Advice for Graduating Selfie Monsters

Clockwise from left: Graduation day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

Clock­wise from left: Grad­u­a­tion day in front of The Garden May 2009, Bek 2013, Birthday outing 2014

This post was written by NU alumna Rebekah Gal­lacher. Bek majored in Eng­lish and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and grad­u­ated Magna Cum Laude in 2009.

I’ve always resented the notion that “the real world” doesn’t happen until after you grad­uate col­lege. I find that this sen­ti­ment is typ­i­cally cou­pled with the idea that our generation—Generation Y—doesn’t under­stand what the real world is. I don’t know about you, but five years at North­eastern, three co-​​ops (plus two free­lancing gigs), zero sum­mers, a weekend job slinging drinks to BC kids, a double over­loaded final semester, and astounding stu­dent loans felt pretty real to me. Tack on grad­u­ating into The Great Recession—one of the worst job economies in recent history—and I thought I had this “real world” thing down.

Five years later though, I can admit through the clarity pro­vided by hind­sight that life is in fact realer. These last five years have been the most influ­en­tial, the most tumul­tuous, the most real for me so far. Those of you entering “the real world” this spring will get plenty of advice. More than you’ll know what to do with most likely. So I’m going to tackle only one thing: that despite all of the effort we’ve expelled so far, we are actu­ally a bunch of lazy, enti­tled, tech-​​obsessed selfie monsters.

You heard me. Needy. Cod­dled. Selfie monsters.

Now, I per­son­ally will stay con­founded by this impres­sion for as long as it per­sists. I don’t know a single one of these Gen Ys. (Who are these people!?) But this per­cep­tion is per­va­sive, and try as we might, we’re not going to be able to get away from it. Not yet, anyway. So your chal­lenge, and my best advice for your next five years, is to face it head on.

It is absolutely cen­tral to your suc­cess to under­stand and acknowl­edge the assump­tions about Gen Ys. Once you do, you’ll be able to interact more effec­tively with your col­leagues from other gen­er­a­tions, including your boss. (Spoiler Alert: that’s kind of…well, every­thing.) The self-​​aware Gen Y is the smartest Gen Y and the Gen Y that will get ahead. A little self-​​awareness goes a long way.

And don’t stop there, you over­achieving go-​​getter! Take some time to under­stand where other gen­er­a­tions are coming from, what they value, why they might think you’re a whiny baby with wildly unre­al­istic expec­ta­tions. (Their words, not mine!) The Gen Y that’s well versed in gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences is the Gen Y that will be actively sought out for their opin­ions and expertise.

All of this being said, don’t be afraid to use your unique point-​​of-​​view to your advan­tage. Be con­fi­dent that your age, your expe­ri­ences (“real world” or not) are both per­sonal and orga­ni­za­tional strengths. We’re soon to be the largest cohort in the work­force and we have an oppor­tu­nity to shape the world of work. We will undoubt­edly influ­ence expec­ta­tions, flex­i­bility, tech­nology, com­pen­sa­tion, the social con­scious­ness of our organizations—just to name a few. As well we should; much of this needs changing and I know we’re up to the challenge.

Let’s take back the con­ver­sa­tion around our gen­er­a­tion and rede­fine our orga­ni­za­tional value. Because the Gen­er­a­tion Y I know is hard-​​working, col­lab­o­ra­tive, inno­v­a­tive, and ambitious.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to the Class of 2014. I look for­ward to every­thing you’ll accom­plish. Including making me feel old and tech­no­log­i­cally out of date.

Let’s do this thing!

Rebekah Gal­lacher is an Asso­ciate Editor of Web Con­tent at Har­vard Busi­ness Pub­lishing. She received her dual BA in English/​Communication Media Studues in 2009 and man­aged to turn it into a real job! Feel free to con­tact her at rebekahgallacher@​gmail.​com or tweet her at @RCGallacher.