We the restless
My mother took up Accountancy at a local university and in the next 30 years that followed, she worked in two commercial banks, steadily climbing the corporate ladder and reaping the rewards that loyalty and competency bring. After which, she was appointed assistant governor of our country’s central bank, where she spent almost a decade until she retired last year. Forty years, three jobs.
I am 25 years old and currently on my third job already. I first worked as staff member of a senator, then as manager of an art gallery. I went overseas to pursue further studies and now hold a finance and operations executive role at a telecommunications company here in the United Kingdom. “Job surfing” is the term given to describe this behavior of shifting jobs in a short span of time. You will be forgiven to ask, was I ever fired? No. Was I ever unhappy? No. In fact, I loved the art gallery job so much that I could have stayed forever, really. But unlike the baby boomer generation characterized by the exact experience of my mother—loyalty, hierarchy, stability—I belong to a generation easily enticed by the bait called “new opportunity.” The “Millennials,” as we are called, employ a restless mindset: we want to travel, we want to earn big money, we want to experience this and that first hand. We want it, we want it all and we want it all now. Instant gratification is what we expect and what we think we are entitled to.
At the onset of the global recession, the Wall Street Journal wrote about our sense of entitlement: “They want to be CEOs tomorrow… yet expect more vacation… they demand too much too soon… and would renege a job-acceptance commitment if a better offer came along.” Was the generalization harsh? Probably. Was it true? Absolutely. What spurred this kind of mindset and behavior—did we change how the world operates or did the world change how we do? I argue the latter.
In my mother’s time, a degree from a local university guaranteed you a career. Now, a master’s degree even from the best institutions of the world is only indicated by job adverts as “desirable” or “an advantage.” In the UK as in elsewhere, one would have to meet both the “essential” and “desirable” person specifications to have a fighting chance of getting invited for interview. Whilst “hobbies” and “interests” played but a minor role in CVs in the past, now they can be the deciding factor to determine if one will fit in the company culture. Whilst staying 10 years in a job was beyond reproach before, a number of recruiters now question why you did not expand your horizons and grow. Whilst a particular specialization is still important, what matters increasingly now is a person’s flexibility and transferable skills.
The youth of today knows the world’s current expectations and we find ourselves packing in more and more activities into our profile. We do studying, part-time jobs, voluntary roles, sports, society membership and travel simultaneously. After all, so much is expected of us so soon and we give our best to comply. And sometimes, even if you fulfill all that, you still might not get the job if you do not have the right passport. This happened to me; I was so close to landing my dream job and I lost it on a citizenship technicality.
I was shattered by the experience and fled to Madrid for a time out. It was good fun being immersed in Spanish culture and establishing new friendships and I came back to the UK rejuvenated. Flying to another country for a week because a job interview ended badly is not something the baby boomers would have done. But the advent of budget airlines and affordability of communications technologies changed the very landscape of trade. As geographies have ceased to be boundaries for both business and leisure, this enabled our restlessness. When my mother was still working, one overseas trip per year was viewed as a luxury. On the other hand, I have been to seven countries and 10 cities in the past year alone and my mother frowned at this. Yes, perhaps it was a tad bit too much but how could I not go when there is so much to see in Europe, and this is made within reach by RyanAir’s cheap flights?
The Internet also acts as a big enabler to our restless behavior. Because we willingly share our lives on the Web via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. and can upload our CVs to various recruitment websites, headhunters are able to conduct their searches not only locally or regionally but globally. For instance, a lady speaking with an unmistakable Singaporean accent called me a few days ago from the London office of a recruitment agency that specializes in matching recent Asian graduates of top UK universities to employment opportunities back in our home region. A few months ago, a friend posted on Facebook pictures of an exhibition in London showcasing some Filipino artists I knew. I looked up the gallery director on LinkedIn, sent a friendly message saying I think it’s super cool that they exhibit Southeast Asian artists and half an hour later, he replied inviting me to drop by the gallery for a chat. Networking has never been this convenient although I have yet to learn how to convert such connections into concrete outcomes later on.
Indeed the world has changed a lot from what it was during the time of our parents. The difficult employment landscape, easiness of travel and advances in technology are some factors that influence how we think and how we live. Wall Street Journal says we demand too much too soon and I reckon this is because we have done too much too early. In fulfilling what is expected of us and what we expect of ourselves, we build up on what we think we are entitled to. For our entire lives, we were supported, validated and encouraged to “find ourselves.” I got out of my comfort zone in Manila and came to Europe with this hope of “finding myself,” but as I realized how much bigger the world was and with more possibilities at hand, things got a bit messier. Although I am enjoying the European ride so far, I do envision myself going home and am on a lookout for a good opportunity that will enable me to. Hopefully sooner rather than later!
Fatima Avila, 25, graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 2008, worked for two years and then moved to the United Kingdom to pursue her master’s degree in Business Management at The University of Edinburgh. She currently works in SoConnect Ltd, which is a telecommunications company in the United Kingdom.
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