Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gen Y Mostly Great People. But Reputation Spoiled By Self-Appointed Leaders Who Whine & Complain To The Distruction Of Entire Generation's Reputation

I read a post on Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist Blog that made me vomit. Almost literally. I have become sick of the self appointed leaders of Generation Y acting like they live under a new set of rules. Life is still life. Ask all those who invested in Tech Stocks in the year 2000 who claimed that the economic model had changed for public companies. Ooops, the more things change, the more they stay the same!

This nutty blog post was written by a some dude who apparently is a Generation Y celebrity (I had not heard of him, but he had heard of himself!). The title was "Seven Reasons Why My Generation Is More Productive Than Yours", and he went on to point out why today's twenty-somethings are better human beings than anyone born before 1979. Apparently there has been an evolutionary shift leaving those of us born earlier in a state of inferiority. Sorry, I never got that memo.

At first I thought that the post was written as a April Fools Day joke, then I realize the author believed his mommy too much when she told him he was wonderful. His observations were a tapestry of his own youthful point of view, and were written as if some PhD at Stanford had conducted decades of research on his pontifications. It was insulting. Not just insulting to people over thirty, insulting to anyone with who lives the reality of life.

I was going to site his name, and link to the post, and encourage you all to read it (so you would understand what kind of generational divisive dribble people lap up on the internet)...but that would be rewarding him for bad behavior. I hope you don't read it. Save yourself.

But my faith in the future of humanity is not ruined. On Monday I had lunch with three Generation Y people who are not sniveling self-obsessed morons. My lunch companions were ambitious, gracious, and enthusiastic business professionals who are working hard to create real experiences that will lead them to achievement both personally and professionally over their lifetimes.

Never once did they seem need to prove to anyone (or to themselves) that they were part of some superior generation. Instead they showed by their conversation that they are motivated individuals who are focused on creating futures.

They completed lunch and did not feel entitled to having the owner of the restaurant to bring them a trophy.

They do not view the different generations as part of some cosmic competition, but instead they looked at establishing a network of contacts in the business world with people of all ages and levels of experience. Creating mutually beneficial connections that lead everyone toward success is their aim.

The contrast between my lunch companions and the punky post on Penelope's blog are night and day. My guess is that those who will achieve real success in their lives from this generation are not those who relish in their "twenty-ness" -- but instead those who take stock in themselves and produce results. Whiny people are always the same, regardless of their date of birth.

I am here to tell you that being "twenty-something" ends. You cannot stop it (although I have read about many social media industry executives who will not reveal their real ages, as they fear being seen as obsolete by their followers if their "thirty-ness" was known.... OH PLEASE!).

The problem with baiting young against old is that time marches on. The BabyBoomers who proclaimed "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" now have to look in the mirror at their 50 and 60 year old selves. For some it is not a pretty sight.

Age happens. I say "bring it on", as I understand and like myself better the older I become. I am finding that wisdom and experience are not things you can claim, but instead something you must earn.

I did leave a comment on Penelope's blog, which I share below:

This is the most self serving piece of bulls**t I have read on any blog in a good long time.

Are you really better than me? Really, do you believe this in your heart and soul? Did your mommy tell you how wonderful you are today.

PLEASE. Please. please. Realize every younger generations thinks they are more cleaver than the earlier ones. In the 60s they knew their music was better. They said "don't trust anyone over 30". Your self love is not real, it is a product of being young.

I am so sick and tired of these types of generational argument posts. You know what the facts are. I mean real facts, not how you feel….

Every generation has good people. And schmucks. Sure, technology changes, and those who are exposed to it when young adopt it faster and have an easier go with it. But it does not make the "old school guy" bad or yesterday's news.

I think that everyone who reads crap like this post should stand up and cry "STOP" and not put up with it any more.

BARF.

Don't encourage those who want to set generations apart. Tell the people who write baiting and insulting (and just wrong) stuff to STOP it. We should avoid them. But instead we flock to these contrarians and shower them with attention. It is like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Why must we enjoy them so damn much? And it goes on and on and on.

The good news is that I do not believe you can lump a whole generation together. There are just too many people in the world with too many ideas. It would be like saying "all republicans" or "all democrats" -- it is just not that easy.

Instead, most of the younger business professionals that I meet are just cool folks trying to find their way in the world. Few have these huge chips on their shoulders like the writer of the above mentioned blog post.

Most are just like other people who have come through their twenties in decades past. I admire their enthusiasm and dreams. Our future is in good hands, because those who give Gen Y a bad name will need to grow up, or they will be the ones who become obsolete. Those who are so focused on "being Gen Y" cannot compete with the cream of their generation who are focused on success. The three folks I had lunch with on Monday are a perfect example of the best that Gen Y has to offer!

Thanks for reading my rant!

Have A Great Day.

thom

11 comments:

Liz said...

Hi Thom

Loved your post. I made me laugh a little too. You gotta stop reading Penelope Trunk...I only read her blog these days when I need a laugh because I think its pretty clear that she is either losing it or she is just writing (and asking her motley band of children) to write stuff that she thinks is controversial. Sometimes she gives advice that is just plan bad (a post she did about negotiating for salary for example).

I am, as you may or may not know, very involved with one sorority over at UT. Those girls are Gen Y and they are wonderful. They are the same as 20-somethings have always been: energetic, enthusiastic, and not as conservative as generations that came before them. Any generation that needs to be told not to post photos of themselves in racy and drunken poses on internet sites like MySpace and Facebook is, by definition, in need of guidance from us older folks! I have found all of the 20 somethings I deal with at UT and at other colleges to be delightful to work with.

I haven't read the post you refer to and I won't. But my guess is that Penelope hired a bunch of self important idiots (lets face it, we all new a few of those folks in college right? But we had the good sense to avoid them, not hire them to write about what jackasses they are and then give them a platform from which to rant.) to write controversial posts so she could keep people reading a blog that has become ridiculous and out of touch. In other words she is trying to remain relevant so she has hired Gen Y people who have no more right to speak for their entire generation than you and I would have to speak for our entire generation.

Have a good day. keep up the great posts.

Liz

Katie Konrath said...

Thom, I think you're overreacting to this post. Yes, it's supposed to be controversial - however, he does make some good points: namely that much of Gen Y is up to date on the latest technology and is looking for ways to make their work easier, and that our generation knows we can't trust companies and therefore have to fend for ourselves.

It really shocks and depresses me about how much animosity though there is towards my generation. People call us arrogant, rude and lazy, even while saying that they personally know many wonderful Gen Yers. Or they get upset that we aren't thrilled about paying our dues for years - even though it's a clear fact that our jobs could be pulled out from under us at any time (through no fault of our own).

Yes, his post could have been written with a less controversial tone, but he's obviously trying to build up his profile as a blogger. A lot of people do that though.

I did my masters dissertation on how the American workplace is changing and how that will affect my generation - and it's really scary. We have no job security, we face competition from all over the world and there is no clear "way to succeed". This is not the workplace we grew up expecting.

So, please try to understand a little more when my generation asks to be taken seriously and appreciated for what we can do. We are terrified, and we don't have the luxury of earning our way up the ranks. We need to assert ourselves to earn respect at an earlier age.

Granted, there are a lot of Gen Y idiots who think they can get everything from investing nothing. But, in the long run, those are the ones who are going to be really hurting when the jobs go away. Those of us who are smart are out there learning, sticking our necks out (and sometimes getting burned) and trying to forge our own way in life.

Granted also, that it feels impertinent that my generation is trying to stand as equals. Especially since we're young, and don't always think before we speak (or type).

There are some things we can do better. There are a lot of things that older generations can do better (e.g. communicate in a less-anger-provoking way). It's stupid to suggest any generation is incompetent though, because that sets everyone against each other.

I know you touched on that later in your post, but you still called us a fair amount of names earlier on. That's what bothers me - the knee-jerk "you stupid kids, you know nothing! Just wait until you're older and know how much of an idiot you were" reaction that I see in so many older commentators.

How are we all going to work together when the older generations immediately try to beat the younger generation down to their proper place? It's incredibly discouraging to think about that.

And @Liz, I'm apparently one of those "self-important idiots" you're talking about, since I also contribute to Brazen Careerist. I don't get featured there much because I don't write controversy-generating articles. Instead, I've been steadily working on creating a resource for people who love creativity as much as I do. I love connecting with the people who are the heroes in the field, but I also believe that I have earned the right to share my insights. I spent 8 years in creativity competitions, took numerous training courses, earned a masters degree in the subject, worked with one of the legends in the field, and now consult for some companies that specialize in innovation. I rarely brag about that on my site, but it does mean I have expertise despite my youth.

Thom Singer said...

Katie-

Thanks for your comment. I love and admire your passion. I do however think that you missed my point. I am not at all knocking your generation. I am knocking those who some how see their postition of being young as equaling superiority to those who are old. It is just not true.

Yes, many 20somethings have done amazing things, but I think they are rewarded for those things.

Let me look at the point you touch on:

1. Gen Y is up to date on tech. YES. True. Often beating older people. Some of this is because they were lucky enough to be born into a time with more tech. Much of the stuff they claim to be up to date on was created by folks older (true, some young folks have taken stuff to new levels. I do not want to miss that point)

2. Gen Y is looking for ways to make work easier. Heck, so is everyone I know...no matter how old they are.

3. Gen Y feels they cannot trust companies to keep them employed. EVERYONE who has worked in corporate America since the 1970s has felt this way. This is not new. I worked for 4 companies that went under or had massive national lay offs. Older folks are equal in this area. To take it on as a Gen Y issue is not fair to everyone else.

4. People call Gen Y arrogant. I think people do this because of the high profile Gen Yers who blog all day about their problems with corporate America. I think most people in Gen Y are hard working (just like people were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago). I also think that there are whiners. The difference is the whiners have a much bigger platform than any other time in history.

5. "his post could have been written with a less controversial tone, but he's obviously trying to build up his profile as a blogger. A lot of people do that though." --This is at the heart of the problem. Lets say anything, the more controversial the better...if it drives us blog traffic. I just think that to say hateful and WRONG things to get personal attention is what makes people take shots at Gen Y.

6. "We have no job security, we face competition from all over the world and there is no clear "way to succeed". This is not the workplace we grew up expecting" -- People in their 30s, 40s and 50s face the exact same problems. Scarier cuz they have a mortages, aging parents to care for, and kids who want to go to college. Making this a Gen Y issue is part of why older folks see arrogance.

7. Gen Y needs to assert themselves to earn respect at an earlier age. I believe that one cannot decide when they get to earn the respect of others. That is the others who get to decide when they give respect. It is why they call it "earning respect"... not "demanding respect". Trust me, we all want to be taken seriously. Even us old folks. It is not different, except that those who are older have stood in both spots...seen it from both sides. Those who are younger have only seen one side of the coin. This is NOT a put down. It is a matter of perspective. This same agruement has come up in every generation for 2000 years.

9. I don't think I ever suggested that the whole generation was incompetent. I think I tried to say just the opposite. I do not think I said "you stupid kids know nothing" - I think I attacked those who choose to speak for everyone in Gen Y -- and have no right to do so.

10. As for the "wait til you are older, then you will understand" part. I am older, and I look back at things I said and did and I do think "DOH!". Maybe I was just an idiot, and 100% of Gen Y is better at self assesment than I was. I doubt it, I was an average guy. My guess is that many people will read their 2008 blog posts in 2038 and wish the internet had one giant "DELETE" key. I could be wrong. Call me in 2038 and we can talk about it. I will gladly say "I was wrong" (heck, I say it already about stuff), but maybe you will call and say "wow, who knew?". One never knows.

11. I don't actually see older generations trying to beat down younger generations. In fact, I see just the opposite in the real world. I see lots of folks in their 40s and 50s who formally and informally mentor younger people. I do it. I have several friends whom I mentor. Heck, I learn as much or more from them as they do from me. I can't see wanting to beat anyone into "their place"...as each individual creates their own place.

You know, I think you and I should take this whole agruement to the next level and write a paper on it. A she said / he said from a generational point of view. I think we agree more than you know. Let me know. Not sure what I am suggesting, but I think there is more to this discussion than some random sparring on my blog.

thom

Jody Reale said...

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I probably made a lot of these same sentiments waaaay back in the day when I was in my 20s. Luckily, they were just never published in any kind of lingering, public forum. (What a relief.)

Anonymous said...

Gen Y will never look back and say we were wrong. The whole world has changed.

We are taking over sooner than any generation in history. Expect a Gen Y president as soon as the oldest of us hit the 36 years old requirement. This generation has secured Obama the White House. We will have the highest youth voting record EVER.

If you don't understand how organized we are you will be left behind.

Katie Konrath said...

Hi again, Thom.

I have to admit, I get very passionate about this subject because there are so many people out there who slam down my generation. Even though you didn't intend it that way, I'm touch about the subject because so many others do. If you look in the comments of many Gen Y blog posts, there are so many people who are vicious with their criticism. Not to mention the magazine and newspaper articles who accept it as a fact that Gen Y is a big group of arrogant "know-nothings".

It's funny because in person, people from different generations get along very well normally. It's just on the internet and on the news that things get out of hand. Personally, I don't think it's all Gen-Y specific hatred - a lot of it has to do with the fact that everyone is feeling insecure in the workplace.

I agree with your point that the loss of job security does affect all generations - I feel so bad for the people I've seen who have dedicated their lives to a company and who are then tossed aside.

I guess I feel it's a big factor in how Gen Y behaves because we grew-up with the job loss being an accepted factor. It's no longer remarkable when a company lays off tons of workers. Sometimes it doesn't even make the paper. And with the risk of having no health insurance, and even higher-order jobs being outsourced... it's only going to get worse. So, we try to protect ourselves from the start.

But I also don't really like the sensationalist nature of writing Gen Y vs Boomers blog posts. I did actually start out with a career blog (based on my dissertation research), but I didn't want to get into the battles that always seem to emerge - especially since career advice isn't my passion.

It just seems so counterproductive to me to pit the generations against each other... when what America really needs is for all of us to combine our creative energies to figure out how to make the future better for everyone.

And I do agree that Gen Y needs to work as hard as we can, instead of just coasting though work. With all the challenges we will face in the future, we can't afford to just assume that the American dream is ours for the taking.

It would definitely be interesting to put our perspectives together and see where that leads.

I'll just have to slot it into my schedule between taking over the world and becoming the next big internet celebrity while earning huge amounts of money in my sleep. (Just kidding!)

Thom Singer said...

Matt's Blog at Door64 had a comment about my post and the bone-head post on Penelope's Blog.

He pointed out that one of the comments on Penelope's blog added a #8 to the list of Why Gen Y is so productive at work - "Does NOT have kids yet".

Amen.

That made me laugh.

I will admit, this has been a fun day on the SAR blog with the comments (I had to let the anonymous one through cuz it was so random), and the emails I got about this topic.

JibberJobber Guy said...

Somehow this topic is fun and boring at the same time. I wrote a similar post a few months back called Gen Y Sounds Like A Bunch Of Entitled Whiners, and got a bunch of great comments. I've had a few other chances to write again, based on a post from that blog, but opted not to... it just sensationalizes something that doesn't deserve the attention.

Leslie M said...

Wow Thom -- you really got your panties in a bunch here! The eight comments that preceeded mine here also helped your point that the more controvertial the post, the more comments you get. Regardless of how people feel about Gen Y, they are here to stay. One needs to learn how to working with them or retire to Palm Desert.

Andrew Weaver said...

I just missed the boat. I was born in 1978.

Gloria said...

Thom,

I am applauding you for speaking your mind about this topic. It is one that I discuss often, with my 40-something, 30-something and 20-something friends. While there are good and bad people in each generation, I too have noticed the number of self-proclaimed "rock stars" (as they call themselves) in Gen Y. I can only tolerate their self-serving, self-centered ramblings with the knowledge that one day experience will catch up with them and they will be forced to learn the hard way the realities of business and life. I also remind myself that there is a very good thing that comes out of dealing with/listening to/reading them - the tremendous satisfaction and pleasure that comes from dealing with the members of their generation who truly are the "rock stars" because they are not self-serving, self-centered or seeking the limelight. These real "rock stars" bring brilliance, dedication, focus and simple hard work to the functioning of our world. They are who make it all worthwhile. The bright stars of our future.