The Hindsight of a Gen Y Stereotype


The Hindsight of a Gen Y Stereotype

By: Yumi Numata | Marketing and Outreach Lead for the XYBOOM Conference
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First, let me clarify: by GenY stereotype, I’m referring to the fact that I’m one of hundreds of young people who expected to get a decent job in my field of interest, post-university graduation. Instead, I ended up living at home with my parents for a year. I also have a considerable amount of student debt for what some would say, an excessive amount of education that hasn’t directly resulted in a stable, full-time job – I have a MA in Media, Culture and Communications and some epic theoretical papers I wrote, but don’t even understand now, 3 years later. Some might also say (ie. my parents) that I spend my money somewhat liberally for a person in my situation. And finally, I am considering the idea that I may never be able to retire due to lack of savings and benefits.

Does any of this ring a bell?

For most of us Gen Ys, the simple trajectory of: 1. Get good marks in high school 2.Work hard in University. 3. Start job. that we all had drilled into our heads by parents and career counselors simply hasn’t come to fruition.

In my case, I got good marks in high school, graduated university with a Hons. BA degree, took a year off, during which I remained confused about what to do next, then went back to school to shell out thousands on a MA degree in New York City.  Since being back in Vancouver, I’ve worked in temporary/contract positions in the non-profit sector of diversity education, marketing, communications, and event planning. While I have yet to be unemployed, the road post-graduation has required a lot more flexibility, finagling and creative maneuvering on the job front than expected.

Here’s some (humble) advice from what I learned:

  • Talk to everyone and anyone. Narcissism is a naturally occurring human quality (that’s what Freud says, anyways); most people love talking about themselves and sharing their experiences. What you take from your conversations with people – whether it be professors, industry professionals, a mentor you look up to, or just a random person next to you on a bus – is up to you, but the more you learn about what has been done before, the different possibilities and options you can seek out, the more confident you’ll feel in your decision making.
  • Do more. Whether it’s studying abroad, a practicum, volunteering, travel, joining a student club – in my case, I started an on campus feminist pop culture magazine – the more opportunities you create for yourself or take up, the more you’ll learn about yourself. The university bubble offers access to resources, people, support and opportunities in a way you won’t find once you graduate! Further, engaging with new people who have different perspectives and life experiences, will help you shape your own perspective and personal politics; having a strong sense of self will not only help you make decisions, but is also key in any situation where you need to present yourself and communicate effectively (ie. job interviews, small-talk with your future boss).
  • Thinking of more school? There is lots of debate going on about what the future of higher learning is, and whether more education is just a dead-end track. Here is my (biased) opinion: Grad school will probably not result in a job. At least, not directly. That being said, it doesn’t have to be a total write off either. You just have to know exactly why you’re pursuing the program you want to take and what you want out of it. Be strategic about how you’re going to utilize your grad school experience and translate it into a career afterwards. Investigate the school’s career centre, its employer connections, make sure the professors you want to learn from are actually teaching and not on sabbatical, and find out what past grads have gone on to do. Look into programs or take classes that focus on practical skills and development that can be directly translated into the workplace.
  • Trust yourself. After you’ve talked to as many relevant people as you can, done your research on whatever it is you want to do and processed all the information you’ve gleaned, put it all aside and go with your gut. Only you truly know what you’re capable of and what you’re willing to invest in getting there.

Yumi Numata is the Marketing and Outreach Lead for the XYBOOM Conference, a great opportunity to get started on talking to more people and doing more! XYBOOM takes an intergenerational approach to addressing youth unemployment and the baby boomer exit. Bringing together 9 expert panelists from 3 generations, with business professionals and youth  (19-30 yrs), participants will leave with new perspectives and strategies on how to leverage the changing workforce. Youth are encouraged to apply now at

Posted on February 26, 2012