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Is Corporate America Forcing Generation Y to Innovate?

Vangile | February 18, 2011

Innovation by Seth1492

One of the many things I do in my life is work as a business developer and sales associate for a Remax Connection. Within the real estate industry, like most industries, there is a lot of talk about hiring Gen Y and creating an ideal work environment for them. I love listening to companies that are baffled by a generation that spends all its time on Facebook and texting and, I think wow I am part of Gen Y and I don’t do any of that.

I am an individual and I am looking for a company that sees the world and my friends as I do – unique in their approach to anything. How can employers attract the best young talent? What do you have to offer that makes them feel unique? Money is not everything when it comes to hiring talented people, if it were then no one would work for startups for very little pay. It is important to understand what motivates different people; for some it is money, others status and others the environment. To explain what I mean I think I should share my story of how I came to be an entrepreneur.

It all started with a quote by Frantz Ferdinand: “Each generation, out of relative obscurity, must seek out its mission and either fulfill it or destroy it.”

I kept reading and meditating on these words, after my interview at a well known financial services company. I had gone to the interview with my hopes up and a belief that the company was different, but at the end of the interview the interviewer looked at me and said, “we meet so many great people and most of them speak multiple languages and also have PhDs.” I was devastated and angry. I wondered if she was implying that I needed to speak more languages than the 5 I already spoke or if I needed a PhD on top of my MBA?

If it was the latter, then I was not interested because I had walked out of business school with student loans that kept me awake at night. If I could pinpoint a moment in my life when my disillusionment with the corporate world set in, this would be it. In that moment I started to see the importance of dreams and working with a company that aligned itself with my dreams and would work to help me achieve them.

I was not only disillusioned but I was also exhausted. I was tired of spending my days preparing for interviews and rehashing my life story so that it fit into a box that interviewers could swallow. I was tired of apologizing for the fact that I had spent time traveling and learning about new cultures. I was tired of having to apologize for the things I was most proud of in my life because these were not things that helped my career. How could knowing about European culture, African culture, American culture and Caribbean culture first hand be a bad thing? I was sitting in interviews and telling interviewers what they wanted to hear, not who I really was. This seemed like a slippery slope downwards – if they expected me to compromise myself before I even got through the door what about when I was already in the door and they were paying me?

I did the math: I was 25 years old then (now 27) which meant that I was good to work for 40 years, out of those 40 years I would spend 8 hours a day at work and another 4 hours a day either thinking about work, stressed about work or stuck in traffic going to and from work. This meant I would spend half of my days doing something work related; 20 years of my life doing nothing but working with companies where people did not know about me as a person or my dreams. That was hard to swallow.

I called a friend the next day and told her I was starting my own company, Speak 2B Free, because as far as I could see the corporate world was not for me. I called all my close friends to tell them about my experience with the company and let them know to stay away. I also put it up on Facebook and emailed people on my mailing list. Looking back, I may have actually cost the company a few great employees.

Of course my decision to be an entrepreneur stemmed from my determination to be true to myself, but it was also disappointment at the way the corporate world works. I wonder how many other college graduates my age have sat down and done the math about the amount of time they would be spending in an office. I know that amongst my friends my experience and my reaction is typical; many of my friends from business school have left to be artists, backpackers or entrepreneurs. These are the people who are not scared to follow their hearts and are not scared to take risks and think out of the box and yet these are the people that corporate America has rejected. I have come to the conclusion that Generation Y is a generation with a lot of knowledge, but no one has prepared us for the working world by teaching us how to network appropriately or to communicate accordingly. The working world is not prepared for us and we have to reinvent everything as we move ahead.

I would be interested to hear what others’ experiences in interviews have been, please share your stories in the comment section below.

Vangile is a Realtor and the founder of Speak 2B Free, a company that provides resources for poets and storytellers in the spoken word and poetry slam trades. Follow Van at: www.twitter.com/speak2bfree

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