Gen Y Book Launch: Coming of Age in a Crap Economy

July 12, 2011 Lately my generational layers have been interwoven like an Etsy blankie…

Between my sandwich generation eldercare/teen scene and my Gen X and Gen Y nephews making the best of jobs and notching off bucket list “to-dos” sans responsibility and kids, it seems timely to expand my K-12 topics to cover the  launch of Coming of Age in a Crap Economy by Liz Funk, who at the ripe old age of 22 is feeling the pinch and in classic Gen Y style, sharing her experiences about it.

The thought of this hotshot young author struggling in today’s marketplace raised my eyebrows VERY high. (she wrote “SuperGirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls” before age 20, with a book deal in 2009 via Simon & Schuster)

I’d previously interviewed Liz on Shaping Youth, and she’d been on the circuit with more media savvy/talk show aplomb than I can muster in a lifetime, so all I could think of was, “If Liz is scrambling, the collective collegiate angst on underemployment and joblessness has GOT to be  bleak.”

Leave it to Liz to leverage silver linings and lift peers out of the gloom with insightful tips and tactics written with conversational style, in her brand new e-book series, “Coming of Age in a Crap Economy”Part one of four (about 30,000 words per book) now available on Amazon/Kindle. For less than the cost of a Frappucino, Liz bootstraps herself back into the media spotlight with a book launch and simultaneously shows her peers how it’s done in an equally apt ‘sign of the times’ echoing 7 Platforms Changing the Future of Publishing.

Her timeliness astounds…I just read The Rise of the Gen Y Sharing Economy on HuffPo, which gives a fabulous peek behind the scenes of an entire generation learning how to ‘do things differently’…trend-tracking ‘why own when you can share’ mindsets that may very well be a long overdue market correction in consumption, and swap-n-shop patterns that have emerged alongside eco-forward thinking…

 

Coming of Age in a Crap Economy shows up with like-minded collaboration and ideation, tapping into a Gen Y market that knows $2.99 is doable…just in time to add some joy juice to the summer slump of life.

Clearly, Liz knows how to fill a market need with positivity and inspiration. I sifted through Ypulse updates like  Gen Y vs The Job Market and started ‘tweavesdropping’ on Gen Y chat streams and “20 something” Twitter conversations, overwhelmed by countless tales of dashed hope an promise among young people looking for a ‘do-over’ on life’s playground ALREADY.

I’ll also soon be covering a related feature on a new startup called Qynko (Kee-noh) Career Spotting for Kids, where gaming connects kids to careers for ages 13-17 to seed the future forward mindset of ‘what’s possible’ in jobs not even created yet…to hopefully PREVENT some of this shell-shocked reverb, though as Liz indicates, through adversity comes creativity, so this Gen Y resilience and reinvention could be a very GOOD thing for society as an over-arching principle.

Meanwhile, here’s Liz Funk (who clearly is STILL an over-achiever albeit a pseudo-recovered, more ‘life balanced’ one) I am honored to be ‘day one’ of her book launch tour, hearing life lessons directly from the Gen Y/Millennial trenches…Enjoy!

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: Would you do anything differently in retrospect on your life path? (collegiate/degree or not, travel abroad/int’l study, peace corps/service learning)

How are you instructing youth to find value in their ‘downtime’ to utilize innovation in emerging markets (e.g. mobile/entrepreneurial growth in Africa, etc)

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: I think my favorite thing that I’ve learned in researching Coming of Age in a Crap Economy and talking to young people is how 20somethings are “killing time” in a way that’s actually really educational and productive and consciousness-raising.

Let’s face it: if you’ve been job hunting full-time for six months and you’re not having any success (and you can’t find any typos on your resume), you either need to carve out a different role for yourself in your industry, your need to change industries, or you need to do something else for a little while until your industry improves.

I love hearing the stories of young people who have come to this last decision and decided to travel.  Some of the most interesting people I interviewed were Flora, Rose, and Ophelia from the blog The Eternal Intern.

When Ophelia graduated from college and wanted to work in magazines, the only positions she could find were unpaid internships (and many of these openings had previously been full-time, salaried jobs that were converted to unpaid internships)…So she went to France because in France it’s a law that internships have to be paid.

Rose graduated with a finance degree and realized that she had zero desire to work in banking, so she went to Japan to teach English and was even able to save a ton of money because of the low cost of living in Japan.  And Rose couldn’t find a job in NYC’s decimated, bailed-out banking industry, so she decided to totally change gears and intern at art galleries and fashion houses and then moved to Paris where she would be paid for her work.

In the third book of Coming of Age in a Crap Economy, I’m dedicating an entire chapter to purposeful travel and traveling on the cheap.  It’s a bad idea to take a five-figure “Eat Pray Love”-style trip, but it’s very possible— and very positive—to tap into your network and stay with friends and family of friends when you travel and trade your skills for room and board to see America and beyond.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: How can youth best FUND  their endeavors sans parental purse strings and refrain from ‘reinventing the wheel?’ (e.g. too many nonprofits vs. collaborating w/areas of emphasis, entrepreneurial social enterprises)

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: My new favorite quote is from Orson Welles:  “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.”

I think we’re going to see BETTER businesses and non-profits and artist collectives come from people in this generation who bootstrapped their ventures at first and figured out creative ways to tap into the products, labor, and physical space that they needed to get started for free or cheap and started organizations with their two hands and whatever they could get for less than $100.

Also, I think there are a relatively limited number of parents these days who can say, “Oh, yeah, my kid is unemployed, so I’m just giving them money.” With this economy, unless you had stock in Wal-Mart, generally speaking, the more you had and the more you had invested, the more you lost.

I think we’re moving away from a trend of rich kids getting stuff handed to them; I’ve heard from numerous 20-somethings that they’ve seen the recession is leveling the playing field a bit in terms of social classes in Gen Y, because everyone is fending for themselves and the kids who are used to living on less or taking care of themselves are ahead of the formerly rich kids by leaps and bounds.

I don’t usually ask my friends and peers to tell me the intimate details of their finances, but I don’t think I know anyone who is being bankrolled by their parents these days.  And if they are, their parents are doing them an enormous disservice.

Hopefully this recession will get young people thinking critically about our country’s economic system and what we can do to prevent a crash this severe from happening ever again. But economies are cyclical and there will be several more recessions before my generation retires or, well, dies and we need to learn to live on less and figure out how to be happy when we have to buy generic brand food and watch popular movies only when they hit Netflix.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: Speaking of the economy/job recession, how do you feel about the “#AskObama Twitter Town Hall”  (or the FB livestream event prior) and how could they have utilized social media outreach to youth differently to connect more?

If you were POTUS, what would YOU do to engage those ‘coming of age in a crap economy’ with a productive eye toward the future? (policy, content of message, pragmatics, etc)

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: I give Obama props for trying to be accessible, but from what I heard, he really wasn’t that accessible.  A question from Nicholas Kristof took up a lot of Obama’s attention and one of the moderators even publicly griped about that.  Obama is no FDR and a “Twitter Townhall” is not a Fireside chat.

If Obama is going to really change the economy and create opportunities for the unemployed, I think he needs to put together a council of young people who have created their own opportunities—like Mark Zuckerberg, Rob Kalin, Donald Glover (star of NBC’s community who rose to fame making YouTube videos with high production value), the founders of HerCampus, Lena Dunham, even the dude at Ark Music Factory who made Rebecca Black’s music video, the real movers and shakers of today who propelled their own success—and assess what our government can do to help young people make their own money and create jobs for others.

Obama had a ton of youth support when he ran in 2008 and he wants young people behind him again, he’s going to have to work for the youth’s affection, because he’s basically lost it. Also, I think the government needs to explore how to incentivize the creation of new small businesses, give kickbacks to small businesses, and make information about starting small businesses more readable, accessible, and upscale. And kickbacks for companies that are hiring, not firing, would be a good incentive, too.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: How will Gen Y use new media collaboratively to recreate the book/journo/media models? (e.g. tell us why you chose to launch this series via Kindle, etc.)?

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: There are a few reasons why I chose to do Coming of Age in a Crap Economy as an ebook.  One is that the publishing industry is in really bad shape right now.

Big publishing companies are basically not taking on books that are not guaranteed to make money, which is why we are seeing so many egregious memoirs from the daughters of Republican politicians and cast members of the Jersey Shore. I was offered a book deal for Coming of Age in a Crap Economy, but it was a pretty crappy offer, almost exploitatively crappy, and it seemed counterproductive to one of the messages that I’m pushing in this book; that if young people have a choice between an opportunity that exploits them (like working full-time at an hourly wage without benefits or writing for Demand Media) or going out on their own, to go out on their own.

Most importantly, doing an ebook seemed like a really exciting challenge!  I love the idea that authors have more control than ever before over their work, the way they’re paid for their work, and the way their work is distributed and I really wanted to try it out.

I wrote for inReads about how writing an ebook was definitely less sexy than doing my first book with Simon and Schuster, and I drank no fewer than three bottles of Pinot Grigio while doing the Kindle formatting. But I ended up being really, really glad with my decision to the ebook and I can foresee myself really wanting to do more with ebooks.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: How much does the student loan crisis impact the outcome of the Gen Y mindset? (Tuition hikes, college financial aid hardships etc)

Do you have peers who wish they didn’t GO to college or feel like they’re flailing in ‘quicksand?’

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: Pretty much everyone I know has some buyer’s remorse for their college degrees.  I’m extremely lucky in that my parents believed that it was important to pay for their children’s college educations (not like I’m spoiled though—when I moved out to LA after college and ended up in a world of debt, my parents felt it was important to let me figure that one out on my own). But had my parents not paid for my college education, knowing what I know now, under no condition would I have gone to college.  And in interviewing 20-somethings—who had their parents pay the bill or paid for their own college—it really seems that I’m not alone.

This dissatisfaction is not just a function of being unemployed after college and not having the return on the investment—it’s that today’s young people don’t leave college with marketable skills and that the contemporary college experience often foments over-entitlement and a lifestyle that really doesn’t translate to taking care of yourself and functioning as an adult, between the sleeping late and the binge drinking and celebrity speakers and famous singers being flown in to perform at on-campus concerts.  None of this lends itself to graduating and being unemployed and trying to figure out how to live when you have a “three figure” bank account balance and it feels like there are zero jobs out there.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: If you HAD to do a ‘makeover’ of your career path what would you choose other than author/writer/speaker?

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: I’d be a small business owner.  I’m actually slowly-but-surely working to save up money to open a store and hopefully at some point within the next five years I’ll split my time 50:50 between writing freelance and working at the store.  I find entrepreneurship really exhilarating.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: Do you feel ‘digital natives’ handle media pressure and the blinding flash of public attention better than adults because of the pervasiveness and transparency growing up with same? (e.g. You handle the media spotlight with gracious, polite, personable aplomb…did you take lessons in media training?)

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: That’s so funny that you think that I handle the media spotlight well—thanks!  Honestly, it took some time to get where I am today. I love my twitter followers and I love the people who review Supergirls Speak Out and have kept it selling steadily after two years on shelves and I love my editors at the web publications that I work for, but it’s definitely been a process to get over the anxiety that comes with having web presence.

When my first book came out in 2009, I had a google alert on my name and my book’s title so I could keep an accurate google doc on the book’s media exposure, and there was one night where I got an alert that an article about me that ran in a media outlet based in my hometown had this debate in the comments about whether I looked like I could have ever been anorexic in high school because I’m chubby now and then I guess people who actually went to high school with me weighed in and attested that I actually did have a raging, very obvious struggle with eating disorders in high school, and that night I curled up in the corner of my friend’s dorm room and wept.  And I took my book’s amazon reviews very, very personally—and I still do.

What I learned is that under no condition should you google yourself, you should never read the comments on articles about yourself that are published in publications that you don’t have a sense of whose reading them (i.e. I would happily read the comments on articles about me here, or at Ypulse, but never at the Daily News or New York magazine), and that you need to actively seek out the positive.

I make it a point to engage with people online who are doing good work and who leave a digital footprint that’s positive and makes other people feel good.  I feel really blessed to have found this amazing community of 20-somethings on twitter who are in a funky place in the crappy economy, and who are so honest and funny and who really encourage the work that I’m doing, and I focus on that.  I think having a level of authenticity when you have an online presence is important.

I think there’s a natural inclination to think that my generation will be desensitized to the vitriol on the internet because we’ve grown up with it, but I hope we don’t.  In fact, I hope at some point, someone mobilizes some kind of action around what it says about our culture that when people can hide behind a laptop, they say the harshest things!  I just hope it doesn’t take another teen girl’s suicide to get people really angry about the nastiness that’s unleashed on the web.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: What’s the best collaboration experience you’ve had among peers in similar circumstances in this economy (silver lining)

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: Such a good question. Back when I was a full-time freelance writer and most of my friends were full-time freelance writers, but just barely making ends meet, we’d edit each others’ writing, but there was either a three week lag time for edits on novels and poems or the notes that we’d scribble in caps in each others’ on-deadline manuscripts were really harried.

Today, however, most of my network of writer-friends aren’t trying to freelance full-time—they’ve either taken full-time jobs in a different industry or have better-paying, more stable “gigs”—and I don’t think we’ve ever given each other more thoughtful, insightful, considered feedback on each others’ writing…  because we have time to.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: What media do you think youth adopt most often with peers to make their own positive contribution/have their voice heard? Social networking sites? (are youth really exiting FB? Where are they going next?) Live-stream cellcams? Youth radio? Mobile TV? Twitter?

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: I think a lot of people are getting bored with Facebook! I hate to sound elitist, but I think Facebook made a huge mistake in expanding Facebook to anyone of all ages, with or without a .edu email address. That includes me—I think when you turn to alum.youralmamater.edu, you should get kicked off of Facebook or be moved to  sister site for alums.

Conversely, I think Twitter actually took a little while to reach people who don’t work in the media; people who work in marketing/ advertising/ media have been using twitter for years, but I know a lot of people who thought “twitter” was anatomy slang who are joining twitter for the first time and are LOVING it.

I’m personally ready for the next hot social networking site. I feel like the blog as we know it needs a bit of a makeover. There should be some kind of platform that fuses the self-expression and lengthiness of a blog with the instantaneous of twitter with the multimedia elements of YouTube.  If I knew anything about code, I’d do it myself, but given my experience with formatting my ebook, if I tried to create a web-site from scratch, I’d need to trade in for a new liver.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: What are the last 5 sites visited in your history file? (no cheating) Any special role models, parting words, thoughts to leave on?

Liz Funk/Crap Economy Author: Twitter, Gmail, Jezebel.com, inReads.com, and Etsy. inReads.com is this terrific new web-site (in beta) that I freelance for that examines how technology is changing the way we read and has some of the best book content on the web—it just launched last month and I think it’s going to be huge.  And I LOVE Etsy. I have the biggest crush on Rob Kalin, the founder/ CEO of Etsy. He was on the cover of Inc. magazine a few months ago talking about handmade, made-in-the-USA products.

I think it is SO important to have role models and mentors when you’re in a time in your life when you are overhauling your goals and beliefs; it’s really important to have a network of people who you can approach in a more casual context for advice and guidance.

Cathy Wasserman, who wrote the introduction to Coming of Age in a Crap Economy, is basically my guru; she’s possibly the most insightful person in America and I feel really lucky to have her as a mentor/life coach. Also, my mom is someone who I can consistently count on to tell me to do the right thing, even when it’s inconvenient. (e.g. my mom had an  epiphany about products/practices/labor in China, and swore off them ever since, even though it takes hours to pick out dishes/ornaments, etc. that aren’t  hand-painted there) It’s honestly my goal to live my life in a way that’s in harmony with my values.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: Spoken like a “Gen Y” voice indeed.

For a bonus, I asked Liz “What’s the strangest job you’ve taken in this economy?” First person who guesses (or comes closest) I’ll buy you a copy of her Coming of Age in a Crap Economy Part One!

Coming of Age In A Crap Economy Author Liz Funk:

Liz is an upstate New York-based freelance writer and author.  She has written for USA Today, Newsday, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, AOL.com, the Frisky.com, and the Huffington Post, among many other publications.

She is the author of a series of ebooks that look at how the recession has impacted today’s 20-somethings and how recent grads and the laid-off can bounce back and create their own opportunities.

Her first book, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls, was published in March of 2009 by Simon and Schuster. She regularly speaks to college women about pursuing success in an authentic, sustainable way and finding a sense of their intrinsic worth.

She lives in upstate New York with her collie and…her parents, of course. Her web-sites: lizfunk.com comingofageinacrapeconomy.com.

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much, Amy!

  2. Jessica says:

    Such a nice interview. Thanks so much for this!
    Jessica recently posted..How to Grow Cherry TomatoesMy Profile

  3. Just dropping a note because I like what’s going on here. Keep it up.

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