I recently read an article that’s title starts with, “Young people need to lower expectations…” Lately, we have heard young people feel they are entitled to a dream job right after they graduate from university or college, or as this article so eloquently quoted Sean Lyons, the associate professor at the University of Guelph’s College of Management and Economics, saying, “The things they [young people] are expecting are so far off the actual labour market data that they are untenable. They are looking for a $70,000 salary…and it’s not reasonable. But they were led to believe that it was reasonable.”
I’m not sure who Lyons spoke with, but I have never met a young person (as in, those born after 1980 and currently emerging into the workforce) who expects to get paid $70,000 right after they finish school or work an entry level position. With that being said, I do agree that some people in my generation think they can have everything served to them on a silver platter and that the lucky horseshoe up their behind will never run out of good deeds and wishes. But, I’m writing this post tonight because I want to stand up for us 20 and 30-somethings who work hard, have been told “No” enough times to understand that we can’t always get what we want and know that we’re all going to be starting from the bottom before we get here, wherever “here” might be. Drake might have been on to something. I said might.
I always had dreams of being a journalist – writing for a big newspaper or magazine, like Toronto Life, and speaking to cool people on a daily basis, finding out interesting stories to which I could add to with some investigation and interviewing. I had applied to two of the top journalism schools in Ontario, along with five other similar programs at various institutions across the province. With a high average and perfect track record for being on honour roll, I was convinced I would at least get into one of my top three choices.
Then, my rejection letters started piling up and up and up, until I had only a few acceptances, none from my top three post-secondary school choices and programs. I ended up going to my very last choice, good ol’ number seven. When I told people where I was going to school, they laughed at me. They made jokes about how I would never have a real degree, would never get anywhere and that I was too good for that. Well, my 17-year-old self did not appreciate that. So, I cried. I cried, I cried and I cried because I didn’t understand why, after taking school and my desire to work in journalism so seriously, I was denied entry.
The things I got to experience at the University of Guelph-Humber, my seventh choice university, are incomparable to any of my friends’ experiences at their post-secondary institutions. Everyone complained about never feeling like they belonged in university and how they never got the hands-on experience that they would need to get a job post graduation. My experience was entirely different and I got to produce not only articles for a newspaper but I also was the managing editor for Emerge Magazine, which later went on to win seven awards from Columbia University. I faced my fears of television broadcasting and produced, edited and anchored for news segments for an entire year. I also went on to do an internship at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for six weeks, where not only did I awkwardly get in the background of a clip being recorded by Peter Mansbirdge, host of The National, but I also got to help with a story that would later air on that show with a producer and a reporter. My internship later lead me to working as fill at Metro Morning, a Toronto radio show on CBC Radio 1, where I sat across the desk from Matt Galloway, the host.
During my final year of university, I decided I would apply for my Masters of Journalism. I applied to those same top two schools, after graduating with a portfolio full of work and two credentials, both with distinction. Then, one day, I had a revelation and a hunch telling me that I wasn’t going to get in for the second time and to apply to a back up program. I remember when the first rejection letter came. Well, actually, it was a letter sent as an attachment to my email (so they couldn’t even spend the $0.75 to send me it via snail mail after I spent over $100 to submit my application). I was at work and was immediately angered. Shortly after, the second rejection letter came. I was devastated.
Around the same time, when checking on my back-up program application, I noticed that my application had been deemed “incomplete.” The admissions staff had apparently not received my transcript. I remember feeling like nobody wanted me and that I was one of the most unintelligent people on the planet, because I had in fact submitted my transcript and was being denied entry into yet another gosh-darn back up!
After about a week of emailing back and forth, I learned that the transcript had been misplaced and found. Later, I was accepted into the post-graduate Event Management program at Humber College. “Thank God,” I remember thinking. I didn’t want to be sitting at home, not doing anything, waiting for a neon sign to come flashing my way saying, “I have the answer to your academic and career troubles.” Instead, I wanted to work hard and get to where I wanted to be, no matter how long it would take me or how many rejection letters I would receive.
While applying to Humber, I was working at Eating Disorders of York Region as the Events and Communications Coordinator, a position I had initiated and volunteered for until I was honoured to receive a grant from the Ontario government, allowing me to get some pay for my efforts. At EDOYR, I quickly learned how much I loved social media, event management, communications, fundraising, new business development, prospect research, account management and community engagement.
I did my internship during my post-graduate career at the Canadian Cancer Society‘s Ontario Division in Corporate and Community Partnerships, one of the departments I now work for. I took the initiative to intern with the CCP department after volunteering at the 2012 Colon Cancer Gala in Vaughan, where I met one of the managers. I inquired about an internship, something the department had never offered before. In time, I had an interview and secured the month-long volunteer opportunity under the supervision of that same manager I met at the Gala.
My experiences, my hard work, my education and my initiative lead me to where I am right now. No, I am not working my dream job. But, yes, I am asking for challenges, yes, I am asking for assistance and yes, I know I am at the bottom of the food chain. That doesn’t make me entitled to a better job or a promotion. All it means is that I’m on the right track, just like several other 20 and 30-somethings who haven’t been spoiled all their lives.
I know what it feels like to be rejected. I was told numerous times that I would soon have a collection of rejection letters and emails to show off, more than I would be able to count on my fingers and toes. I have worked three volunteer positions and worked for free at numerous events and fundraisers over the past five years. If I wasn’t working right now, I would be happy to take on another unpaid position to keep me busy, keep me building my experience and keep me networking. Getting a job doesn’t happen over night. I’m not sure who told Lyons my generation expects to wake up $70,000 richer tomorrow morning. Sure, it would be nice, but who said 80’s and 90’s babies are all expecting it to happen? I sure as hell am not.