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Extract: How is Generation Y reconciling high expectations with the economic reality?

Labelled as entitled, unrealistic and overly-ambitious, how is Ireland’s Generation Y dealing with the economic crash and subsequent lack of career options? Much better than you might think, according to Padraig Mannion.

Image: Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock

IN IRELAND, the government has an embargo on public sector recruitment; those who have a public sector job are feeling the pinch of austerity, while their pensions aren’t looking like the nest egg they once were. Corporations now expect individuals to manage their own career path, and although they provide greater internal visibility, the large majority still expect employees to be able to navigate their own way to the top.

The recent economic crisis has made the jobs marketplace extremely competitive. And with so many young people relocating to places like Canada and Australia each year, mass emigration is well and truly back on the agenda.

So how is Generation Y (Ireland’s 14–27-year-olds) tackling this situation? How are they equipped to deal with challenges in their own career?

What is a Generation Y?

Let’s first look at a brief overview of Gen Y and some of the characteristics that define them in the workplace. Gen Y has been tagged as self-entitled, overly-ambitious dreamers who don’t want to pay their dues and are only concerned about higher pay and more time off.

On a more positive note, however, they are also described as future-oriented, ready to contribute now and opportunity-driven. They remain admirably optimistic in the midst of the current economic turmoil and they are highly restless. They seek to earn greater opportunities for rapid advancement and more responsibilities at a younger age.

These attributes, positive and negative, can be seen in the increasing amount of young graduates creating their own startups straight out of college, as well as excelling in established companies. It can also be seen in the numbers of young people emigrating from Ireland every year. The characteristics of both of these groups – those who stay in Ireland and those who don’t – are perhaps perceived differently.

The young entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who stay are celebrated for their bravery and independence, while the ones who choose to independently pursue their careers in a foreign land are mourned in the national press.

Massive personal action to achieve career success

This opinion might seem logical to some but, to me, what these two groups of people are doing is actually very similar. They are both taking massive personal action to achieve the career that they desire for themselves. And if we revert to the career management trends of corporations over the last few decades, we can see that this is exactly the ideal that has been encouraged: personal career management.

The focus of the modern career is now on opportunities to advance towards ambitious goals, with value put on meaningful development. It is this search of meaning in work that is often confused for arrogance by older generations.

In times gone by, people were privileged if they had a career at all, and it was disrespectful to leave one behind because you didn’t feel like your work had enough ‘meaning’. That is, however, exactly what we are seeing today. Where previously a CV with more than three jobs over a ten-year period looked suspicious, it would now be quite normal, perhaps even expected.

Gen Y embraces mentoring from more senior staff members and prefers to work in teams. As such, they are very suited to take personal responsibility for their own careers. Companies are therefore under pressure to supply the tools that allow their Gen Y staffers to do just that, while also satisfying their constant desire for feedback and rewards.

Using technology to benefit career development

As Gen Y is always on the look-out for more opportunities to advance their careers, there is a rapid embrace of new technology that lets them do so easily. While their predecessors, Gen X, are firmly situated on career websites like LinkedIn, which profile themselves and their achievements, more Gen Y-suited services like Branchout and Silp are now springing up on Facebook and attracting large numbers.

These tools allow people to discover career opportunities through their friends and facilitate introductions into organisations that they want to work in. They are perfect examples of how Gen Y is leveraging its own technology to benefit career development. However, they still fall short of personal career management as an ideal.

Personal career management is defined as the degree to which one regularly gathers information and plans for career problem-solving and decision-making. It involves two main behaviours: one related to continuous improvement in one’s current job (ie, developmental feedback-seeking) and the other related to movement (ie, job mobility preparedness).

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While services and support pertaining to such behaviours can often be found at a basic level in schools or colleges, there is a sudden halt when people enter the workforce. One growing trend in Ireland, however, does provide such information: the international job fairs that are increasingly held throughout the country.

Ireland on the international stage

I would encourage people not to see emigration as a negative thing or a path-of-no-return for the people who choose it. Ireland Inc has benefited greatly from the Irish diaspora that extends around the world. Many people who left Ireland in the past now hold powerful and influential positions in successful companies from San Francisco to Shanghai.

Not only are they now in a much better position to leverage Ireland on an international stage, but they can also provide amazing insights and mentoring for the young people of GenY.

This extract is from the book New Thinking = New Ireland, published by Gill & Macmillan, which features essays by 21 young Irish thinkers who present their vision for a new Ireland.

Padraig Mannion is the founder of recruitment startup Superbly.co, which he describes as ‘a virtual career matchmaker’. Both a founding member of Sandbox and a wef global shaper, he has spanned the realms of creativity and business since he graduated from the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology in 2006 with a ba in Design Communication. He is a seasoned entrepreneur: he set up Studio Rua, a digital media agency, straight out of college and led it successfully for five years before this latest venture eventually took up all of his time. He is now focused on the future of careers and empowering Generation Y.

About the author:

Padraig Mannion

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