I’m a member of Generation Y, but in disguise. At 33, I’m the grandma of Millennials, but still one of them, for better or worse.
I get to reap the benefits, while deflecting most of the criticism heaped upon them. I didn’t have to work too hard to get into college. Tuition was still affordable for someone paying her own way with student loans. I entered the job market before the Great Recession hit and landed a job in my chosen field in relatively short order. By the time the economy tanked, I was a few years into my career, which rendered me safe from layoffs since I was productive, yet still cheap labor.
As an employee, I understand when to be humble and when to be brave. I spent the first few years faking my way through the competitive field of advertising by emulating my supervisors and maintaining a low profile with senior creatives. Yet, I had the guts to confront a VP of finance when she tried to screw me out of my annual bonus.
I’m fully aware of how expendable my position is and I believe that employer/employee loyalty is retiring with the Baby Boomers. Because of this, I’ve learned to be nimble and always prepared to make my next move. I will not wear a suit to work, but my jeans will be nice ones without holes (unless it’s Friday). I’m on a first-name basis with the members of the C-suite. But I’ve never been referred to as “entitled.”
My project manager and I were discussing the working style of our direct reports. Both are former interns who were recently hired as full-time employees. They share a set of characteristics we cannot relate to, despite being only 10 years their senior. They are smart (and they know it). They are driven, yet easily distracted and brazen to the point of being audacious. Yet, they actually have an answer to the question, “tell me where you see yourself in five years.” And both are almost intimidatingly accomplished for their young age, and use their youth as a weapon instead of a handicap.
Not all of this is solely a product of their generation. This is their first real office job and they are still learning how to function outside of school. I recall standing in front of a copy/fax machine for the first time, completely baffled by the thing. (Our higher education system should prepare us for these menial, yet necessary tasks that always get handed down to the office peon.)
Tension between generations is nothing new. The former never understands the behavior of the latter, and vice versa. But I find myself identifying neither with Generation X nor Y. I used to feel like the flag-bearing ambassador of Generation Y. We were smart, technologically savvy and ballsy. Now, we’ve been kicked out of the inner circle. My maturity allows me to hang with Gen X’ers, but just like the younger Gen-Y’ers, I find myself struggling to figure them out fundamentally.
It’s as if those of us in our early-to-mid 30’s have slipped through the cracks over the past 10 years. Quite honestly, I’m okay with that. We’ve been left behind, but left unscathed. We’ve quietly climbed the ranks. We’ve changed the world. We’ve broken the mold of what a happy adulthood looks like. We’re doing our thing and no one’s given us too much shit for it.
Benign indifference – what more could we ask for?