Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

The non-entitled generation

Those of us who finished school just as recession hit never really experienced ‘the good times’, but it’s not such a bad thing. We expect to have to work hard, writes Louise Hogan.

Thu, Aug 9, 2012, 11:11


Those of us who finished school just as recession hit never really experienced ‘the good times’, but it’s not such a bad thing. We expect to have to work hard, writes Louise Hogan.

Louise Hogan (third from left) with friends in London

The infamous Celtic Tiger ‘cubs’- Dube-wearing, Jaeger drinking with bizarre pseudo-American accents. A well worn, Ross O’ Carroll Kelly-esque cliché that was rooted in a lot of truth. When financial crises, recession and general global turmoil forced the Cubs to board a plane to Sydney or Hong Kong with their 2.1 Arts degree, the nation didn’t weep as such. Rather, it struggled to contain thinly veiled glee at the fate of a generation it perceived as ‘spoiled’.

My generation however, just missed out – both on actually being spoiled and being perceived as such due to generalisations of a very particular subset of the generation known as the Pope’s children. I left school in 2008. During my first semester at college my lecturers constantly reminded my classmates and I that we probably wouldn’t find work when we graduated. Or for quite some time after that. One optimistic fellow said he hoped the recession may have ended by the time we faced the real world. He was wrong.

Everyday the media screamed at us about the recession. Parents lost jobs, grants were cut, brothers and sister emigrated and part time jobs were hard to find as suddenly we were competing with graduates for bar work.

It was not however a dire situation. No longer being able to afford annual sun holidays does not put you on the poverty line. Many students did genuinely struggle, as unemployment and tuition fees rose in tandem but to a large extent, most people found that although their lifestyle had changed, they remained afloat.

I am based in London now, lucky enough to be employed after six months of unpaid interning. The majority of my friends, in London and elsewhere, are currently interning in their chosen fields or teaching English abroad to earn enough to pay for a Masters.

Laura, 23 from Tipperary, has been an intern for nine months. With only her transport and lunch expenses covered, she is building up debt to various family members and banks. But she says it’s worth it. “It’s what everyone has to do now,” she shrugs. “In a way, it’s not fair. I remember my brothers had well paying jobs by the time they were my age. But I like to look at it like this; I’m lucky to be getting experience so that soon I will get a proper job. That’s the way things are now,”

Rory, 24, veteran intern, currently enjoying the new found joys of a monthly wage, comments: “I do think we have to work harder than maybe those a bit older than us had to, in order to get our first jobs. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Sarah, 23, training as a teacher, adds: “It’s annoying the way young people are portrayed in the media sometimes. We didn’t make this mess and we were actually too young to reap many of the benefits. Our older siblings were the ones with cars and houses by the time they were 26, not us. We’re not spoilt.”

Joe, another intern from Wexford, points out: “I don’t agree with college fee increases at home but being in England does make you grateful for the comparatively small cost of third level education. Most of us wouldn’t have the opportunities we have now without it. So even though times are tough, I think most people my age still realise how luck we are, really,”

We differ from those who are just a few years older than us, both in experience and mindset. We’re not as entitled (much as I dislike that word) and we don’t expect to find work easily. Generally speaking, we expect to intern for no money, we have accepted the fact that we may have to emigrate to find work and we know that qualifications alone are no longer sufficent to succeed in the workplace. Our experience of attending college or beginning work during a financial crisis has provided us with a very different outlook to our older siblings and friends; they were led to believe they could have any job they wanted. We are constantly being told we will have to work hard and struggle and that it may still not be enough to get work. We expect to have to work hard.

It would be remiss not to mention the fact that we are largely able to intern due to family support. My parents supported me for six months while I was an intern, for which I am extremely grateful. Many of my friends are the same. We don’t see ourselves as ‘privileged’ however. ‘Privilege’ negates the fact that my parents have worked extremely hard all their lives to put four children through school and college and pay off the mortgage on their home. Which, incidentally, only has one bathroom. I know, the horror! That ‘privilege’ is something my parents worked hard to earn, keeping down full time jobs while running a farm and raising children, not living beyond their means, tightening their belts when wage cuts and unexpected bills necessitated it. This is something many in their generation did. Hopefully it is something my generation has also learned to do.

Louise currently works as an associate coordinator with Justice Africa in London. In September she will return to the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUIG to finish her BA in Human Rights, History & Politics.