Wearing many hats: Young professionals are suckers
Like many other young professionals, I jumped at the chance to find work once I finished college. The trouble was the job market was abysmal to say the least, and I had all but worn out my welcome sitting in front of the TV all day watching Friends re-runs. So when I finally managed to entice a possible employer, I wooed like no one has wooed before. I showcased my abilities to be both professional, fun, and charismatic—and two and half years later, I’m still at that job.
But the problem I encountered—and that many other young professionals encounter—was that in order to stay in my employer’s good graces and compete for growth and advancement I needed to learn how to do a lot of shit. I billed myself as a writer, editor, and technologically savvy fellow: all true. But in order to stay competitive, I went out of my way to learn social media strategies, marketing tactics, and even Web development (PHP is a nightmare; I don’t care what anybody says). And then it happened. I was asked to take on more responsibility. Yes! I thought, I got her attention; now I can really make something of myself. Wrong.
You see since the job market has been such utter crap for the last few years, employers have been, how shall I say, “sweatshopping” young professionals like myself. No matter how much I better myself, wearing many hats has gotten me nowhere. More responsibility is supposed to lead to more money, benefits, and respect. But sadly, I have found just the opposite to be true.
Now I’m not saying this is the case for every business out there, and that every young professional is at the mercy of a Scrooge-like peddler of sardonic comments and passive-aggressive (and sometimes downright mean) remarks. But my experience has shown me that the American dream—for some—is only a pipe dream. I can’t go through one day at work without putting my hands in twelve different tasks, handled by twelve different departments. I’m expected to do it all. And what’s worse, I would make more money working at McDonald’s (an establishment where I have no desire to work nor climb its corporate ladder).
So why do I stay? That’s just it. That’s the question. Why do I stay at a dead-end job that only makes me wish I had the constitution for hardcore alcoholism? Because student loans aren’t going to pay themselves; it’s remotely related to my field of interest; and most importantly I can’t do anything else.
That’s the secret; that’s the great lie told to young professionals. Learn to do everything so you can do anything. And it’s bullshit. My workday is so stretched out from writing to editing to social media to sales to billing to customer service to IT that I hardly have time to hone one single skill. It’s great to be a Jack-of-all-trades except that you’re a master of none.
So when I look at job postings here and there, I see focused positions—albeit some have many responsibilities, but they are all focused on one common goal—and I recognize I’m not qualified (on paper) for any of them. I’m unfortunately too honest to lie on my resume, and that may be my downfall. Wearing many hats (as a result of my desperation to get and keep a job) has not only depleted my exuberance and faith in the pride of a full day’s work, but it’s also left me feeling used and taken advantage of.
I’m rambling a bit, and have maybe diverged from my original point. My apologies to anyone reading this and wondering what the hell I’m getting at. To be honest, I’m a little pissed off right now and ashamed of myself for being duped into thinking there were people out there who really cared about fostering the young minds of a burgeoning generation of professionals.
The point is…young people just stepping out into the workforce are being taken advantage of in a new way that goes even beyond shitty pay (not to mention the poor saps that are unpaid interns). They are offered the promise of training in various tasks that will make them incredibly valuable, only to be burnt out so fast and have no real hope for advancement that the prospect of even looking for a new job leaves them so cynical that they waste away into the couch cushions they can’t even afford.