Building our worth, and more…

November 29, 2007, 8:59 PM UTC

On the road again talking some Gen Y smack, but wanted to float a few things past you while I have a few minutes.

First, have been meaning to bring up the recent Ask Bing, “I’m worth more than $28K a year,” and get your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, a recent college grad in the throes of a challenging job search wrote in to lament his situation: “Everyone wants experience but no one is willing to give it to me. Not to be arrogant I just genuinely believe that I am worth more than $28,000 a year.” Of course, Bing gives him a talking to and ultimately advises finding a job “that, in a way, you might just do for free,” to make waiting for that big payoff easier.

And he’s right. No matter where you come from and what your expectations are, the realities of the job market don’t really allow for huge salaries and major titles right away. But this is a common area of contention, for both recruiters and recruits. (Bing echoes the refrain of many put-upon recruiters when he says, ” “I can’t tell you how many people I interview these days who, having just gotten out of school, want a vice president title and bag of cash just for showing up.”) While I tend to agree with Bing’s assessment, it’s clear from your own comments on posts like “Money v. meaningful work, the battle continues” that there’s a bit of disagreement on this point.

For me, though, taking the “passion” gig isn’t just about following your heart or any other such hippie-dippy swill; the fact is that if you take a job you love, you’re far more likely to rock it. And that experience will help you get that bigger, better-paying job faster than holding out for what you think you deserve (i.e., filling out endless applications only to have recruiters collapse with laughter at the sight of your salary requirements). My first job didn’t pay much more than that $28,000, but what I learned at that scrappy startup made me a lot more attractive to future employers, and before too long I was able to afford both a shoebox in New York City and dinner.

So when young people stress about their meager paychecks, I say think of that first job not as an insult, but as a chance to prove that you actually are worth more than $28,000; it’ll make your first employer value you — and encourage the second to pay you accordingly.

On another note, thanks to Gig reader Sarah W. for passing along Virginia Heffernan’s hi-larious New York Times story, “Sweeping the Clouds Away,” about the recent release of the earliest episodes of Sesame Street, volumes 1 and 2 of which apparently “may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.” If people think we Yers were coddled, heaven help us when today’s preschool child gets old enough for work.

Cookie Monster doesn’t even do his Alistair Cookie bit anymore, mostly because of the pipe. I’m not sure I want to live in a world without Alistair Cookie. But then, I have a friend who won’t even say the word “die” around his child, because he thinks that knowing things die will be too disturbing for her. (We still haven’t told him that, when her fish died, she said not to tell, because talking about dying was too sad for him.)

Anyone who’s read pre-Disney fairy tales knows that kids have been handling hardships much worse than dead fish for centuries. And that’s helped them to grow up — to take responsibility and fend for themselves. In that light, a little adversity mightn’t be such a bad thing for today’s sheltered youngsters. Which is not, obviously, to say that they — we — are all sheltered, or that they haven’t suffered in their own ways. It’s simply to point out that children born into privilege would probably turn out to be better people if they saw some of the other side growing up, be it with an afterschool job, a volunteering stint, or some of those old school episodes of Sesame Street.

And, lastly, check out our latest Gen Y web video if you haven’t already. Hope you like it, and in the meantime, pray for me; I’m in a hotel with no wireless, and it’s murder. (Cue the “spoiled brat” commentary from Yadgyu ;o).