With that non-demonstration out of the way, WBW then calls out Kids These Days for thinking of themselves as, among other things, “unusually wonderful,” “a shiny unicorn,” and deserving of “a flowery career lawn.” No wonder Gen Y is so obviously — obviously! — at sea; we’ve somehow reached young adulthood without internalizing the idea that jobs are “actually quite hard” and it takes “blood, sweat, and tears” to be good at them. How one gets from “people want fulfilling jobs” to “people expect fulfilling jobs to fall into their laps,” we’ll never know. But WBW has a truth bomb for us deluded 20-somethings: they don’t! Thank goodness someone has the guts to tell us that professional success requires “working really hard for a long time.”
Needless to say, I’m not a fan of this line of reasoning, largely because Generation Y has plenty of reasons to be disappointed that have nothing to do with high expectations. Even if all a 20-something feels entitled to is a full-time job with a living wage, they’re increasingly likely to be SOL: as of June, only 44% of us had a full-time job, with 12% unemployed and 4% straight-up giving up. Over a third of 18-to-31-year-olds still live with their parents. We’re living through an insane employment market where we take unpaid internship after unpaid internship, only to have just 37% of them end in employment. Even rock-solid yuppie fields like law are looking shakier by the day. No wonder less than a third of young people “actually feel that their job is part of their long-term career plan.” We may be unhappy with our jobs, but it’s not because we expect to be CEOs by 30. It’s because at this rate, it’s nearly impossible to see ourselves becoming CEOs at all.
In other words, Gen Y’s plight isn’t just in our heads: it’s very real, and it’ll take more than empty platitudes and sad-faced stick figures to fix it. I’m not sure who WBW think they’re helping when they tell young people to “just dive in” to a job market that hasn’t made any room for them, but it’s certainly not the generation it advises with truisms like “you’re not special.” Like most articles about Gen Yers, millennials, and other synonyms for “people younger than the people who read and write trend pieces,” it comes off like an older generation reassuring itself that young people’s problems are either self-inflicted or all in their heads, not a good-faith attempt to understand another age group.
It’s easy for anonymous writers like Wait But Why to boil down a host of (completely justified) anxieties to a simple case of yuppie entitlement. But it’s also a lot of other things: irresponsible, condescending, and pointless all come to mind. As far as I know, no Gen Yer has ever compared their parents’ desire for steady employment to a unicorn vomiting rainbows. We’d appreciate it if our elders returned the favor.