Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sympathy for the Little Devils

I've watched very motivated, intelligent, college educated Gen Y'ers come into my company over the last 3 years and get stuck with some really entry level jobs. Basically we have the most overqualified customer service dept I've ever known about. And they're the lucky ones in their early 20's.
When I first read this article in the NY Times Magazine about how 20-somethings are delaying the supposed markers of adulthood---marriage, kids, financial independence---longer than they had in the past, I thought that the main flaw of it was that it didn’t address why financial independence was so hard to achieve. By casting the entire situation as a matter of desire and choice, the author missed the big picture, which is that people delay adulthood because the ability to be an adult requires a certain amount of privilege increasingly unavailable to young people. I tweeted about it at the time, noting the answer to the question, “Why don’t people grow up faster?” is incredibly, stupidly simple---because they are no longer any jobs for people in their early 20s that provide the means to be a full adult. Full stop. I don’t mean that entry level jobs only pay enough for a small apartment or a simple lifestyle. Often, they don’t pay enough to cover the rent on that small apartment---if they can find those jobs in the first place---and that’s why people move back in with their parents.

Which is why I saw red when I read this smarmy, self-righteous screed from some Baby Boomer. It’s a classic example of being born on third and thinking you hit a triple. She assumes that her ability to pay rent with her first job out of college is strictly because she’s so much more fucking awesome than you spoiled kids these days, and her parents were so much more responsible than the softies of today. For a millisecond, she ponders the possibility that things have changed because of financial constraints, but then dismisses that possibility with a handwave. It’s so much more fun to be self-righteous! It’s way more fun to wag your finger at young people and tell them how you lived on Ramen and beans to afford your apartment, never pausing for a moment to wonder if those kids might not be able to afford that apartment even if they lived on dog food.


Rockie Bee said...

I always thought the reason entry-level indoor-monkey jobs didn't pay shit was 'cause they didn't have to; that is, they'd figured out if they just waited a bit, they could get some kid with a degree, a paid-for car and folks that live within an hour of the office.

And then go about railing the office monkey's confidence on all fronts -- making poor monkey feel like his/her skills are specific only to The Company, given to him/her by The Company, each belated raise a golden drop of honey from The Company -- string poor monkey along til monkey's fortyish and 'too expensive' to keep around, what with his poorly-planned and neglected family and their stand-alone dwelling. Then, on the way out the door, the HR shmoe can shame monkey for putting in so many hours at The Company and not enough at night school getting hip to new developments.

At least, that's what I'd seen happen to squarer folks than myself. (Y'know, who'd 'studied hard,' 'learned interview skills in their final semester,' 'applied themselves,' 'bought office clothes -- not put their Court Clothes and Funeral Clothes into double duty.' Ahhh, Facebook, you make me seem like less of a screw-up than I thought I was!

Bag Blog said...

If Gen Yer's think they are coming out of college and landing jobs that Baby Boomers or Gen Xer's have had for years (top of the ladder) then they are sadly mistaken or mis-informed about life. Everyone starts at the bottom unless you are just exceptionally smart of have some special gifting or know someone who can pull strings. Economy does play a roll in that also.