Creating a Forum Between Youth and Supervisors

Yesterday I had a unique opportunity to have an extraordinarily candid conversation with my boss. We were returning from an event and had about an hour long drive ahead of us. We spoke briefly about our experiences with the organization and perceptions of office culture but we quickly stumbled on an interesting topic – generational differences regarding the hiring process and expectations.

I have talked before about the importance and challenges of advocating for yourself at work and this was a key part of our discussion. As we started to compare the expectations youth have of work benefits, telecommuting options and salary, and the reality that has been my boss’ experiences we realized there were some extraordinarily large gaps!

My belief is that youth are sold a bill of goods that stresses the sole importance of higher education – to a certain extent we are taught that if you have the degree, you’ll have the job (please don’t take this as a knock on higher education, it’s just a statement about the importance of experience v. degrees).  But the folks who are hiring us aren’t as impressed with the degree as we think they should be. Rather, they are looking for bountiful experience, something many youth have very little of (and little opportunity to get). So this creates the gap! A 23-year old with a Master’s degree feels they are trained for certain tasks but are frustrated when they can’t get hired to do the work they really want to do because they don’t have years of experience in an office setting.

Interestingly, my boss was shocked by this, and said that she had no idea that this is what might be going on. And why would she? I am not familiar with a forum that allows youth and hiring managers to really talk about these issues. Maybe there is one and I don’t know about it, but if not, how do we have this conversation with the people in power that there’s a huge gap between each side’s expectations?  What is the appropriate forum and how do we make it productive?

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Advocating at Work

What would you change at work and how would you do it? As young professionals in a very hostile job market it can be difficult to face work environments that don’t give us everything our generation expects. We’ve got a laundry list of things we want and probably should have:

  • Good benefits
  • Decent salary that keeps up with cost of living 
  • Flexible work hours 
  • Telecommuting opportunities 
  • Lots more! 
But we’re like houses in the current housing market – there are lots of us, meaning oodles of choices and good deals for the buyers (or employers in this case). 
But once you have a job and you’re settled into work you have a new opportunity to advocate for the things you want. Only, the gutsyness we were raised with seems to be steadily fading away. If you take an issue or suggestion to your employer and their response is ‘you’re lucky to be employed’, this isn’t very encouraging, and you might be unlikely to try again in the near future. 
Junior staff at an organization one of my peers works for gathered a list of issues, suggestions, and questions for HR and the higher-ups to address. I think coming together as a collective is a great way to approach this, especially for less experienced workers. But the staff didn’t want to turn in this document before reviews because they were afraid it would affect any potential raises. So when is a good time to advocate for yourself and your benefits? It seems like the logical time would be around reviews but young workers seem to be scared that speaking up will end up hurting rather than helping in the long run. And maybe it will be more harmful – There seem to be organizations that are mistrusting of young staff – higher-ups see them as flighty, uncommitted, and too expensive as it is. But the truth is, young professionals might stick around longer if they were better taken care of. Unfortunately, the current model in many non-profits seems to be: get out to move up. So how can we become loyal employees who are taken seriously when we’re not likely to get ahead in our organization? It’s a bad cycle. 
I think that there are office cultures out there that embrace the better model: If you take care of your employees, they will take care of you. But I really want to know the best way to advocate for yourself in an organization that doesn’t function this way. 

Appalling wage decreases and persistant gender gap

Apparently today is a day for sharing other people’s great posts and thoughts: 

Economic Policy Institute (accompanied with the above graph) says: 
After gains in the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s, hourly wages for young college-educated men in 2000 were $22.75, but that dropped by almost a full dollar to $21.77 by 2010.  For young college-educated women, hourly wages fell from $19.38 to $18.43 over the same period.  Now,with unemployment expected to remain above 8% well into 2014, it will likely be many years before young college graduates — or any workers — see substantial wage growth.

And here’s what Feministing has to say about it: 

The gender gap is still strong which one would hope despite a shift in the overal economy, wouldn’t be true given the change in women’s roles in the workplace–but it appears that they are being hit disproportionately  with lesser wages.
Furthermore, as someone who graduated college 10 years ago (eeek), I can probably count on one hand which of my contemporaries was able to buy a house, start a family (and not be struggling) or live a financially comfortable life. And something we all have in common is staggering student loans that impair our finances in disastrous ways.
If the situation has gotten more dire, we are looking at another generation of young people that are unable to provide for themselves, create families, buy houses or even have access to health care. What this says for the country in 50 years is nothing short of financial doom.

The system is broken and it seems to only be getting worse. Happy Monday.

How Flexible Should You Be?

The Daily Worth asked how flexible you should be with your job search.

A recent Rutgers survey shows that many unemployed people are uncertain about how much to sacrifice in the name of a paycheck:

65% would take a lower salary
59% would accept a lower-status job
70% would accept a temporary job
Source: Daily Worth (http://s.tt/1309i)

One thing I really liked about this read was the concept of the “new normal”. This might mean that a less-than-full-time job is your best option. Or that you’ll need multiple streams of income. Before embarking on the job hunt I assumed I would fall into a single full-time job with benefits and pay that would help drastically reduce my college debt. I’m not really sure that’s going to be my normal.

I have applied to jobs with salary ranges that don’t thrill me and titles I thought I could have had with just my Bachelors. Right now my title is Job Hunter and I think lots of things would be better than that so I’ve given myself wiggle room. 

However, as a young professional, I also worry about what my resume is going to look like to prospective employers. The time gap between my last job and future job keeps on growing and I’ve heard that doesn’t look so good. Pursuing work that isn’t in my field may help with my financial situation but what will it do for me in the long run and could it be detrimental? Unclear.