Career Musings from Gen Y

I can honestly say that I’ve never been comfortable with the moniker of Generation Y (or any other variation for that matter), but, like it or not- I am.  Maybe it’s the full moon or maybe not- I have been coming back around to the debates that I was having in my head in 2004 when I first graduated from college with my BA in International Relations.  The question- now what?  There has been a huge focus in the media on the thousands of graduating seniors this season who are entering a very soft job market and my sympathies for them are limited.

When the financial crisis hit and the housing bubble burst, I was an entry-level manager in a hotel.  When I was laid off- I was unprepared for the transition to another field and I was alternately under qualified and overqualified for most entry-level positions that were available.  Needless to say- it’s been a bit rough.  It doesn’t help that my head wasn’t in the right place after the lay off.  It was a blow to my ego and has had my questioning my abilities ever since.  Please don’t delude yourselves that in a layoff situation with a multinational corporation- if they (ie – the people making the decisions) like you and feel that you are an asset, then you won’t be laid off.  So, knowing full well that my boss was not my biggest fan, I did not wonder why this had happened to me.  It was my own stupid fault and I’ve learned an enormous and painful lesson from it.

That being said, here I am, 2 years later and working in a retail environment- yes as a manager- asking myself the question, what now?  The ideas that I had back in 2004 are oddly appropriate to the current environment.  Option number 1 (the one that I took) was to move to DC and work on getting a position in one of the agencies with the intention of going back to get my Masters Degree and advance a career.  Well, that one didn’t work out to well- I ended up in hospitality.  Option number 2 – continue on with a Master’s Degree and figure out what career to chase when I finished.  This option is a bit behind the times having been out of college for 7 years now, but it’s still an option if I can figure out a way to pay for it.  Option number 3 – find a way to get perfect scores on the Civil Service Exam (called the Foreign Service Officer Test) and see where that takes me.

I’m not as assured of my own success as I would have been even 3 years ago.  The applicant pool is just as impressive and, as I believe many people do, I feel as though I’ve yet to properly show the world what I can do.  It also doesn’t help that my own personal feeling that my best assets are my writing ability and quick mind are not exactly rare abilities.  So I come back to the question- what now?

The graduate programs that intrigue me the most have been in Journalism and Writing.  Neither of these typically pays very well and I am afraid that if I take on the necessary student loans to pay for these degrees that I will be once again drowning in debt.  I’ve just gotten out from under that cloud, which seemed even bleaker after being laid off and trying to figure out how to make the plan I’d enacted to deal with it work.  My book has been coming along slowly and my co-author has very soberly reminded me that even if we finish (and we will if only for me to publish one copy for my own shelf) and even if we are able to publish the manuscript- there is no guarantee that it will sell.  I do hold a secret confidence that we will be successful in this endeavour, but I’m realistic about the timeline and know that I need to have a career option in the meantime.

I’ve thrown my name into the pool for the FSOT and I do feel that I can do well, but also do not hold out hopes that I’m their ideal candidate.  Hell, this blog might just disqualify me from the selection process!  But, since there seems to be no chance of getting a work visa with a hotel at this point (my secret plan numbered M) there seems no other way for me to be able to experience the world and cultures that were the main reason I took my degree in International Relations.  Now, at the age of 30, i find myself asking the same questions as the newly graduated with one big difference- I’ve been in the work force and am no longer as appealing as a new grad looking for an internship/entry-level job program.

How many of Generation Y are in this same position?  Those of us who did not study engineering, IT, or one of the hard sciences are small fish in a large pond where the few open positions are available to those who know a guy who knows a guy.  Employers are in the best position at this point, able to pick and choose the cream of the crop or those who have strong recommendation from others that they know and trust.  This is not a new situation, but it is more important in the current job market.  As many news outlets have reported, resumes go into a deep dark void of computer screening and not even the tried and true method of chasing after an employer will do anything more than irritate the hiring manager and hurt your chances for scoring that interview.  This is all assuming that the position hasn’t been posted for posterity’s sake when they already know to whom they will make their offer.

As normal, I feel as though this is a rant, but for once I can say that this is simply my observation of the world around me.  I have options- not happy ones, but options all the same- that many others don’t have.  I cannot imagine being a person without the support structure that I’m lucky enough to be blessed with trying to navigate a career death like the one that I’ve been fighting to avoid.  I will leave you with a very interesting report from NPR’s Ira Glass with Planet Money-

NPR’s Planet Money with Ira Glass

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