Leaving university is a daunting prospect for my generation. Since we’ve been old enough to understand what an exam or assessment was, we’ve been told to put our heads down, work hard, go to university, get a degree, and then you’ll get a great job. Being brought up by baby boomers and riding on the coat tails of the economic prosperity of the 1980s, job security had always been a given. With this certainty of prosperity and economic security, it was easy to have a considerably inflated sense of self, purpose and worth. 

Presumably this is why the dreaded “Gen Y” is always met with such hostility from the older generations, especially the not-so-different in age Gen X. For many of us our early lives were filled with opportunity, with 20 plus years of a booming economy and all of the positive flow-on effects that had. So it’s no surprise that my generation has been largely unprepared for our lives as adults in a post GFC world. 

Our parents were brought up by a generation that was largely thankful for any paid work that put bread on the table and appreciated any opportunity open to them. They instilled this into our parents (the baby boomers). Our parents worked extremely hard with the same values that their parents had given them, and with the economic prosperity and jobs boom of the 1980s, the baby boomers did better than they had expected. They were able to get jobs, buy relatively affordable property, and didn’t have any student loans to pay back. They raised their children with the beliefs that if they worked hard they would be adequately rewarded too. 

That’s not to say that Gen Y doesn’t have a work ethic – we certainly do – however one might argue that our expectations of the workforce are skewed and thus we come across to older generations as presumptuous and albeit cocky. In reality, we have been dealt a rather tough hand, especially with our expectations being so far removed from reality. 

In order to get an entry level job in this economic climate, with a surplus of labour and a deficit of jobs, most - if not all - new graduates have undertaken or will undertake an unpaid internship. For those who are lucky enough to be given a paid internship, the money is usually not enough to cover living expenses without considerable hours at another workplace. Our tertiary education, though fees were delayed, was not free and HECS (or HELP) will haunt many of us for the next (at least) 10 years. 

Yet despite this, older generations still find Gen Y’s behaviour towards work reprehensible. We’re lazy and unappreciative (despite working sometimes upwards of three jobs just to live out of home) just because we’re not willing to flip burgers because we’ve got first class honours in a University Degree. 

The biggest issue with graduating University these days is not, however, a generational war. It is the expectation that everyone will have completed unpaid work to get entry level jobs. This is not only generational and a bi-product of capitalism, but it affects class. Some Gen Y’s will have their parents support them while internships are undertaken. However, most don’t have this luxury and therefore it is only the wealthy that are given a leg up in industries where others may have a more to offer. 

Isabelle Walker recently joined the Wells Haslem team as an Account Executive.