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So, in my previous columns I’ve explained who Generation Y is and why they do what they do. I’ve offered some practical advice for those experiencing a quarter-life crisis and for those in search of their “dream job”. I’ve tried to manage expectations and to explain the unwritten rules of the workplace, and I’ve attempted to help Generation Y at work by advising their bosses.
Now I’d like to return to the topic of my first column: the quarter-life crisis. Prior to 2008, other generations claimed that Gen Y’s quarter-life crisis is dependent on the economic situation, that surely we would come to terms with the realities of the workplace when times become tough?
Well, it’s been four years since the start of the economic downturn and this has not been the case. I still hear HR complaining about the behaviour of their Gen Y staff. Our pre-2008 behaviour was not a temporary mindset influenced by a healthy economy; this is who we are. Don’t get me wrong, the economic situation has changed a couple of things, even our behaviour, but the thoughts and doubts that drove our behaviour before 2008 are still there. For instance, if you talk to the average Gen Y-er you will still find that they are looking for their “dream job”, work that is challenging and which holds meaning and purpose for them. But instead of aimlessly hopping on to the next job, what they do is take more thought and more effort to pursue what they want.
A theme that has been trickling through my columns is that we were told that we could be anything we wanted as long as we put our mind to it. Generally and consequently, this means we should be happy, so when we’re not, we think it’s our own fault. We also have the natural human tendency to compare ourselves to our peers. We know the proverb: the grass is always greener on the other side, but we tend to forget this cautionary warning when it comes to happiness, or success, status, a better job or the perfection of having it all.
Here are a few more tips for Gen Y-ers suffering a quarter-life crisis. First of all, learn to make smart choices for you. This has everything to do with your priorities and the way you make choices and decisions (are you a maximizer – do you first look in all shops before returning to shop number 2 and buy that great pair of shoes; or satisficer – do you like the shoes you see in shop 2, buy them and do something else the rest of the day?
Secondly, teach yourself to be happy with “very good” instead of “perfection”, and it will save you a lot of worry, stress and time. Also, harbour as little regret as possible. You can do this by minimising the options to choose from (and hence also how many you have to give up by making a choice) and to focus on the positive of the choices you have made. Additionally, because our expectations are intertwined with what we anticipate the outcome to be, train yourself to focus on the outcome and manage your expectations so that they are realistic.
Most importantly, stop comparing yourself to others. Social comparison can be useful, it can tell us where we can improve, but if you keep comparing yourself to someone who is ahead of you, you will end up a chronically dissatisfied person. Instead, what you should do is focus on beating your personal best, so start asking yourself: what is important to me, when would I be satisfied, what does success mean to me?
This is my last column here on Litro. I could go on, really – on the job market, about what it means to have a job with purpose and meaning, starting your own business, the next Generation Z, talent management, moving abroad, etc. But this isn’t the end. If you’d like to know more about Generation Y and work, follow my blog at Excelerate Talent, where I’ll continue to write about these topics.
Thanks for reading!
Marjon was born into an entrepreneurial family in a Dutch city next to Rotterdam. She is intrigued by how organisations develop themselves and their people and how an organisational culture is formed. She studied International Business (MsC in Organisation & Management and Human Resource Management) in Tilburg, the Netherlands and Montreal, Canada, and Organisational Psychology in London. After her studies Marjon worked a number of years for Deloitte in the Netherlands. She now runs Excelerate Talent, a HR services organisation that offers coaching, training and consulting services. She also works with individuals to help them develop careers that make them happier and give them fulfilment, meaning and purpose.