needs to be made. A company is only as strong as their weakest member. If there is no plan in place to bring individuals to the position where they are learning how to ‘take over’ - the future of the company and more importantly, society, will suffer. Boomers are exhibiting a strong focus on their retirement needs rather than focusing on the generation that will fund their retirement - this predicament needs to be corrected for obvious reasons.

So whose responsibility is this unglamorous task...quite simply, companies that want to succeed! After all, intelligent and educated individuals are just waiting by the sidelines to be accepted into training camps. Let us in coach!

Jun 28 2017 10:37pm

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