There is an unfortunate assumption out there that Generation Y has a poor work ethic. Give it a quick Google search and you will find pages upon pages of blogs and articles describing how employers can basically cope with managing Gen Y employees (the most common answer seems to be micromanaging).
Hello, my name is Liz, and I believe that I am an exception to the negative stigma given to me by the lacklustre effort of my peers. Indeed, you may find after reading this that even that general reputation isn’t all that deserved.
Now, I do have a confession to make. I don’t work my fresh-out-of-university-butt off because I love never having a day off. Heck, I’m writing this article on a Sunday afternoon after having spent a night out — not on the town, but working in a busy café until way past my bedtime. I’m actually giving into one of the more positive stereotypes of my generation — venturing out of the nest to go on my big OE! And, of course, that costs money — a lot of money. OK, confession time round two: my OE includes only a one-way ticket in the hope that I’ll end my travels in the UK and start a fabulous life in London as a budding fashion writer. Please don’t burst my bubble — a girl is allowed to dream — and if it doesn’t work out you will get me back as the fantastically marvellous editorial assistant of Wellington’s favourite FishHead magazine!
In all seriousness, another downside for my generation is the unavoidable lifelong ‘debt sentence’ hanging over our innocent little heads, granted by the educational institutions we rely on to earn money in the first place. Oh, the irony. I sometimes like to imagine dollar amounts highlighted in red or green floating above the heads of passers-by — red obviously indicating debt, and green showing actual cash money. I can guarantee a glowing red dollar figure would be following around a large portion of Gen Y’ers. Long story short, a loan to go travelling is just not an option.
To turn my dream into a reality, I need two things: CV-worthy experience and money. At one stage recently, I was a retail assistant, waitress, editorial assistant, casual promo person, freelance blogger and wannabe stylist. For months, my average week looked like this; Monday, Tuesday and Friday were spent at FishHead HQ being our editor’s right-hand man, although technically due to the location of my desk and gender, I should be more appropriately titled his left-hand woman. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday were spent as a retail assistant, Friday and Saturday nights as a waitress, mornings and week nights were given over to promotion work, and Sundays were reserved to do interviews for FishHead, occasional work for HVNGRY or to cover anyone too hungover to work at my store. Going from a student who cringed at the thought of a 10am class, I am pleasantly surprised at how work-oriented I’ve become in such a short space of time.
First step: experience. When I told my friends I had an internship with FishHead they assumed I spent my day photocopying and making coffees. Considering I can’t make a coffee to save myself (a short stint as a trainee barista had customers asking for their money back), my talents have been put to much better use. I consider myself FishHead’s secret weapon! I usually spend my morning doing admin-type duties like organising promotions, posting to FishHead social media, contacting clients, filing invoices and responding to emails. Then in the afternoon I get to write content. A considerable amount too! The ‘look Mum I did it’ pages I organise and write include the My Home article, Capital Questions, Street Style and the Trending page. Additional pages I manage are News Bits, Events and the Brand New pages, and I also organise and caption Aquarium and write the Contents pages. BOOM! I salivate just thinking about my glistening CV.
Although my internship with FishHead is unpaid, I feel the experience is invaluable. If I didn’t score my FH position, I would probably have gone back to university and done a post-grad diploma, which would have put me in even more debt! So at the end of the day I’m basically making money — at least that’s what I tell myself. What’s more, I have recently promoted myself from intern to intern manager. That’s right, I am in charge of training three (and counting) people to take over my position when I leave the country. It is both a massive learning experience to train and manage so many people at one time, but also extremely gratifying to know that I managed to hold the fort myself for five solid issues.
Second step: money. Although I live at home and have few to no expenses, I still need to earn money for my travels. Recycle Boutique is my sugar momma. Every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday (and now more recently Sunday), I work in the fab Vivian Street store, where I get paid to play with vintage clothes! Once my feet became used to standing all day, I discovered that this is literally an amazing job — apart from it wreaking havoc on my nails. One of the highlights has to be working alongside like-minded people and getting a rad staff discount. One of the downsides would have to be getting a rad staff discount… this is in no way helpful towards my saving.
I have limited myself to one item per week, which is still incredibly tough when every day I’m faced with amazing one-of-a-kind vintage garments priced less than a T‑shirt from Cotton On. My ultimate purchase so far has got to be a sparkly goldvintage Emporio Armani blazer! I cannot emphasise just how much I love it. He will be mine for ever and ever.
I also currently work for a promotions company and do my best to fit odd jobs into my schedule. So far I have done a variety of supermarket samplings, corporate box hosting at the Westpac Stadium, food shows and new product activations. An example of one hectic day in particular included working a promotion from 6am to 9am handing out mandarins at the Wellington Railway Station, then heading to the FishHead office to get some work in before getting to my 12pm shift at Recycle Boutique! It makes me tired just thinking about it.
I love doing promotion work, as it’s fun and high energy, and every shift is different (plus the pay is great!). There can also be great perks. I got to take home a box of instant soup from one promotion and had the genius idea to keep it in the fridge at Recycle Boutique to save money on buying lunches! I also have a box of Rekorderlig cider coming my way for agreeing to do a brownie sample at half an hour’s notice, because who would say no to free cider?
The really interesting part for me is that I get to work at both extremes of the PR world. At one end of the scale I organise online promotions and read press releases at FishHead, and decide what we want to include in our magazine. I get to be a decision-maker in a business-to-business environment. Whereas being a promotion staff member, I am at the other end of the scale, physically walking the streets and dealing with the public face to face under instruction from brand managers. Writing this article, I’m starting to realise just how much I’ve learnt about the marketing world through these two completely different jobs — probably more than I learnt in my Marketing major! Another point duly noted for my CV. Bonus!
Then I started to get greedy. I was looking at how much I was putting into my savings account each month and it just wasn’t enough. With my tickets to Athens already booked I was running out of time, so I decided to get another job. I began working as a waitress at a café on Cuba Street on the only nights they had the hours and I had the time: Fridays and Saturdays.
I went into this situation overly optimistic, telling myself I would save money by not going out or having a social life while saving more money for my trip. Win-win? Wrong-wrong. The thing is, we have this annoying little system called secondary tax that basically punishes people who want to work hard. I was working until about 10pm, starting at the café at 6pm following a day’s work at Recycle Boutique. After the commute home, shower and necessary cup of chamomile tea, I was getting into bed at about 11.30pm. With work the next day, and the next day, and the next day… it started taking it’s toll, especially when I was only making about $8 an hour! So let’s just say that didn’t last long. But I’m proud that I stuck it out for a month and that I had the drive to do it in the first place.
Despite all the amazing experience I’ve gained so far, fashion is really the thing that gets my fire burning. I started writing a fashion and beauty blog in my final year of university and I absolutely loved it! I became such a geek that I would make excuses to stay in just so that I could write posts and brainstorm new post ideas! A good friend of mine started a website called HVNGRY and I have tried to find the time to submit fashion-related posts for them. HVNGRY even let me run and style my own fashion shoot for their monthly fashion spread! I could have died and gone to heaven. I’ve also been hustling odd jobs from the FishHead fashion editor, but it kills me that I work both Saturdays and Sundays so I haven’t been able to attend any of the shoots (apart from that one time I modelled bridal gowns — and yes, I had my very own groom).
I am a born and bred Wellingtonian, and during the last five months of my manic crusade to escape my home town I have explored, discovered and become more a part of this city and its community than I ever have been before. So many doors have opened for me — all I had to do was knock, each one greeted on the other side with a smile and a cup of hot coffee.
It’s a very bittersweet experience and completely humbling to take in my surroundings and appreciate a place that may soon be nothing more than a memory. But it won’t be for ever — give me a couple years and maybe I’ll be sitting in the editor’s chair at FishHead magazine!