Advertising
Advertising

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It

If you were born between 1977 and 1995, well, hello there, fellow Millennial!

Otherwise know as Generation Y, Millennials make up a very large chunk of the world’s population. In the US alone we are 86 million strong. And this generation, which is larger than the Baby Boomers, is going through an existential funk. In plain terms, Gen Y is pretty unhappy.

This generation is making a name for itself as one of the most unsatisfied generations of all time. It’s so bad that stereotypes symbolizing the Gen Y kid as unhappy, mopey, and “needy” have already popped up. Frequent criticisms include: “Millennials can’t be pleased,” and “Those kids are never happy.” And to be fair, we are pretty down in the dumps.

But I’ll be the first to defend us, and with passion. We have a litany of strengths: we are tech savvy, purpose-driven, confident, and ready to learn up on almost any skill. However, we also have our quirks, the biggest of which is that we are terribly unhappy with how life turned out. We are unhappy with our jobs. We dislike how we spend our days. We are desperate for something more in life and in our careers. While we have many things to be proud of, we don’t pay attention to them, and instead focus on what we don’t have or what others are doing and that we are lacking.

How Did Gen Y Get Here?

To be unhappy you need to have unmet expectations. That gap between what is and what should be is causing despair.

As Millennials grew up, our parents and teachers encouraged us to chase our wildest dreams. They instilled a deep sense of self-confidence that made us believe in the old PSA, “You can be whatever you set your mind to.” They reminded us that we were unique in our strengths and identities.

Advertising

That’s a great mindset, but one that can also quickly deflate you if you don’t see it materializing, which is what happened. Once grown up we saw that our smarts and skills were not enough to cut it in the “real world.” We had to prove ourselves all over again–sometimes starting from square one. The honors, A+ grades, padded extra-curricular schedule, and top-tier college degree weren’t enough to get us a high-impact, challenging job with a purpose. It wasn’t enough to avoid spending years getting coffee and organizing files. Or days burned making cold calls, reading a script a 14-year-old could follow.

The salt to this wound comes in the form of our smartphones and computer screens. While we toil away at a shockingly regular life, we see our friends share the best moments of their lives via Facebook and Instagram. All those pictures of Machu Picchu. All those check-ins to four-star restaurants. All those updates letting us know about their raises, or the cool project they are working on. The Joneses are not next door, but on the other side of the Update button. “Her life is so much better than mine. What did I do wrong?

So here we are. A confident and ambitious generation, survivors of one of the most intensely competitive school and job markets, faced with the not-so-flashy real world. Whenever we chafe at this, we are called “entitled.” Our high (possibly too high) standards are making us into trouble-makers. It feels like a dire situation, and that’s because it can be. That gap between expectations and reality is causing this deep unhappiness. It feels like it was all for naught; like everyone, including ourselves, were wrong about us.

Yet, there’s hope. By being aware of our reality, and why we feel how we do, we can start getting better. It all starts with describing the darkness, for once you start doing that you can distinguish it from the light.

Below are some reasons why Gen Y is unhappy, and how they can get beyond that point and live a more fulfilling life. This generation is a tremendous one, both in size and in uniqueness, and this malaise will not define it. It’s up to us to push beyond the funk.

1. Never Stop Searching for What Feels Right

If something isn’t working out, if your job doesn’t make you feel fulfilled, if your city is not your style, if your daily habits are not making you happy, realize this truth: you’re young enough to easily try different things on.

Advertising

Change will be hard, but in the grand scheme that is your life, it’s easiest when you are young. You have fewer commitments, less biography to reconcile, and tons of time ahead to experiment.

Any major change will lead to two things: you’ll either love it or get a little bit closer, or you won’t like it but can easily make another change. If science is right and most us will live past our 70s, then you have many many decades ahead to explore and expand. Don’t stop searching; keep trying on different things and beef up your knowledge base.

2. Be Kind and Appreciate

Your job may suck because it doesn’t challenge you. You may be in a role that is boring, or your work environment may not be what you’d expect in a workplace. And you’re right, that sucks. But that’s not the whole story.

There’s always an upside. Even in the most miserable times there is an upside, which is that it can’t get any worse. But most of us don’t notice that angle. We are just looking at the situation that doesn’t meet our standards. We are unhappy because there’s that “gap” staring right at us every day.

I recommend you ignore that gap. Yep, totally dismiss it. You won’t be able to get rid of it, but you’ll be best served by focusing on other things. Force yourself to focus on the things that are going well. Think about the things you have that others don’t (a job, an apartment, your health, your youth). Think about the things you didn’t have five years ago (more skills, more friends, more confidence).

These are easy to forget because they aren’t staring you in the face. No, they are too nice for that; they are kindly waiting on the side, hoping you notice them and appreciate the hard work that went into each.

Advertising

Part of being happy is being happy with what you have. That requires appreciation for your skills, your blessings, and your opportunities. This doesn’t mean you sit on your laurels and think everything is perfect (because you’re just lying to yourself and you’ll know it), but do stop every day and say, Thank you, to yourself. You’ve earned it. It’ll also make you breathe a little bit easier.

3. Notice the Noise

Let’s not forget the gap. That gap between what should be and what is drives most of our grief. But where did that gap come from? How has it become so loud that we give into it and ignore all the good stuff?

It got there because we listened to other people.

We listened to our parents who gave us a very strict definition of “success”: “Bill’s kid is so successful. He made over $100,000 last year…”

We listened to our peers who only share the best side of themselves on social media. Think: how often do you see any of them share pictures of their dirty room or how much they’re screwing up at their job? Yet you and I know that it happens.

We listened to society who told us that by age X we should have Y, and if we are doing things “right” we should look/talk/have XYZ.

Advertising

It’s all that noise that’s causing the trouble. It drowns out what we want, what is true to us. We are paying so much attention to everybody else that we don’t even know what we think about things like success, the good life, or our personal identity. The first step is to be aware that the noise exists. This helps distinguish it from our truth. Once you do that, you’ll realize how much that ruckus has driven your life thus far–and why it’s time to tune it out.

4. Expect a Bumpy Ride

Having personal goals sets us up for success simply by sketching out what we want. That’s powerful stuff.

But the fact that we want something does not change the path we need to walk to get it. It doesn’t take obstacles out of the way, or speed up the process. Our drive has one primary purpose, and that is to keep us making progress and pick us up after our trip ups. That’s it.

If you aren’t tripping or messing up, then you’re not aiming high enough. Your drive, that fuel tank that sits right behind your heart, is not being used well.

For the really audacious goals (those you daydream of) you cannot not have friction. Obstacles will always be there. It may be personal limits that you have to break through or other people trying to get the same thing, but there will always be some bumps and bruises.

Knowing this, of course, won’t make those aches you get along the way hurt any less. But it will help you see the grander picture. It will tell you that your drive is being spent on really awesome stuff. It might be a bumpy ride, and it may take longer than you thought, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worth it. The best stuff is worth fighting for–sometimes it takes a lifetime to get it.

Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/ via flickr.com

More by this author

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It 11 things to be happy 11 Things You Need To Drop Now To Be Happy leader How Self-Awareness Makes A Leader Successful unplug Should We Adopt France’s New “Unplug After 6 p.m.” Law? active fun Why You’re Resting All Wrong And How To Fix It

Trending in Communication

1 How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up 2 How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late 3 7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer 4 If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things 5 Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

Advertising

How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

Advertising

A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

Advertising

Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

Advertising

How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

Read Next