Generation Y

Want to be creative? Try disconnecting.

With my talk of social media and MOOCs, its pretty clear that I love the influence of the Internet. Even after listening to my grandmother’s woes about how ‘we’re always shoving some screen into our faces’ it’s difficult for me to think of how some things worked without the internet.

At the same time, the constant push to be online has caused a lot of problems. Whether its the dangers (and mass acts of cruelty) that come from internet anonymity or even the fear of missing out which seems to be a result of social media sites and the push to constantly be ‘on’ (but also off?) and show how exciting your life is. I try to be as mundane as possible, so the only purpose of social media is to post artsy pictures, vague statuses, and the occasional mention of my dog.

Side-note: If you tend to post a lot of pictures of dogs, feel free to connect with me on all social media sites. Double points if you have puppies.

But there’s another side effect of internet in my opinion – its saps creativity. It’s hard to have time to yourself to think and create when you’re constantly absorbing and shifting through a variety of information whether it’s articles, messages, or photos. While I think the quest for originality is highly overrated, it is important for people to be innovative. It’s a way to express yourself in a thoughtful and detailed way. And in some aspects, when you finally find yourself online again you’ll have something unique to contribute. 

There are plenty of small things you can do to go offline every now and then:

  • Take a walk every day: There are plenty of benefits from walking every now and then. It’s also a great way to reflect during the beginning or end of your day. My current dorm involves walking at least 4 blocks before I get on campus, and I really love the feeling of having time to think about my day before moving straight into work or school. In fact, I come up with most of my short story ideas while taking a walk.
  • Use a whiteboard/sketchpad/etc.: Sometimes you really just need to draw out what you’re thinking. Even absentminded drawing can be the start of something great.
  • Join a club or volunteer: Sometimes you need to clear your mind of your own self-reflection and think about the needs of other people. And I personally think volunteering is the most productive way of doing this, but joining a club and participating in a cause that you care about is another fantastic way to go about expending energy. And some get their creative energy through working around and with others, so that’s always a great option if you want to build creativity within the company of others.
  • Give up a day to chaos:  This one is simple – take a day, and day, and leave it completely up to chance. Instead of focusing on completing tasks and meeting deadlines, find a day that you can use to do whatever you what.

Instead of focusing on whether being online or offline is the better option – look into finding different ways to value the time equally. Focus on how you can maximize your time for growth, instead of pushing to be in one state of being or another.

What are your tips for building creativity?

The Minority Millennial: Culture Shock, Loss, and Overcoming Obstacles

Soggy puppy

Also, look at this adorable picture of a puppy! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I haven’t written a post in forever, I thought it would be fun to open with a story:

Most of my friends and I come from a variety of different backgrounds, I’m sure we could fill the entire diversity spiel just by sitting in a group together. I have issues with the academic perception of diversity, but I’ll get to that another time. Regardless, nearly of all us have some difference via gender, socioeconomic status, nationality, race, or ethnicity. And one of the things that I’ve noticed from discussing issues of minority background with my friends is how dramatic it was to come to my college when we first arrived.

While I absolutely love my college now, it was painful both academically, socially, and emotionally to adjust to it even though I came from a school with similar demographics. Unfortunately, my college is not an activist campus. I wish it was, but it isn’t. I think if it had been, there would have been a greater sense of awareness and preparation not just for students of color, but in forming transitions to adjust to college life.

I’m saying this mainly to reach out to the student who struggles at college either due to their presumed minority status, but even those who come from an incredibly different background than the college they attend. The college experience is always shifting and changing. Sometimes it’ll be the “best thing ever”, but other times, it will HURT. A lot of it can depend on the cultural differences, but I promise, it will get gritty and dirty at some points. And that’s OK. I’m not saying you’ll overcome all of your issues instantly, but it’s OK to feel discomfort and shock. While it sucks sometimes – I know it did for me at a lot of points – you’ll leave with a greater sense of maturity, and a set of skills that will serve you well long after you leave college.

While I hate telling students that they’ll have to change for the world, I want you all to know: be open to change. You’d be surprised how many similarities will arise even in the things that you’d find different.

The Minority Millennial’s Guide to Networking

Networking is hard, especially for the millennial generation. Unless you’re in a STEM field, you have to stretch through a lot of loops to get employers to notice you (and thousands of articles/friends/family telling you that you picked a useless major), and even those in STEM fields deal with other troubles, such as the rapid evolution of technology and outsourcing. But this is for a sub-sect of the Gen Yers, the minority millennials.

While it’s often ignored, many minorities of different racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and social groups are given less pay and less recognition. (Article of interest: http://www.thedailymuse.com/career/the-other-pay-gap-why-minorities-are-still-behind/). And while some may not find that specifically interesting, it paints a grim picture within the American economy. But still, as a Gen Y minority, we’re known for being persistent. So if you’re looking into building connections, here are a few tips.

To start off, I want you to face 3 points of reality:

  • You’re going to have to work 3 times as hard, for 1/2 the credit, and probably 1/3 the pay.
  • You may be a target of scapegoating, uncomfortable office chatter, and many other types of backlash against your very presence.
  • You may feel lonely as the only one in your speciality, or even may feel as though you have to compete against other minorities to fill a “quota.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about networking. Here’s a few posts by the great website the Intern Queen to get you started on the basics of networking: http://internqueen.com/blog/tag/networking, and now we can discuss how it relates to the minority experience.

1. Brave the shock, stand out, and push forward.

I’m an African American female Economics major who is also trying to learn chinese and coding in her free time. None of these things are noteworthy on their own – at least in my opinion – but attach these things to my face a *bam*, there you are. Most people as me why, or give me a look of disbelief. If I’m really lucky, I may get a few comments about how ‘intellectual’ I must be.

YouthDialogue1

YouthDialogue1 (Photo credit: International Monetary Fund)

Regardless, after they get over their shock,  most are very curious. No matter what, be sure to smile, nod, and comfortably answer their question. It may get tiring after a while, but use it as a chance to update and evolve your elevator pitch for different situations. “Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve been used to managing my family’s tax returns for a while, and my love of economics and finance began in college when I participated in an accounting program…” 

If you’ve caught their interested, take it and run with it. Networking is about creating a memorable connection in a short amount of time, so don’t hesitate to be proactive about what a person finds unique about you.

2. It’s OK to bring up your minority related affiliations

Are you a member of the American Association of Black Accountants? The LGBTQ association? President of your International Student Association? I say leave it on the resume. It’s a tough call, and could make or break a potential application, but if you have job relevant skills as either a treasurer or PR person, I don’t see a reason to leave it off.

Think of it like this: if a company cares that much about your affiliation, would you really be comfortable working there? I have no desire to be praised or scorned for my involvement in multicultural organizations, it just reflects a part of my personality that I’m truly interested in: social justice awareness. If you’re passionate about that as well, it could be a great talking point in your interview as well. I’ve had plenty of recruiters who tend to look at my resume and like to use that as a talking point.

3. Cut bridges if you begin to feel uncomfortable

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait.

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sad to say that I’ve had a variety of things said to me by faculty, students, and coworkers regarding my race, gender, and profession. Some were mild, some we’re more colorful in nature. As much as I hate leaving any networking opportunity, it is fine to cut bridges when you feel as though a line has been crossed. It’s not your job to stay in a negative or uncomfortable environment, and I most certainly would not advise it. Take considerable time to consider your final decision, and be polite if a networker or recruiter just isn’t a good fit.

Ultimately, networking is about finding your brand. You want to be able to have a steady image that you can put forth to the public. I’m not saying that you need to make everything about your minority status, but be realistic and understand that it will come up, whether you like it or not. Accept the facts, be brave, and know your boundaries. You’ll succeed no matter what.

So How Obnoxious Am I?

Also social media is awesome. Don’t let others tell you otherwise.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about generation Y and our status as the ‘entitled’ generation. This is partially because of Joel Stein’s article in time located here (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2143001,00.html?pcd=pw-edit) where he so artfully dubs us the Me Generation. I also read the really fascinating response by Tyler Mangrum at HackCollege (http://www.hackcollege.com/blog/2013/05/13/generation-us-where-joel-stein-got-it-wrong.html), which if you’re a college student who’s not ready Hack College, correct that mistake immediately. I’ll admit, being part of Gen Y, my heart naturally goes out to us. But at the same time, I wonder if the point that Mr. Stein and many others have made holds any weight.

Bonus note: Cheap college student that I am, I wasn’t actually able to read all of Mr. Stein’s article in full – since I don’t have a subscription – so I will try to keep my comments focused on general comments about Gen Y, instead of criticizing him directly.

So just what it is that has others pegging Gen Y as the most selfish, entitled generation? Some of it is understandable. All social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are designed with the purpose of having us connect with other people on an online platform. But for the most part, it functions as us providing a platform for our opinions, with the hope that we’ll find like minded people to share our viewpoints (or at least compliment our selfies).

And to a certain extent, I agree with that standpoint. Especially for teenagers, the internet has given us the freedom to let all of our complaints out into the world, and find a safe haven. Unfortunately this sometimes has negative consequences and gives others in society a platform to spew anger and hate, but there’s a community for everyone out there I suppose.

But that’s not the real issue at hand. To an extent, every generation has been given a negative label by the previous ones, and its important to see whether Gen Y lives up to its self entitled label. And the answer unsurprisingly, is yes and no.

I believe a lot of the entitlement other generations see in us is actually a deep seated frustration. (Note: This is probably more relevant and true towards 90s kids.) Most of us grew up in a time where we were protected and warned against any kind of danger. Most of my childhood was interrupted with PSAs saying don’t do drugs/sex/-insert-obscenity-here. We had our raunchy cartoons and computers and soon  enough, our MySpace and Facebook. Unlike our parents, we had a platform where we could talk to anyone, anywhere in the world, and in some cases our parents wouldn’t even know. We had all of our exciting and shiny gadgets and it was awesome.

And then the recession happened. And suddenly we had everything and nothing at all. Now that the social media revolution is spilling over into the working world we may have more job opportunities but at the original point and time, we were in a bad economy with little preparation and god forbid if you had a non science, technical, financial, or health degree no marketable skills. And instead of being complacent, we fought back. We were angry about the economy, angry at politicians, and angry at the fact that we had no real solution to the problem.

And just like Gen X, I think we’ll have to solve this problem by creating our own revolution. Even though we were essentially thrown out into the world without direction, every generation has had that moment to themselves. There’s a time where we’ll have to figure it out and fight back. I can’t wait to see that revolution within our generation, and that’s partially why I want to be in Library and Information Science. While my focus is on the more medical aspects, I want to help out with that revolution. Maybe once we reach there, we can finally get rid of articles such as Mr. Stein’s Me Generation. The next Generation (Z? I don’t even know) can pick up the slack for us next time.

What do you think about the Generation Y issue?

On Disappointment, Anger, and Unemployment

Alternatively, why higher education promised us the sun, and gave us a rock.

So I come from a college that is pretty well known for engineering, or as most of you know, the only major that seems to be getting a lot of jobs at the moment. While my school is a great place, one of the things that I’ve noticed within higher academia is the heated discourse going on within different disciplines. Ranging from pushing students away at the arts and humanities, complaining that humanities majors should have to pay more or forget about attending college (http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/05/29/to-boost-post-college-prospects-cut-humanities-departments/), and the growing healthcare industry that doesn’t have enough qualified workers at the moment, it seems that American society at least is in a bit of a bind.

So where is the real solution in this situation?  And on the other hand, do we even know where the problem stems from?

While I certainly am not qualified enough to solve our economic woes, I want to take a stab at why these problems have occurred. As distressing as it is, Generation Y isn’t the first to suffer through economic turmoil, and it won’t be the last to deal with these kinds of issues. I believe our situation is unique part in thanks to the rise of computer technology and to an extent social media, which has led to the creation of jobs that were unheard of 20 years ago. But at the same time it has lead to the deterioration of certain industries, and the near eradication of many others. And right now, most of the skill sets we have are partially ones we grew up with, but the official jobs where our skills could be useful haven’t quite opened up yet, at least not to their full extent.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

But what does this have to do with universities? One of the more obvious answers is the inflation of education levels and skill sets. As my grandmother likes to tell me all the time, back in her day men and women could learn non-degree related skills such carpentry, bookkeeping, secretarial studies, etc. And nowadays, minus vo-tech schools (which tend to be poorly advertised and marketed as for students ‘who aren’t good in regular school’) those courses have completely been eradicated from a school’s curriculum. While I have personally lamented the dismantling of art programs in public schools, I also think that it is very important and disheartening that we’ve gotten rid of technical or skill based programs, as for many students who come from low income families don’t have the opportunity to attend college, and may end up graduating with little or no marketable skills (that’s if you consider a college education a marketable skill in and of itself, which I do to a certain extent).

Redefining Education

But more directly related to struggling college students and grads who are looking for work, I don’t really think that this is all of your fault. I believe a lot of this comes from colleges who marketed to us that qualities X, Y, and Z made them the best, and more often then not unless it was a specific career with a direct career path (accounting, engineering, etc.) many colleges twiddled their thumbs and pretended as though they had no idea what kind of jobs came with our degree. And while I won’t pretend that students shouldn’t research these things on their own, I do think most colleges do a poor job of prepping students for the career environment. At the very least, I would push for more courses on business/resume writing and personal finance, so at least the unemployed graduates these colleges create will have something under their belt. But I think 4 year colleges should also partner with community colleges, so students can learn a combination of of ‘career skills’ alongside a humanities education. As an economics major I can’t completely discount the value of a liberal arts education. But I think many of us college students need to push back against some of this backlash, and decide either to complement our liberal arts education with more technical based skills, or create our own paths that involve the humanities.

Another path is to remove the stigma against community colleges, which teach liberal arts classes and trades, and at a lower cost than many 4 year colleges. I know many of my friends were embarrassed to be at a community college, and most were only using it as a pathway to attend a more traditional university. Traditional is fine, but students who go to community college shouldn’t be ignored or demeaned. Personally, as a soon to be college grad, I’ve been lucky to escape some of the more perilous hurdles such as student loans, but if my high school career counselor had told me that I could make decent money as a mechanic or bookkeeper with two years and more than triple the cost (my school costs roughly $50-60,000 per year) I would’ve been sold.

So What Next

Overall, what I hope to get across is that there is a problem with our current educational system, and while there are no ‘right’ answers, there are certain things that need to change. Some parts of the college experience should be dedicated towards non-career related goals: being away from home for the first time, learning to adjust to a new environment, understanding academia on the university level, enjoying time with friends and meeting people from a variety of geographic and cultural areas, and so on. But in this economy, we’ve lost that luxury to a certain extent. And now we have to be pragmatic at 17-18 years old, and ignore the cheers of college and getting a education that may financially ruin us well into our thirties, forties, and further. It’s a hard sell, but I caution others to reflect on the college experience as they see it now, and on the bright side, this may turn Gen Y into one of the most pragmatic generations yet! We may not appreciate it right now, but the innovative skills we’ve gotten will last us a lifetime.

What do you guys think about the state of higher education? Feel free to combat my points as well!

The entrance to PCC

The entrance to PCC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)