Gen Y: Being "Overeducated"

Would you like fries with that?

DALLAS, October 16, 2012 – For as long as I can remember, my generation–Gen Y–has been instructed on what it would take to be successful. In equal amount, we’ve also been warned of the dismal lives we would live if we failed in this and were forced into dismal careers spent perpetually asking “would you like fries with that?”

So we studied smarter with online tools, completed more standardized tests, participated in more extra-curricular activities, slept less and sacrificed more of our free time all in the name of getting into a good college and succeeding in our intended careers. We were told that this was what was required of us, and that our hard work, dedication, and the record-breaking amount of debt incurred throughout this process would be repaid in full.

For this kind of thinking, we’ve been called narcissistic and self-obsessed. Our fixation with grades had somehow become a vice, a trademark springing from our need to feel good about ourselves, and not our desire to instill meaning into our lives. Our entrance into the worst job market in sixty-years was even seen as a threat, with some considering us a horde of “spoiled” and “inexperienced” children stealing jobs from our more deserving elders.

Most infuriatingly, after incurring more student loan debt than any generation previously, the lack of desire on our part to put our bachelor’s degrees to work to land a job in food service– the very thing we had been told for our entire lives was tantamount to failure–has been characterized as laziness instead of being just the first run in a ladder of aspiration. It was as if the dogmatic mantra of hard work and dedication we had drummed into us throughout our youth–related with great enthusiasm by the older generations–had never even happened.

Despite the fact that we’ve found ourselves in a situation unlike anything faced in the near past, the multitude of “overeducated” millennials have instead done something that neither of the previously mentioned generations ever would’ve done: we’ve sucked it up, and have tried to make something of ourselves in ways that often lay outside of material success.

We create more music, art, and value on the web. We donate our time to non-profit organizations. We read voraciously, and maintain more interest in current events and politics than what the media considers typical in their traditional stereotype of an apathetic youth. Yet, these distinct positives are something that you’ll never hear most of us ever talk about.

That’s because in our eyes, we’re failures. We’re the table-waiting, debt-ridden disappointments we had spent our entire lives trying not to be. But, what we still want more than anything else is to make our lives have some sort of meaning outside of ourselves. And we’re still trying.


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Tommy Swanson

Tommy Swanson is the Co-Founder of Think Stripes, a content marketing and brand storytelling agency. He works with nationally recognized NPOs and businesses on developing their online marketing strategy. Swanson is also a serial entrepreneur, having started and sold several companies in his early teens. You can find him at @tommyswanson.  

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