There's an unsettling pattern in the words and phrases used by businesses and recruitment 'experts' when talking about people of my generation - the so-called 'Millennials' - and the way we approach working.
Flexibility is key! They shout, pronouncing how much we like to work contracts that don't 'tie us down' or 'restrict our creativity. They're 'differently motivated' they proclaim, announcing how much emphasis we put on factors other then monetary gain. Doesn't it all sound so wonderfully, disarmingly, youthful and energetic?
Well, as a Millennial who managed to graduate in the worst economic year of recent memory, I'm here to tell you that it's all a wonderful, disarming pile of hot steaming bull excrement.
Milennials aren't taking so-called 'flexible' contracts because we like the thrill-a-minute lifestyle provided by never being completely sure that todays paycheck will also be next months, or next years. We certainly are not doing it because we simply adore being denied mortgages, car loans or any of a hundred other lines of credit that the modern world has forced upon us for even the most basic necessities. We're doing it because, and this is important, that is what is being offered.
Similarly, while some lucky souls working in tech firms or high-flying start-ups may have the luxury of being 'differently motivated' thanks to their already large pay packets the rest of us still have to admit to being pretty damn motivated by monetary concerns. Yes your office ping pong table sure is quirky and fun now tell me again how you're not required to pay young people the much trumpeted 'national living wage'?
So why are we being fed this litany of positive spin? Well, mostly so that Personnel and HR 'experts' have something to do with their time (beyond apparently finding every picture of an attractive 20-something taking a selfie to decorate their articles). Perhaps sometimes it acts as a convenient narrative way for the older managers who are doing the hiring and firing to assuage some guilt or quiet dissent.
However the most important purpose this narrative serves is to convince Millennials that this is the way it must be and, more then that, this is the way we prefer it.
Again, I call Bull.
The truth is that were a company to offer a stable, well paid 'job for life' in the manner of previous generations then I don't think I know a single one of my peers who wouldn't jump at it. Again, however, this is not what is being offered.
'Typical Millennial' I can already hear the angry typing ringing out on the Internet. 'Doesn't realise it's all about working hard and moving up, something about 'In my Day'' etc. Except I'm not just complaining that the jobs aren't being offered out to us like candy, because the truth is most companies now can't offer this sort of progression.
That's because, alongside the devastating impact the recession had on the prospects of young people it also had another long-term impact which we are only beginning to see the impact of in the last few years.
You see, an essential component of the 'linear progression' that is much derided by those trumpeting on about Milennial benefits is that there are jobs available above you to move into. That means that older generations, who will usually occupy those higher roles, need to also be moving up into new jobs. Unfortunately, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and stagnation this has not happened. People who have families, houses and cars to look after are now much less likely to risk altering their status quo by changing jobs and (potentially) ending up in a far worse state.
In the post-recession economy, there are no longer any sureties and that means people stick to what they know. So, middle and upper management become full of older workers in whose interest it is to maintain the status-quo and for those that did lose their jobs? Well, they have to move down the ladder but rest assured they are doing so. There is no longer such thing as an 'entry-level position', look at any job advert for something as innocuous as data entry or sales and the requirements will almost always list several years experience in that field. Something that's quite challenging to get without first finding a role in that field!
At the end of the day it is possible, eventually and after several job moves and years of stress, to get yourself to a point where you can start feeling more secure but the truth is getting to that point is harder then it has been since the decline of manufacturing in the 80s. Lots of Millennials have all the tools and skills they need to make that journey, but stop trying to tell us that it's a trip we chose...or one we enjoy.