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Valuing the So-Called Me Me Me Generation

by May 22, 2013, 2:59 pm ET

g9510.20_Millennials.CoverTalking about millenials is a hot topic. Whether it’s how to hire them or ways to work with them, love them, or hate them, analyzing gen Y seems to be an area of continual fascination. And now thanks to Time, this issue is in the spotlight once again with this week’s cover story titled “The Me Me Me Generation,” which features the provocative subtitle “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they’ll save us all.” As a member of gen Y myself, I was curious to find out what the article, written by Joel Stein, had to say. Although it points out some troubling statistics, overall the verdict was optimistic. Here are three thought-provoking ideas:

Gen Y is entitled… and that can be a good thing: The author makes the point that members of gen Y aren’t afraid to reach out to someone a few rungs above them on the career ladder and ask for help — because they feel they deserve it. Whether it’s sending an email to someone in management to ask for mentorship or connecting with an executive on Twitter, millenials aren’t afraid to reach out. Call it entitled if you want, but taking these bold steps can often lead to big rewards. It exemplifies the type of open company culture that gen Y craves. They appreciate accessibility and value companies that operate this way. A senior management team can be respected and provide strong leadership but still be open and willing to help. For example, I feel engaged that the CEO of the company for which I work sends out a personal email describing what he has been doing that week. It makes me feel like I could reach out to anyone in the organization, regardless of their title. This type of transparency helps keep me engaged.

Gen Y will champion diversity: The article pointed out that a major effect of the Internet on millennials is how it has created access to information and opportunity, helping to level the playing field for our generation. In addition, accepting differences of all kinds is also important to gen Y, and it is this openness that will continue to have a positive impact on shaping corporate culture in the future. Not only is a diverse workforce important, but a diversity committee to take on spreading inclusionary initiatives throughout the company is a great example of gen Y pushing to make something they’re passionate about a priority within an organization.

Gen Y is not one-size-fits-all: My generation is the largest age grouping in American history; however, the article makes the point that we may be the last birth grouping that historians will be able to generalize about. This is not only because there are so many different “micro-generations” within gen Y, but also because people are quickly realizing that we’re a generation that can’t be defined by broad stroke stereotypes. It’s tempting, especially in the HR world, to put people into boxes and assume that everyone born during a particular timeframe fits a certain mold, but my generation is demonstrating that way of thinking is simply not effective. While millenials are valued in the company for which I work, it’s not simply because of (or in spite of) the fact that we’re part of gen Y — rather, we’re appreciated because of who we are as individuals. Everyone is encouraged to be innovative and use their unique strengths to contribute to our company’s growth, no matter what generation to which they belong.

With more than 80 million millenials in the United States, I don’t expect this discussion to die down anytime soon. However, I hope that these conversations can stay away from divisive stereotypes while continuing to improve the state of corporate culture as a whole.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

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  • Alan Fluhrer

    Jane,

    Good post and topic.

    Although an item or two.

    1. I think the fervor over Gen Y is a bit overblown by the media, it sells copy. I think good professionals, are good professionals, no matter what generation. If Gen Y, as a whole, ends up breaking down doors, shattering glass and moving things forward, then good. Good, smart, communicative professionals, will move up. And those with entitlement issues, wont. I would suggest this is true for any generation.

    But

    2. Also reading your article, I can’t help but think…didn’t we hear the same things touted by the boomers when they were coming up? I’d be curious. And, well, let’s pose this one… IF these 2 things are the case, then should there also be some checks, balances, whatever, to prevent, where we are today, to not happen 35 years from now when Gen Y is at the same point, as the boomers are, today?

  • http://sovren.com Robert Ruff

    I have just one word to Gen Y: Plastics.

  • Keith Halperin

    This is ialso the gen that’s coming out of school with massive debts and limited prospects for well-paid, benfitted, FT jobs. We’ll see what those do to attitudes over time…

    -kh

  • Alan Fluhrer

    Keith, as many times, I agree, and somewhat disagree, with you.

    At this moment, yes, I agree with your comment. Many grads are coming out with much debt, not the prospect for jobs they thought, or, were promised.

    However, over the next 3-5-7 years, I think these grads will have one of the best job markets in many decades. With the boomers retiring, many industries growing, and new ones that will be created, (may I note social media, broadband to the home, the explosion of VOIP as a few), there will be many opportunities for the mid and long run.

    The key for new grads, as always, is to make the most/best intelligent choice they can as they graduate. To be as strategic as possible, to set themselves up for their next 1-3 jobs

  • http://www.wilsonhcg.com/ Jane Graybeal

    Alan–Thanks so much for your comments, I really appreciate the feedback! I definitely agree with your point in your first comment that smart and communicative professionals will move forward in their career regardless of their generation. I’m curious about your point comparing Gen Y to Boomers though, what do you mean exactly when you mention implementing checks and balances to prevent Gen Y from ending up where Boomers are today? I’d like to hear more about what you mean by that!

    Robert–Care to expand on that? :)

    Keith–I do agree that Gen Y faces some looming challenges with the cost of college today combined with a still-recovering economy. However, I definitely echo Alan’s sentiments in that I think the job market for Millennials is only going to improve in the future!

    Thank you all for your comments!

  • Alan Fluhrer

    Jane,

    Happy to discuss this with you. I tried calling your Co. but something must be haywire as neither # seems to be working. pls feel free to call me. check your email. thanks-Alan

  • http://www.insight247.co.uk Stephen Smith

    With respect to Time, the millennials will save us all because they have to. There isn’t anyone else to do that job.

    If previous generations hadn’t brought the global economy to its knees, then perhaps millennials would be able to secure a footing on the property ladder much faster.

    Instead they’ll live with their parents until their late 20s and immerse themselves in predominantly digital skill-sets.

    Time’s assertion that millennials are lazy is mind blowing. The author’s clearly misapprehended the fact that the 21st century’s economy is one with digital foundations.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Alan, @ Jane: Who can afford to retire? Also, I think while there WILL be a gradual increase in the job market, we’ve seen that these new jobs tend not to be as well-paid, well-benefitted, or stable as the ones in the past the “new normal” (http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2012/12/the-new-normal-in-california-employment-and-mr-peguese-christmas-presents/). Hope I’m wrong….

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend,

    Keith

  • Alan Fluhrer

    @ Keith, Looked at the link. Yes, again, I partly agree w/ you and partly not.

    First, I would have a few interpretations about tthe author of this.
    Second- I do think Calif does have this issue, more than most other states. Mostly due to the higher cost of doing biz here. The regulations, insurances.

    Third – for much of the rest of the country, I think things will be better and that the talent tsunami that’s here, will continue.

    In my opinion, to see how sever the #’s of the talent shortage might be, check this out.
    http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/baby-boomers-retire/

    When you work the #’s, I came up with approx 23% of the American population will need to be back-filled. That is a huge # that means recruiting will need to become an ever more important role for companies

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Alan: Thank you. I don’t dispute that there will be lots of retirees, I do dispute the fact that this will allow the creation of lots of high-paid, well-benefitted FT jobs. There aren’t many middle-income jobs being created, there are a few high-paid jobs and a lot of low-paid onesOur economy has recovered its pre-Recession GDP level, but there are 2.5 M fewer people working than before. I think employers are getting used to running leaner, and additional job categories will gradually disappear, perhaps to be replaced by new ones, but likely to be fewer and not so good. I also suspect that when companies do feel they need to expand, they’ll use some of their $2T of cash saved up and acquire existing talent instead of hiring new, which may actually increase unemployment. I do know that some companies/industries are facing the retirement problem, and are working to address it.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Logan Meece

    As a Gen Y…all I can say is we are your creation, growing up in the world you shaped, acting the way our parents did :)

  • Kristin Henderson

    The so-called Gen Y’s are said to act as though they are entitled. Yes, yes I believe those who have spent thousands of dollars on education, have thousands more in student loan debt, and are left with little to, in some cases, no opportunities for actual placement within their pursued field feel entitled to what was promised to them if they worked hard and payed for their education. The workforce in many fields, particularly the humanities, are dwindling, so much so that the traditional college education model is quickly becoming obsolete. If the “Y” generation appears as though they feel they are entitled, they probably are entitled. Those who have successfully completed their degrees deserve what was promised to them, and deserve to be placed into the workforce with a better career than they had prior to obtaining their collegiate degrees. as is promised by every college in America, and in turn, society as a whole. Student loan debt is such an enormous and overwhelming issue for many unemployed graduates that beholding a demeanor of general discontent, frustration, arrogance, and entitlement may be their only reward for their academic efforts and surmounting debt. After considering this aspect, the word “entitled” really does not apply to the increasing number of unemployed, college graduates who are Generation Y, or any other generation for that matter.