When I graduated university in the fall semester of 2013, I came out with guns blazing. 14 years of public schooling combined with my 4-year bachelor’s degree meant I had earned my stripes. I’d paid my dues. I’d accomplished more than my parents had. The world owed me success because I had persevered and I was ready to bask in my high-paying white-collar job, my nice starter home, and easy savings.
Oh, the naivety…
As it turned out, my expectations of the real world were a little…misguided. The fact that I even had a job out of school was amazingly lucky. And to be honest, I only had a job because I worked with my father. This isn’t to say that I didn’t deserve the job – I worked my ass off and have continued to do so – but I can’t discount the obvious fact that I work for a family business and didn’t go through the usual channels. But this post isn’t about getting a job right out of school. Instead, I want to focus on that aching disappointment I experienced when no one else wanted to hire me, when I didn’t have a single penny to my name, and when I realized I had a good 10 years ahead of me before anyone who’s anyone would even respect my position in life.
It was humbling to learn that I wasn’t worth a large salary, that I had to drive my mom’s station wagon and live in my parents’ basement. But I think the pivotal moment for me was the moment I realized my experience wasn’t unique. Every one of my friends was in the same position; living with their families; driving the family car; and working for an income that was barely above Canada’s poverty line (which is roughly $23,000 per year by the way). So why was I so disappointed with my position in life? The truth is, we all were.
The biggest factor contributing to my disappointment was probably my comparison to my parents. Early Gen X and late Baby Boomers (our parents’ generations) grew up in an age where you got a $50,000 salary right out of high school simply because you had a diploma. You were able to save a few months salary to afford a Corvette, and would usually own your own home by 25. There were no flooded job markets, and student loans only plagued those with the earning potential to pay them off in a year or two. Some if not all of the accomplishments that denoted one’s coming of age were realized by the age of 22 – the ripe age at which we, Gen Y, come out of school brandishing our obsolete degrees, diplomas, and certificates. I can’t say that life was easier back then but getting into a career certainly was.
Looking at the 21st century, today’s young professionals are entering a job market unlike anything their parents witnessed. We are the highest-educated generation of all time coming into a job market that regards a bachelor’s degree as a given rather than anything special. This is the first time that university graduates are more likely to work at Starbucks while their less-educated, more entrepreneurial counterparts begin million-dollar start-ups. This is Gen Y. Or should I say, Gen “Why Am I Not Earning Any Money?”
We were raised by helicopter parents, given participation trophies, and were never truly allowed to fail. Was it just me or were the threats of ‘the real world’ fairly empty? In middle school, they said “, you’re on your own in high school and you’re nowhere near prepared.” In high school, they said “, you’re on your own in university/college and you’re nowhere near prepared.” But alas, we were prepared. We survived high school and university with varying degrees of ease, so not surprisingly when our parents said “, you’re on your own in the real world and you’re nowhere near prepared,” we shrugged it off as we were trained to do with every other empty threat of change.
Oh, the naivety…
Well, my Gen Y friends, the majority of us are unprepared for the real world. But we’re most definitely not on our own. We are the largest, highest-educated, and most entrepreneurial generation to ever hit the job market. We have changed the business landscape through things like social networks, the sharing economy (ride sharing, tool libraries, etc.), and crowd funding. We are also set to inherit the largest transfer of wealth in human history thanks to the Baby Boomers.
We are not on our own; our post-grad experiences are not unique; they’re simply a little…fresh. Neither our parents nor our parents’ parents’ parents have ever seen a job market like this. But we can’t be so naive to think that our generation is the first with struggle. We (hopefully) don’t have a depression looming over us as the Post-War Cohort did. We don’t have economic barriers to education as the early Baby Boomers had, nor do we have sexual or racial exclusion to their degree. The housing and finance markets are nowhere near as volatile as they were for Gen X. So it’s probably in our best interests to think that Gen Y is going through the motions like everyone before them. This is simply our turn. We will survive this as every other generation before did. I see so much value in communicating with my fellow millennials and sharing ideas. I know I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve…
Writer: Benjamin Sammut
Ben Sammut forms part of a father-son team working with Mortgage Architects in Toronto. Collectively their team has nearly 60 years of combined experience in the industry and handle over $100,000,000 in mortgage placement each year. He comes from a background in International Economics from the University of Ottawa and has been working in finance since graduation.
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