Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Rules for 'Having It All'

Who doesn't want to be able to have their cake and eat it too? Wouldn't it be silly not to? Click for photo credit.

In case you haven't heard me mention this before, I belong to Generation Y. By definition alone, this means I own an ipod, am a social media whiz, and possess a diluted sense of entitlement toward everything, including a fabulous career straight out of college. In reality, I only recently discovered my capacity for ipod-mastery, and I've somehow managed to steer clear from that holy grail of all social media: Twitter. Now as for the entitlement bit, well let's talk about that one.

Currently, my brain is waging a battle between two professional choices that more or less pit entitlement against accepting the situation. Choice No. 1 (i.e. entitlement) has me proposing an adapted work model and schedule to a brand new employer in order to follow a secondary fulfilling and fabulous, yet unpaid, opportunity (or FFU opp, for brevity's sake). Choice No. 2 (i.e. accepting the situation, as is) would be to forget about the additional FFU opportunity and just stick to the 8-5 model that was agreed upon initially, thus missing out on an incredible chance to gain valuable experience in a field of interest. I acknowledged the possibility for a Choice No. 3 which would be to forego my main employment gig to pursue solely the FFU gig, and work out the issue of income later. But I'd rather not resort to that, and if you read my entry on my current financial state, you'll probably agree that Choice No. 3 is not really a choice for me. So I have two choices. While I am positive about what I want, I'm not so clear on the rules: how far I'm allowed to negotiate, as a brand spankin-new employee, a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed young worker. On one hand, aren't workers granted the right to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment? Because no matter what people may say in their interviews, we're all in it for ourselves, to improve and gain a certain skill set, to advance in a certain field, to reach our professional goals. The FFU opportunity is absolutely a step toward my goals, so why shouldn't I be allowed to pursue it, and to negotiate for a work arrangement that can accommodate it?

On the other hand, am I just being selfish - one of those despicable Gen Y archetypes who hop from job to job on a whim, with seemingly no regard for their employers they leave in the dust; who think they are entitled to have it all: their full-time, well-paying job AND and the career equivalent of a side of delicious mashed potatoes - even if it means adjustments will be forced on the organization's part? With a grossly overflowing pool of candidates flooding the job market, part of me think I'm just plain stupid to consider a proposal like this.

So...Do I have to choose one over the other? Or is it possible to have both? Do I have to play only with the cards I've been dealt? Or am I allowed to bring in my own set?

What this boils down to is a question on rules and what we are allowed - or not allowed - to do/to ask/to present our employers. Everyone I've consulted on the matter can't seem to identify what the rules for this situation are. But I'll admit, even if there were rules, I probably would be inclined to not follow them anyway. In this tenuous, razor-edged competitive job market, where you can go from hired to fired in a matter of hours, and jobless to employed just as quickly, I would even argue that the rules - whatever they were - are fast becoming obsolete. The question at hand is no longer about how loyal you are to your company, what matters instead is whether or not you are able to do your job - and do it better than (almost) anyone else. And once you look at it that way, the notion of entitlement - being able to pursue the maximum amount of opportunities available to you, and to negotiate for them yourself - sounds a lot less selfish. Its actually smart.
Obviously, my decision cannot only benefit me while costing the organization, and this will be factored into whatever case I present to the boss. But I've decided I can live with the worst-case scenario of Choice No. 1, especially if failure is really the best negotiating tool, as Rebecca Thorman suggests.

I certainly don't have a whole lot to lose. Come to think of it, that might just be the reason behind Gen Y's brazen insistence on having it all.


Sloane said...

The rules?! Oh it's SO hard. I just turned 30 this year, and so far it's not easier, though I do hear it gets easier. Whatever that means.

I asked MANY of the same questions you've asked above for the past decade. What is too much to ask. What should I put up with? What are the limits? It's so hard to know. And I certainly don't have the answers, but I can say this...looking back..it's all about keeping a strong circle around you. Those who listen, who give advice, who are willing to call you out and put you in check. That's what you need. Friends and family to be yourself, even when the world seems like it's changing all around you every day.

And keep writing. Something in THAT makes it all a little easier to bear too.

Karina said...

Sloane, thank you for your comments. It seems these questions are even more difficult to answer with the far from advantageous job market, when conventional wisdom seems to tell us that we should just be happy to have ANY job, which is true - but where do we draw the line? I will agree that social/family support can make a world of difference when the questions become overwhelming, and the answers overwhelmingly elusive.

Jmarls80 said...

Great post. That entitlement thing bites me in the ass all the time.

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