By Gen Y representative Katie Konrath
Last night, I listened to a speaker talking to a bunch of young graduates about how to get a job in the marketing world. At one point, he mentioned that his daughter was "a perfect Gen Y". She'd only been in her job for 6 months, and already thought she should be doing director-level work. The speaker told us that in a voice laced with sarcasm, and all the college seniors laughed on cue.When I heard that though, I wondered how many of them will still be laughing once they get out in the real world. I think a lot of them will change their minds pretty quickly.
Why? Because there are more and more signs in the workplace that having a steady, reliable job that rewards workers for paying their dues is like winning the lottery!Yesterday afternoon, before I heard the speaker talk to the college seniors, I read an article in the New York Times about professionals who, after being laid off from their high-paying executive positions, are now finding work at call centers, UPS, liquor stores, and as janitors. Most think those jobs are only temporary, but it's hard to bounce back. Some professionals never do. One manager, who made $150,000 per year as an executive director, was laid off in 2002 after September 11th. It took him a year to find work at half the pay, and he was downsized two years later. Then, it took him another year to find a new job, and he was laid off from that one after only a short time. After that, he worked for $10 an hour in a grocery – but was downsized again after a few months. His latest job, processing immigrant applications, pays only 23% what he earned only 7 years ago!An article on CNN I also read yesterday was about the growing number of working professionals who are forced to go to food banks to survive. In San Francisco, people in marketing, sales and software are asking for help for the first time. Most used to donate food themselves, but are now finding themselves in trouble because of job losses, overextended mortgages and plummeting stock values. Some are using the last of their savings to pay down their mortgages.A few professionals are finding themselves in that position due to bad decisions, but most of them are suffering for reasons beyond their control.
Finally, last week, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about senior citizens who are reentering the workforce – in their late 70s and 80s! Their retirement accounts have plummeted, and they need money to pay for their mortgages and medical bills. In January 2009, there were over 75,000 unemployed workers aged 75 and older, nearly twice as many as a year before.
Those articles, and the many others like them, are frightening. There are no guarantees anymore. If you lose a good job through no fault of your own, that doesn't mean you'll be able to find a better (or even a comparable) one. If you do everything right and get a job in a successful, professional field like marketing, that doesn't mean you'll never need to ask for help from social services. And even if you worked your entire life, your savings could be wiped away in the blink of an eye and you could find yourself at a job fair in your golden years.In this environment, there are more and more reasons for people to want to do meaningful work. Maybe not director-level right away, but definitely interesting and challenging work.
After all, when paying dues no longer pays off in the long run, it loses a lot of its appeal.I think a lot of those college seniors will start to realize this as they pay more attention to what is going on in the workplace as they look for their first jobs. Once they've seen lay-offs affect their generation firsthand, they'll stop laughing about "those youn'uns wanting to do director-level work" because they'll want that as well.
Looking for a game changer at your next event or a strategy unique to your organization?