Since I am included in the group being assessed, I thought it may be helpful to offer my insights on the matter. John Mayer's new song says that our generation is "waiting on the world to change." I disagree. What we are doing with the so-called quarter-life crisis is changing our own little worlds.
I am employed as an academic advisor in the adult studies division of a college. In my job, I help adults already in the workfield achieve associate and bachelor's degrees; some of them continue in the program to receive their master's degrees with us under someone else's advising. 95% of my students are above the age of 30.
This is by far the best and most rewarding job that I've held, as my previous jobs included working as a bank teller and as a guest services clerk at a YMCA conference center. It was not what I thought I would be doing when I declared my major as a BA in English, or later when I walked across the stage, but it is rewarding, it has its perks, and, most importantly, it pays the bills.
I still think how much I would love to stay at home. As a feminist, officially I support the woman's right to work; however I sometimes wonder if we women knew what we were getting into or foresaw the fact that it would later take two incomes to buy a house, establish a family, and eat healthily. I know that when my husband and I have children, I may have to pay someone most of my income to experience all my child's firsts with him. I know that I have talents that could be developed if I did not work 40 hours/week; I believe these talents could bring in income. I know that life would be less stressful if our tiny apartment could be clean all the time, or I could proudly serve my husband a hot meal when he gets home. (It could just as easily be less stressful if he were the one staying home and doing this.)
But this is life in these days, and I accept it because I have a job that I like. Other people my age, especially the overabundance that graduated with me holding bachelor's of business administration degrees, may not be so lucky. On a daily basis, it is likely that they must dehumanize their customers in order to lie to them, and for no company loyalty.
Think about your bank. Do you trust and like the individuals that work there? I know my tellers, and I trust and love them. The people I do not trust are those at the corporate level. Because I worked there, I saw when funds stopped being refunded to people who had never been educated on how to keep a checking account, or to widows who were just trying to make ends meet and were desperately embarassed by not having enough money to pay the light bill. I spoke to a widow who cried over the phone because she had bounced a check. The fee from that set her back another $35, erasing any hope that the next month's finances would be any better. And it's not just at banks. Every company with which you interact these days is being marketed so extremely hard that sales representatives and management are given little opportunity to even consider their customers human. My husband and I were promised a great deal on travel-a deal we could really use to visit my husband's family over 5,000 miles away-and were scammed out of thousands of dollars. I still remember the babyface of the gentleman who first told us about the deal, who knew he was lying.
And what promise do my peers have that they will be respected by their company for this? Very little. In fact, after losing their self-respect for what they have done for their customers, they must deal with job security. It may happen that they are blatantly laid off in a company downsizing, but it is quite likely that instead they are given the same sort of lines they have been taught to give their customers: "we feel it is better for you at this point," "think of this as an opportunity," or "we wish you all the luck in the world." Everyone knows it could happen in an instant, and they've probably watched a few coworkers leaving after a couple of bad months. It's the name of the game, and you must be on top of your game to stay in. Dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, it's a cruel, cruel world. So, of course, there is little incentive to stay loyal to one's company.
The good news is that not all companies are like this. I feel that my workplace, for the most part, is kind to its employees as well as to our students. I have seen companies that are still run on family values, and who still give workers good benefits and understand when one needs to take a personal day to take care of a sick child or one's own mental health. These are usually also the companies who value their customers and do not expect anyone to lie to them.
And again on the flip side, these companies are few, and their numbers are shrinking. So it's little wonder that my peers appear to be going crazy. Upon entering the workforce, we are primed with the knowledge that if we are the best we will be sweetly rewarded, but we watch as others fall from grace and know that we, too, could lose it all.
So, we explore other options. Are there ways to feed our families and keep our self-respect? Can we go work in the non-profit sector, work for ourselves, work for a smaller business, and retain our values, even if we're paid a bit less? Can we give up the big house, sports car, and private school for some extra time with the kids? When we're 80 and we look back, will we be proud of what we've done? We are trying, and we desperately hope so.