because I said so

telling it like I think it is: sunili’s blog

Gen Y goes to work (and whinges about it)

with 16 comments

So I’m a Gen Y, right, and frankly, I’m quite proud of us. While I freely admit that there are some of us who may be narcissistic, materialistic attention-seekers (as an absolutely un-researched, baseless, person opinion, I think this mostly applies to kiddly-winks born after 1986, but I know lots of peeps my age who are like that), I reckon it’s bloody awesome that I went to high school with about five girls who wanted to be PM and change the world, just like I did, and honestly could do it if they really wanted to.

Sure, maybe I just went to a feminazi all-girls school, maybe I hung out with totally geeks, whatevs, but the fact is that there are plenty of good apples to make up for the bad ones, and this applies to “Gen Y” just as much as the Baby Boomers and whatever other generations there are (just KIDDING!!).

But we’re still getting a bad rap for being whiny little twerps. A few months ago there was this article on Jezebel (heart) that, ironically, I was reading at work because I was so over my shitty job (which I totally did not go to six years of university to get paid at public service salary for):

I spoke with an acquaintance who just graduated from college last May, and is about eight months into her first-ever job. I asked her, now that the stress of the first six months and figuring out the lay of the land, how she likes her work. “I answer the phone and file things,” she said. “You don’t need a college degree to do what I do. It’s stupid that I am in this job.”

Jezebel cited and NYT article that quoted Dan Pink (who is totally Oprah’s new guru, by the way) on what’s wrong with Gen Y and why we’re whinging about having to do shit jobs when, frankly, we’re way too awesome to have to do that:

“This generation has been spoon-fed self-esteem cereal for the past 22 years,” he said. “They’ve been told it’s all about them — what they want, what they are passionate about, what they find fulfilling. That’s not a bad message, but it’s also not a complete message.”

This point of view is shared among many, apparently:

“Generation Y is much less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of management still popular in much of today’s workforce,” says Jordan Kaplan, an associate managerial science professor at Long Island University-Brooklyn in New York. “They’ve grown up questioning their parents, and now they’re questioning their employers. They don’t know how to shut up, which is great, but that’s aggravating to the 50-year-old manager who says, ‘Do it and do it now.’ “

But Dan Pink has some life-lessons for us, so that we get the complete message:

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko” (Riverhead Trade) is a career guide cum manga comic designed to appeal to the newest entrants to the workplace. During the illustrated tale, the title character learns six lessons that Gen Y workers might not have fully absorbed at home.

I scanned over the 23-page preview that’s available online, and urgh, don’t you just hate it when you realise someone’s got you pegged?

So I’m sitting here on a Saturday night, and I am actually supposed to be doing work (but surprise, surprise, I’m blogging, but fricking-eh, it’s Saturday night) because my co-worker is going on holidays and my boss is making me finish HER work as well, and I know I’m not going to get that done otherwise.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been completely miserable about my work lot, because this was totally not what I had reasonably expected to be this job to be like — if I’d really wanted to be doing work at home on a Saturday night, I’d have gone straight to The Firm and been happy with the  nice-little private-sector salary I’d be getting in lieu of free time. I was totally expecting to not only be working 9-5 flat, but also have really interesting work to be doing (which my collegues get to do — grumble grumble)

But do you know what freaks the heck out of me?

The blurb to Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind — Oprah’s new bible about “professional success and personal fulfillment” in the post-Information Age — highlights that lawyers (and accountants and software engineers etc) are totally going to be part of the dead professions. So where will that leave me?

Freaking out in the cobwebs?



Written by Sunili

5 July 2008 at 8:19 pm

Posted in work

Tagged with , , ,

16 Responses

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  1. Hmm. As a Gen-Yer who has opted out of college and a career, even a measly job…. I guess the comic doesn’t hit home with me. But I don’t see how people can go without a lawyer. Doesn’t make sense to me. People need to be held accountable for their misdeeds. Lawyers so to it that it gets done, and it gets done fairly…or so I thought.

    So basically, I don’t get it….


    6 July 2008 at 5:03 am

  2. I was born in 1970, so I am one of those who supervise the Gen Y cadre coming through.

    Let me tell you – we too thought what we were doing when we started was dumb and not worth our time, our difference was that jobs were in shorter supply so we kept our mouths shut, did the work and collected our pay just happy to have a job – and be out of Uni.

    I suspect that the smarter end of Gen Y will also learn this lesson – the boom ain’t gunna last forever!

    Right about then the fact that you have a Public Service job will seem like heaven – especially if you have a permanent substantive position.

    Public Service salary may not be great, but being in the public service also means that you commit to making a difference (ok a lot of people just want a job – some of us want to make a difference).

    If you want interesting, I’d recommend a small agency where the work you cover is wide ranging, or work involving negotiations between levels of government.

    With your degree I’d imagine you have considerable scope for policy/legislation work in the years to come and rather than just concentrate on legal practice I’d recommend trying some policy analyst positions to broaden your awareness of government work.

    This means that you have a choice to manage the work of the future – not just do the work of the future.


    6 July 2008 at 12:59 pm

  3. Jen — Haha, you don’t know some of the lawyers I know … their work deals withjack about fairness 😛

    Grendal — Oh you are such a wise soul! Thank you 🙂

    I did a few bits and bobs, and an internship, in public policy while doing my arts degree, which was pretty interesting. But yeah, decided AGAINST the grad programs ’cause, you know, I have to pay back the Fee-HELP and all somehow 😛

    Did a couple of years doing relief Electorate Office work for MPs — that was absolutely brilliant, but I’m glad I didn’t get sucked into the vortex of the “Politics” (cap-P) of it all by going in permanently; my idealism was not quite ready to lay down and die just yet. Instead, it is slowly whithering away.


    7 July 2008 at 9:30 am

  4. more advice from a Gen X to a Gen Y:

    Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut

    You are not being paid to believe in the power of your dreams

    these and more germs of motivational wisdom can be found here:

    I agree with Grendel’s comment that most Gen Y’s are the way they are because they have yet to live through a recession. The ability to pick and choose jobs, and move between jobs once boredom strikes, has turned you lot into the spoilt little brats that you are. I have several working for me and mostly they want the world on a plate without giving much in return. There are plenty of smart diligent Y’s, but you are unfortunately tarred with the same brush as the slackers.

    My personal theory about Y’s is that you spend too much time trying to fictionalize your life. If you read the MyFace profiles and the blogs they all seem desparate to make their lives seem so fascinating, that I think some start to believe the fiction and get disillusioned when cold hard reality slaps them in the face. Nobody really cares if you have climbed Kilimanjaro, and nobody is ever going to be impressed by the books on your bedside table. By the time you are 30 nobody is even going to bother asking you where you studied.

    unfortunately the advice on how to succeed in the worklplace is not so different than it has ever been, and as you get older you end up sounding like your parents:

    1. show up
    2. work hard
    3. stop whining
    4. show some initiatiative
    5. don’t expect a gold star every time you complete a simple task that is within your job description.
    6. do not be competitive with your coworkers

    I was told a story by a friend who is a partner in a PR company: she was whinging to a colleague about her work and he snapped back:

    “yes, of course evertything is fucked. Just when in your working life wasn’t it fucked? You’re old enough to know this, experienced enough to be able to deal with it, and are at a level of seniority where there is nobody else to blame and nobody else in a position to fix it. So grow up and get on with it.”


    7 July 2008 at 11:11 am

  5. Skink – you made me groan out loud as I remembered a particularly painful Gen Y I employed on a temporary contract. The day after he started in the job he asked when it would be ‘his’ turn to be acting manager.

    Sunili – Wise? Me? haha – actually its more I just finally figured out that being a whiney Gen X wasn’t getting me as far as actually buckling down and making a contribution to society.

    And lots more fun to be had when you do deliver on your potential!


    7 July 2008 at 2:50 pm

  6. Grendel – same old story

    I had a grad+2 who came to me to tell me that he wanted experience running his own projects. I suggested he needed more experience assisting his seniors run a project and showing competency in that before I would trust him with a project of his own.

    the following week he resigned because a competitor had offered him a 15% salary hike and his own project. This was done without checking his references (i.e. me)

    this illustrates:

    1. the paucity of professional talent in this town
    2. the desperation shown by many employers in who they will hire
    3. the complete disregard for talent, experience and quality when these desperate employers hire.
    4. that we are our own worst enemies in giving Gen Y’s big heads.

    and I’ve got better stories than that.


    7 July 2008 at 3:46 pm

  7. i’m a Gen Y, recently graduated and agree entirely with Skink and Grendel. I think one issue that has contributed to this ‘silver spoon in the mouth’ mentality of the average Gen Y worker is that most have never actually worked shitty jobs before taking these positions as high achieving grads in top law firms, accounting firms, etc. I had part time jobs throughout my entire schooling life from primary right up to tertiary and so I like to think that I’m comfortable being at the bottom of the rung, expected to prove myself and pay my dues in order to be respected as a hard working colleague. Character traits like hard work, determination, the capacity to work alongside others and most importantly, humility, cannot be studied at university. I don’t care if you earned HDs throughout uni and smashed every prize at law school, once you get into the workforce you’re no different to the kid that scraped by with passes because he was busy working, saw the big picture, or simply wasn’t as bright as you were.

    I laugh when I think back to the days of applying for articles when students seemed soo certain that a commercial law firm was the place for them, and wouldn’t entertain the idea that perhaps they either couldn’t cut it, or might hate it once they arrived.

    Too many primadonnas in law school I think.


    7 July 2008 at 5:54 pm

  8. It will be interesting to see what they’ll all be doing if there is a big economic slowdown – house help anyone?


    7 July 2008 at 8:50 pm

  9. Skink — ooooh, the snarkiness and sardonic humour all makes sense now: you’re a Gen X 😛 😉

    This quote from Demotivators sums my thoughts up perfectly:

    I expected times like this – but I never thought they’d be so bad, so long, and so frequent.

    Your rules make total sense, especially the last two. I HATE the competitiveness I have seen among my peers; it makes me sick to the stomach. And I am not expecting gold stars. A bloody “good morning” once in a while and maybe a “thanks” now and then would suffice. Or is that asking too much?

    I don’t have a MyFace, by the way, and I try to be as non-fictional in this blog as possible 😛

    Yikes — I spent many a year as a checkout chick and a deli b*tch and (bring out the violins) and, as a first gen migrant, there were no silver spoons in my household, let me tell you that.

    But maybe you’re right that it’s high-school and uni that teaches people about valuing “achievement” over qualities we actually need to get on with live outside the bubble.

    Grendel — Well, there are plenty of hospitality jobs on offer. Though I suppose that in Post-Boom Town there won’t be any restaurants needing staff any more!


    8 July 2008 at 9:21 am

  10. Snarky? I prefer laconic.

    my comments weren’t actually aimed at you, just your entire generation

    I very carefully put you into the smart diligent minority that gets tarred with the same brush as the spoilt slackers

    another Gen Y story:

    last year I employed a 27 year old on a six-month contract at Senior level. He was getting top dollar on an hourly rate through an agent.

    after three months it was clear he was struggling, and didn’t have the skill set or the experience necessary. when I confronted him about it he admitted that he did not have quite the level of experience suggested by his resume, and complained that really we should be providing training and mentoring for him to develop his skills.

    I was rather miffed, since he was being well paid as a Senior and since he was on contract we had no obligation to train him. He then went bleating to the HR manager that I was putting him under undue pressure. HR also explained that we had no obligation, and could terminate his contract any time we chose.

    He then asked for counselling.

    Over several sessions it was suggested that the high expectations and insecurity of short-term contract work might not suit his delicate constitution, and he would be better off taking a pay cut and joining a large company on a graduate development program that could offer him a structured career path. We even gave him contacts at other employers.

    he agreed and we terminated his contract

    the following week he rings me to tell me he has accepted another short term contract on a higher rate than I was paying him, at a high pressure company renowned for its cut-throat personnel department, and proceeds to lecture me that I didn’t appreciate his talents and his new employer clearly had a higher opinion of him

    I haven’t heard from him since, but I expect somebody less tolerant than me will have killed him by now


    8 July 2008 at 12:15 pm

  11. S.G

    As one of the few law students who refers to a FEE HELP debt it was pretty obvious to me you weren’t fed self esteem cereal with a silver spoon.


    8 July 2008 at 11:30 pm

  12. […] Posted by occidentprone on July 9, 2008 Read more about a Perth Gen Y perspective and the debate that follows at Sunili’s blog. […]

  13. Perhaps I should start a school specialising in parsimony as a major study option.
    Born into the middle of WW 2 and forced onto social security as a 39 year old, I reckon that I can pass on a fair bit of wisdom when it comes to living on the smell of an old dishrag.
    I don’t wish to unjustly criticise the uninitiated and ignorant but, by the standards of living that my parents and grandparents endured, *I* have had it soft.
    Their handed down wisdom has helped me to manage to successfully subsist on the pension without suffering much more than great inconvenience.
    They went through times when food was not just scarce – there simply wasn’t any at all. But, by christ, they learned how to survive and how to make the most of very little.
    By comparison, we who live in a world of plenty have become profligate and wasteful; taking for granted the benefits that previous generations have handed down and, like the prodigal sons of the wealth creators of the past, have squandered the riches that we have inherited and are now complaining because we are having to fend for ourselves.


    9 July 2008 at 6:19 pm

  14. Mostly good advice above. They key is to have a job/work you really really enjoy. If you have that then the rest takes care of itself. I suspect you have to get more of a buzz out of it than finding it interesting.

    David Cohen

    11 July 2008 at 10:35 am

  15. here’s a Gen X with something nice to say about Gen Y:


    14 July 2008 at 8:03 am

  16. I stumbled your entry through Swurl and Gen Y (X)is an interest of topic for me. I spoke to a number of my co-workers that are older than I am, I am the youngest of the bunch, they said the the young like us need a lot more respect and a lot more guidance. In this past decade or so, we are more stressed and we output more w/o the guidance or knowing that the facts of life. Debts are up. We are not getting ahead like our parents did. you might know the rest of the story…


    20 July 2008 at 4:49 pm

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