Generation Y or Millennials: Optimistic or Unrealistic? Wayne Baker is away. This week, he has invited Media Director Gayle Campbell to write about the challenges faced by her generation. Here’s her second column …

This week, we are thinking about my own Generation Y, people aged 18-29 who are suffering under historically high levels of unemployment and swimming in an ocean of debt. We have every reason to complain—yet many are still smiling!

Despite our dire circumstances, many Millennials are surprisingly optimistic about the future. As Wayne pointed out in a January post, Baby Boomers are filled with regrets about how their lives have turned out. Racked with self-pity, Pew researchers found that Boomers have spent most of their lives less satisfied than previous generations.

Yet surveys show that young adults—part of an age group that has lost more ground economically than any other age group over the last three decades—are nonetheless positive about their career prospects. Overall, according to Pew research, most men and women in Generation Y are unhappy with their income level—but 90 percent told Pew pollsters that they eventually expect to make enough to live a good life. Compare that with only half of Boomers who said yes to that question. (If you care to read more on this, the Pew webpage includes a free PDF you can download of the entire Millennials study.)

So, what convinces us things will get better? Many of us grew up with Boomer parents telling us things like “Follow your dreams” or “Money isn’t everything.” Even in the midst of economic crisis, these attitudes still may be hitting home. But as time passes and the opportunities we need don’t open up, does this attitude become naïve?

While we view our self-assurance in a positive light, some others believe we simply have unrealistic expectations. A January Huffington Post column argues, “Now that Gen Y is facing the realities of grown-up life and our current economy, they are discovering that dreams don’t pay the rent. They are learning that their passion combined with their college degree does not guarantee an immediate career.”

What do you think?

Should Millennials lower career expectations?

Should we give up passions in search of paychecks?

If you’re Gen Y yourself, tell us about your career prospects.

Our readers appreciate it, if you’ll take a moment to Comment, below.


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