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Ask a Gen Y


Get It Together, Gen Y

November 21, 2011
Related Topics: Talent Management, Generations At Work
KEYWORDS ask a gen y

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with leadership. By allowing a sole individual to represent a mass, we’re risking the rest of the population blindly following the individual or classifying him or her as the embodiment of the group’s views. As an Iranian, I don’t want Ahmadinejad to represent me. As a woman, I shy away from identifying with some female politicians and their stance on feminism. As a millennial, I don’t think  Mark Zuckerberg is an accurate depiction of my generation, and I hope there’s a Generation Z blogger ready to fight against Justin Bieber being his or her representative. What’s frustrating me is that I’m not frustrated with an individual, however. I’m frustrated with 924 of them.

In 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced a pyramid to illustrate his belief that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other needs. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep and warmth. According to 924 social media-addicted Gen Y respondents to Cisco’s survey for its Connected World Technology Report, access to Facebook belongs in Maslow’s lowest tier. One in three of nearly 3,000 millennial respondents consider the Internet to be as important as fundamental human resources such as air, water, food and shelter. More than half of the study’s respondents said they could not live without it and cited it as an integral part of their lives.

What’s most puzzling to me is that one in three college students and young employees under age 30 would prioritize social media freedom over salary in accepting a job offer.

The millennial generation got hit hardest by the Great Recession; Overall joblessness is still between two and three times higher for 20-somethings than older workers. In fact, college educated 20- to 24-year-olds had the highest percentage unemployment increase from 2007-2010. Beggars can’t be choosers for jobs, kids. This is a serious problem. This means we're either addicted to the Internet or don’t understand need versus want — I’d bet it’s an unhealthy case of both.

I have nothing against Facebook; I have something against it being Gen Y’s umbilical cord. I use Facebook for pleasure, for work, to buy and sell items, network, reminisce through pictures from fall break 2008, reminisce about having fall breaks, and I encourage it strongly for learning.

According to the Educause report “7 Things You Should Know About Facebook”:

“Facebook’s structure encour­ages users to view relationships in a broad context of learning, even as affiliations change — from high school to college to gradu­ate school to the workplace. By opening itself to virtually anyone, Facebook has become a model for how communities — of learn­ers, of workers, of any group with a common interest — can come together, define standards for interaction and collaboratively cre­ate an environment that suits the needs of the members.”

The problem is the 924 millennials aren’t looking to use Facebook to develop or even be recruited. Only 33 percent of the 2,800 respondents said they are open to recruiters finding them through social media. They admitted to being leery about communicating via Facebook for business purposes.

According to Census data, 5.9 million Americans between 25 and 34 years of age — nearly a quarter of whom have bachelor’s degrees — live with their parents, an increase from 4.7 million before the recession. Fifty-nine percent of parents provide or recently provided financial assistance to children 18 to 39 who weren’t students, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education.  There are millions of unemployed millennials looking for a job and millions more sitting on the sidelines or working part-time. College graduates are drowning in thousands of dollars of debt that won't be forgiven and they're being joined by thousands of high-schoolers who can’t afford a college education. Times are tough for everybody, but many in Gen Y have the luxury of relying on family for support until they land a gig in this discouraging economy. That doesn’t mean the opportunity to “poke” or “like” a friend’s page should trump a salary.

So far in November, according to this Wall Street Journal article, staffers at have counseled more than 2,500 parents seeking job-hunting help for the kids right before or after their children graduated. Parents of new hires are calling employers to negotiate salary and benefits, and some are even showing up at job fairs. This is embarrassing, Gen Y. If you want to be respected in the workplace, you have to earn it. If you want to collaborate and grow amongst Gen X and boomer colleagues, you have to stand up for yourself, be independent and confident.

Most of the unemployment rate is due to factors out of our control. Many unemployed individuals, Gen Y included, continue to seek employment despite hurdles and hardships. It continues to be a tough time for everyone as we struggle to climb back to pre-recession levels. For now, a job, being engaged in the job, the job’s salary and commitment to the job are key. Facebook is not.

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