One of the great things about my work is it positions me to contribute my two cents for books, articles, college courses, info products, etc. The bummer is when I dedicate the time to give what I believe are valuable nuggets for action or reflection and they never see the light of day…as recently happened when one of my media superheroines reached out for a story on young women in the workplace. Since the biggest bummer is having the content go underutilized, I’m piecing it together to share with you my thoughts on how the recession is impacting us Gen-Y and millennial women. In many ways it’s a companion piece to my June 17 Awaken Your CAREERpreneur vlog where I asked, “The Ladies Are Coming, or Are They?”
The 2 Biggest Trends: Gen-Y Women And The Recession
First, for well-educated young women who are still pursuing full-time employment upon graduation, I am noticing that those who are driven by a desire to succeed are more tentative about taking positions with start-ups, in publishing or on Wall Street. Instead, they are looking to align their expertise with corporations that are pegged for continual growth such as health care and renewable energy.
Second, for young women driven by a desire to make positive social impact, I’m seeing a lot choose to move home so that they can work in a nonprofit and make a contribution through a company like Teach for America or YouthBuild. Gen-Y and millennial women inspired to drive change through entrepreneurial solutions are also looking for positions in social enterprise or in CSR. Knowing that work in most industries is unstable at best, many young women are saying, “I might as well do what I care about now. For the only thing worse than selling out is being sold out,” as so many of us have witnessed happen for Gen-X and Boomers.
New Grads as Perpetual Grads
I’m also seeing a lot of young women go directly from college to graduate school or from college to work (or job seeking) for a year or two and then to graduate school…rather than waiting 3-5 years to launch their careers, gain real-world experience and choose a degree program that aligns with their professional goals. As a former women’s studies professor, trust me I’m not knocking higher education. And the influx of women into MBA and PhD programs is exciting to be sure. However, when young women accrue massive educational debt, haven’t necessarily chosen degrees that will make them more competitive job candidates or graduate over educated and under experienced, I worry. It’s important for any woman choosing graduate school to be VERY clear about how much the degree will increase her earning potential and whether it’s enough to cover and warrant what she will be shelling out in monthly payments upon graduation.
The Gen-Y / Millennial Woman’s Mindset
While we know we have lower rates of unemployment than our male counterparts, there is still a sense that we are not moving up the ranks as quickly as we did in a robust economy. The fear, the source of most self-sabotage, manifests in a lot of concerns over integrating the personal with the professional: How do I put equal attention into job hunting/career reinvention and dating? How do I feel about the fact that I may be supporting or at least picking up the tab for a significant other who is unemployed? Will I have achieved the success I seek prior to wanting to start a family?
For many Gen-Y and millennial women, unfortunately, the greatest barrier to workplace equity is ourselves. We trail miserably behind young men in negotiating our first salaries. We trail miserably behind young men in asking for performance reviews and promotions. And we trail miserably behind young men in our assessment of our workplace performance and preparedness for leadership. Therefore, while we might get ourselves in the door before young men do, we are much more likely not to move as quickly up or be paid as well the longer we are in the workplace. It’s important to step into our moxie and ask for what we’re worth—in money, position and opportunity—once we’ve gotten in and have measurable results to back-up our case.
All of this undoubtedly plays into our thoughts on entrepreneurship. It’s commonly reported that Gen-Y believes entrepreneurship to be safer than full-time employment. A recent survey by the Young Entrepreneurs Council reported 35% of Gen-Y who are currently employed have started a side business, 21% have started a business because they are unemployed and 79% are interested in one day becoming entrepreneurs. As I know firsthand, young women are more likely to start home based businesses than tech start-ups. More and more are taking to the internet to blog, create info products and sell services through our online brands. This is the space where I think women will most be stepping up and leading in the next 2-5 years. The next wave of young female small business success is leveraging one’s products and service to make more sizable and replicable social impact.
Alexia Vernon is a career and workplace author, speaker, coach, trainer and media personality who empowers people to build careers and companies that are successful, sustainable and full of soul. To receive Alexia’s “7 Biggest Obstacles to Success and the Sinfully Simple Formula to Shift Them into Opportunities,” visit www.AlexiaVernon.com.