Want to play a fun guessing game?
Try to guess how many times in the last year I’ve heard the oh-so-patronizing words, “You got a good job when you graduated? Wow you must be really lucky!”
The fun part about this game is that no matter what number you guessed, you’re wrong. The truth is I can’t even begin to count the number of times some well-intentioned person, including so called, “established adults,” and my own peers, have referred to my status in the working world as an act of goodwill on the part of the universe.
Allow me to be a shining example of the Misunderstood Millennial. I worked my tail off to both find and secure a job I could be proud of that allowed me to pay ALL of my bills immediately after graduating from a four-year university and guess what? I am happy.
Before I delve any further into my tale, allow me to fully disclose my background: I graduated from a state school in northern California with average grades and no special passion for any particular industry or field. I got my BA in Psychology with a minor in Public Relations, and my biggest achievement in college was becoming a national, award-winning sex columnist.
In other words, if you’re an approximately 21-year-old average Jane with a cool hobby but no clue what you want to be when you grow up, I was once in your shoes. Don’t be offended by this statement, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being dubbed “average.”
There are countless articles, studies, blogs, columns, you-name-it’s dissecting the various plusses and pitfalls of those aged 20-25, and most of them seem to indicate that through the blind optimism of our Gen-X parents and egocentric views of those in power (aka politicians, public speakers and the media), we have developed an unparalleled sense of entitlement.
This mindset breeds two predominant types of Gen-Y-ers (notice the intentional qualifier here – I am in no way limiting young adults to only two categories but simply naming these as the primaries): 1) the go-getter who tries to do everything, believes that enough is never enough and will deprive themselves of life’s basic needs and pleasures (i.e. sleep, food, fun, friends, sex, etc.) until they reach their goal of ruling the world, and 2) the lazy, spoiled brat who will go out of their way to experience nothing but pleasure then whine about never being satisfied.
The reality is that there is no shame in being somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
Now, before you pass judgment on my job as Assistant Manager at an apartment community in Chico, California, let me be quite clear: no, a college degree is not required for this position. In fact, the young lady whom I replaced in this role never finished college. But, like her, I’m very happy to be here (read: happy, not lucky.)
I didn’t become the president of ten clubs with a four-point-fifty GPA and perfect exit scores and I didn’t get wasted every weekend with the expectation that a “good career” would fall into my lap. When I started college I got myself acquainted with the fact that neither of these two categories of people my age are likely to be flooded with job offers. I worked hard to finish school in four years, which my parents insisted was a timely fashion and spent my last semester of school hounding companies that had available positions that seemed like they would suit me.
I jumped at my first offer that didn’t involve telephone sales, and it turned out to be a flop. The pay was great and I got to move to a much bigger city, but everyone I worked with was absolutely miserable. I also discovered quickly that this particular company, which will remain unnamed, was not what they made themselves out to be.
So I began the job hunt again, spending countless hours on every job site imaginable and hitting up everyone I knew who was employed for connections to their hiring managers. I refused to move home and I refused to look for jobs anywhere remotely similar to the part-time ones I had throughout school.
Finally, an old college friend I had emailed a dozen times told me she was being promoted and they needed to fill her role. It was a full-time administrative position in property management where I’d be on the front lines of customer service making just over minimum wage with room for promotion. It was perfect.
It was during my transition from crappy job to awesome job that I will concede the universe must have stepped in, because each phase of said transition from submitting my resignation to moving back to my beloved college town went seamlessly.
So if you’re in your twenties and feel completely bewildered by the uncertainty and unfairness of life and the constant criticism of those just like you, I can safely instruct you – from experience – to forget what you think you’re entitled to along with everything you think you “should have done” to get somewhere shinier and happier.
Be grateful for what you have earned simply because you have earned it, and stop comparing it to the so-called achievements of your peers, your parents, your siblings and everyone else who has crossed your path that you assume have it way more “together” than you do. Set realistic goals for yourself and achieve them, then congratulate yourself for it and bask in the glow of your self-efficacy.
Photo courtesy Boiler Room