I Am Almond Milk (and Other Thoughts From a Gen-Y)

In the adventure of my journey into the workforce, my age is no longer a hindrance. It’s not a hurdle in the race. It’s in some ways (and in some ways not) an advantage. When a rainstorm hits the horse track and makes the turf sloppy, my lack of age-acquired experience doesn’t make me an underdog. In fact, these conditions make it so that almost anything goes. A less experienced maiden horse may win the race over the those who have been around the track a few times. The breadwinners know how to run a mile and how to do it well; but when a storm hits, some simply cannot adapt to the new conditions.

When a CEO is told that that their business needs to have an online presence, they most likely respond with, “let’s hire an intern to do it.” Ah, the intern. An unpaid existence. Once thought to involve coffee-runs and sending appointment-based e-mails, the intern now builds a web-presence. They set up facebook pages, they send out timely, consumer-centric tweets. They build the face of a brand for their own kind–the Gen Y-ers.

It’s evident that the ways in which consumers interact with their favorite brands and companies is very different than it used to be. If businesses want to appeal to a huge portion of their demographic, they must have a web-presence. People aren’t looking in the yellow pages for a dog groomer. They’re googling. They’re facebooking their friends for recommendations. They’re reading first-hand reviews on Yelp. If businesses aren’t there to monitor their presence, they could be exposed, their reputations tarnished in the permanent prints of the web.

As the rules of the game change, there is inevitably somewhere, a game-changer. The new generation of consumers are reaching for a new mode of interaction, and on the other side, there must be a new generation of producers to give them what they want. Sure, this may not apply to certain older industries like banking. But when my generation begins investing in their 401Ks and managing their stock portfolios, do you think they’ll want to be talking on the phone to a broker? Or navigating a convoluted and fragmented sitemap? I think they’ll be itching for a means to consume and interact similar to the tools with which they grew up.

By no means am I putting down the generation above me. Moreso, I’m responding to some of the negativity I hear surrounding the seemingly fruitless search for employment. In addition, I’m also reacting to the editorial pieces I’ve read bashing our generation’s lack of compliance with societal standards or lack of traditional ambitions. I just want to put it out there–the world is changing! So are the qualifications for leadership, the definition of success, and the means with which to achieve these. The jobs are out there. They may not be the jobs your parents had out of college, but they are there. And if you can’t seem to find them, there is this extremely beautiful quality of our time that we have the luxury of enjoying. We can create our own jobs with a little passion, innovation, and a whole lot of crazy.

I’ll always remember an article I read in BOP Magazine when I was about eight years old. For those of you who don’t know, BOP Magazine was where I got my fix of Leonardo Dicaprio glamour shots and Jonathan Taylor Thomas interviews (“My one wish? World peace” oh the wisdom… ) A fellow pre-teen wrote into BOP to let the world know that Backstreet Boys were famous before ‘Nsync, and so they were the better of the two. A wise-beyond-her-years Alison, 12 from Maine retorted, “That’s like saying last week’s old milk is better than today’s new carton.” To my much wiser, well-versed and experienced elders: I do not mean to call you old milk, necessarily. Nor do I mean to say that my peers and I are the freshest carton out the fridge. Rather, we’re…a new kind of milk. And we’re not all the same. I may be the Almond Milk. My roommate the Soy, my sister the Lactaid. Really what I’m getting at is that we’re worth something, and we’re not lazy. We’re just going about this thing we call life a little differently. And also as a really quick side note and concluding thought from a 20-something who enjoyed the luxury of a paycheck on her last internship: start paying your (qualified) interns 🙂

Becoming an Adult: More than Ditching the Neon and Wayfarers

When I arrive past the dust of my Millennial youth, I hope I will remember the meat of things as more than neon-tinted vision, text-message based love affairs and rainbow displays of wayfarer sunglasses. Instead of plot lines in a life story, these ephemeral phenomena will set the tone of a realized youth. They’ll serve as the glowing Instagram filter coating the everyday forks in the road. The golden aura lighting this age of possibility. Behind the irreverent tweets and the ever-revolving viral memes, I’ll see not a transition into adulthood. Rather, I’ll see the image of my youth comfortably yet ambiguously straddling the line between digital girl and analog woman.

Where generation priors’ analog woman may be established in reputation, a master of her niche, the digital “girl” may appear fragmented, spread over various social networks. Pinterest boards on jewelry organization, twitter afterthoughts on the white house correspondents dinner, Facebook mobile uploads of an epic sushi dinner. Different mediums call for different correspondence, multiple modes of self-expression. I’ve heard baby boomers say, “I just don’t have the time to keep up with that many outlets.” There is nothing wrong with this statement. It’s a lot to keep up with. But my peers and I don’t really have a choice. For many of us, engaging with this many outlets is not only second nature, it’s something we’ve evolved a need for.

The internet, open-access and the nature of our “beta world” have conjured up an environment foreign to many of our elders. They call my generation the digital natives, and we’ve grown up in a technological petri dish our entire lives. For us, the so-called “digital self” was not a new persona or presence that had to be developed and understood after establishment in the analog world. By the time we had our first AIM screen names, we knew pretty much nothing about the “adult world.” We ventured through adolescence, developing our analog selves alongside our digital.

So for us, developing into an adult is somewhat of a gray area. Qualities that defined adulthood in the past are changing. The foundation of our persons are rooted in a completely different realm than our parents. So the question of youth versus adulthood is a tough one. The line, blurry and obscure. There is some underlying classification of the digital as the eager, progressive, wide-eyed youngen ready for revolution, whereas the analog is a stuffy biz exec, talking at a boardroom, following the standard protocol of a 20th century business model. Neither the digital nor the analog should be constrained to an age group, a limited arena or path. Each has its place in our developing world. But when it comes to our identities, could we possibly be both? Could I at once be a digital woman as easily as an analog girl? Is Instagramming keeping us younger, starry-eyed, and illusioned even longer, past the years of Spring Fair yearning and late-nights in the library? More importantly, is this kind of digital-social behavior hindering our transition into the adult world?

If you ask me, I say no. The virtual realms we interact in everyday are certainly changing how we’re growing into adulthood, but I wouldn’t say they “hinder” our development. The conceptions of leadership, maturity and achievement are changing, and they’re changing conditionally with the ways in which we are actively altering our progression into adulthood. I don’t think posting pictures or making a wise-crack observation about a movie is a sign of self-importance and thus, immaturity. I think it’s an exploration in expression, and signature to this age’s obsession with “sharing.” Sharing feelings, sharing links, sharing e-books, etc. Share I will, while I feel the need; and to be involved in my youth the need feels present. More importantly, it feels like a beautiful time to be a young adult, writing the conditions of our stories as we go along…