Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Things to Make Fun Of: Getting a job that you like

I haven't been near this thing in a long time, at least not to talk about my life (Look! Still reviewing books!... sorta). A part of me have been avoiding the blog because there was just too much to talk about – and as much as I don't talk about specifics in my life, those events took up too much space in my head that it was difficult for me to ignore it while they happened. So here they are:

1) I got offered a full-time job. Taking it made me feel like I sold out. I took it. I don't want to talk about it.
2) The boyfriend and I broke up. I'm good now. I don't want to talk about it.

That's it. Only two things, though still big life changes for me. Otherwise, I've just been seeing my friends a lot, working a lot and trying to sneak in a book during my free time.

Anyway, here's the real reason I came back to this thing: an article in this past weekend's New York Times Magazine about the millenials. For those not in the know, millenials are the generation born between 1982 and 2002 – my generation. I know I usually reserve writing about articles for my news blog (PLUG PLUG) but since I only have non-journalistic things to say about it, I figured I would keep it here.

So the Times opens the article with this giant picture:

Which made me smile since those paste-on tattoos look very familiar to me.

The article, by Judith Warner, sums up the mentality of today's latest and not-so-greatest graduates: "[Today's] graduates are turning down job offers in high numbers – essentially opting to move back home with their parents if the work offered doesn't match their self-assessed market value."

It goes on to quote a bunch of (old) professors and sociologists to show how narcissistic and overconfident we are because we think that we deserve a job that provides us with an easy-to-manage 40-hour work week and self-fulfillment. And then Warner rounds out the article by saying that our egos and optimism actually seem to buffer us from falling hard – that it is actually a blessing to have such a over-adjusted sense of self-worth because we are able to adapt to adversity (she threw out Columbine and 9/11 as place markers.)

As I said before, I just sold out to a full-time job (comes with health benefits, yo!) that sucks my soul – so naturally, I raised my eyebrows at this. It's tempting to say I work more than 40 hours a week or I don't think I'm entitled to my dream job, but I'll work for it, and I definitely wanted to mentally shout Stop talking about me like I don't read your magazine, Old People!

But what really struck me as weird was the tone that Warner had, or that she employed using her quotes from professionals, throughout the article. There was a sense of indignation at us millenials (sarcastic/unhappy font should be employed with this word) for daring to dream about the future we have, and actually wanting to work towards that dream future. Here's a quote from Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a Clark University pyschology professor: "Almost universally they want to find a job that's not just a job but an expression of their identity, a form of self-fulfillment."

Huh, no kidding. Wouldn't you, Mr. Baby Bloomer? Say you yearn to become an actor, and the two jobs offered to you are the full-time cubicle job and a flexible job as a server. Wouldn't it make sense, in terms of your ("how dare you") dream, to turn down the more-than-40-hour job that will not allow you time off for auditions?

I understand that there is a difference in our mentalities: the Boomers might have felt obligated to sign away the next 40 years of their lives chained to the first job they are offered, and we don't. But if they could have, if it was feasible, I know they would have rather – wait for it – follow their dreams. Who wouldn't? Reality may get in the way of it, but I wish they wouldn't judge us just because we choose to delay reality with a more extensive job search.

Of course, it's another thing entirely if graduates march into the workplace and expect the job that they would have in 30 years immediately – instead of starting as an editorial assistant, they want the managing editor's job. We call those kids over-privileged rich assholes* (they're usually rich, hence their inflated sense of self-worth.) The biggest problem with this article is that Warner seems to be lumping the Dreamers, who are definitely willing to slog it as long as it's in the right field, with these Rich Assholes. And to come to the same conclusion about two very different people (more adapted to adversity, yada yada yada) gets me defensive about my fellow millenials.

The truth is that most of the dreamers are not willing to sell out so soon after college. They want to fail spectacularly before succumbing to the nine-to-five succubus. Once they've realized that the dream is not going to happen, they will haul ass to the nearest boring employer, or go to grad school in an unrelated field. Maybe in thirty years, they snort at the concept of having a fulfilling job like Prof. Arnett did, but really be left with a dull ache in their hearts. As for the Rich Assholes, what the hell have they got to lose?

Absolutely nothing.

And believe me, today's employers are not losing anything either if there is a lack of petulant teenagers seated in the nearest cubicle.

*Sorry, Rich Non-Asshole People, for lumping you together in the Asshole category. I will gladly accept any donations as a symbol of my humble apology.


Allen said...

Hey Dene. Congrats on the job!

I really liked this post for a couple reasons. 1 - It presents two opposing viewpoints. 2 - From my perspective, I don't fall into either category.

I'm not a Dreamer, nor a Rich Asshole. I am - for lack of a better term - the Realist. I'm the guy who took the 40 hour gig because that was the "next stage in life". Part of it is being the good Asian boy. I got the (somewhat decent) grades, went to the good school, and continued on to get a "good" job.

My personal thought process as the Realist - I wanted to get a job so that I could be independent, not live at home, and do something while I still try to figure things out. Even with a potential career path through this job, I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with my professional life and what steps I need to take. I also figure that if my personal life takes me on another journey, then maybe staying with the current career path is ideal, even if my passions lie elsewhere.

As you can see, I'm not the Dreamer and I'm not the Asshole. Interestingly - my company routinely turns down the Rich Asshole. We dislike how the assholes think they can start running the place in a few years.

But you know, I don't feel like a sellout. I'm just playing the game. I'm not working for The Man, I'm using the Man to get what I want. Part of it is for the money. But I also do it because I feel like I need to do something with my life. Contribute to society.

And though I may not be crazy about my job, I don't hate it. So here I am, biding my time as I search for my dream or wait for life to take me down another path.


sorry for writing such a long comment. your post struck a chord with me.

I hope everything is going well for you. Let's catch up if we ever get the chance. =)

Denesteak said...

Hi Allen! Long time!

Yea, definitely left the realists out – I'm just as bad as Warner haha. But yes, I definitely have a lot of friends who, since graduation, have decided on jobs that they didn't necessarily want, but they don't hate it and like it well enough and get paid for it. Unlike me, they don't feel like they sold out.

You still blog? If you want, shoot me the URL sometime.