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MARCH 24, 2011 4:34PM

Generation Generalization: Millennials Are The Same As You

Rate: 18 Flag

It didn't start with the amazingly anecdotal "What Is It About the Twentysomethings?" published in The New York Times last August - which featured a nauseating collage of scrawny young kids that looked like the results of a 12th grade art project - but this sure as hell made it official.

Don't get involved, I told myself. It'll blow over. If you complain, you'll just make yourself a target and people will use select quotes to validate their impression of angry, entitled, slacker millennials.

I mean, obviously, newspapers are going to start publishing more of these articles - the average age of their readers is growing older at a steady clip, reaching 45.2 in 2009. The New York Times knows that their average upper-middle-class-white-baby boomer reader wants to read about the flaws of the upcoming generation. These aged journalists are certainly not going to cater to some 18-30 year old assholes who do NOT write for them (because it's nearly impossible to become a journalist now) and do NOT pay to read things. 

No, and neither is  The Wall Street Journal, who really got the ball rolling with 2008's "The Trophy Kids Go to Work." 

Or maybe it was Portfolio.com's insightful "Escape from Corporate America," with the subtitle: six-figure jobs on Wall Street and elsewhere just aren't enough for "Millennial" workers, who want their jobs to have "meaning," too. 

Come on, people. We may not all be turning down six-figure salaries, but we're all in our 20s. Aren't we supposed to be energetic and unrealistically idealistic? Are you telling me no one other people in their twenties ever were?  

But the last two pieces were published before the recession. Maybe Generation Y's sense of entitlement isn't the same as when we thought college degrees actually meant something. In May 2009, right when the most unfortunate class of graduates was reaching for their diplomas, the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds was 16.1%

But maybe we're still the same as before, with fewer prospects.

 So, what is it? Are we always looking for new jobs? Are we lazier or do we have different work priorities or are we actually "emerging adults" flopping around like dying fish on a beach from position to position? 

Here's the real answer: sites like Monster.com, Indeed.com, Craigslist.com, and LinkedIn have made fluidity between careers a very simple process. There's no reason to feel loyal to one garishly lit office when you can see outside the window of the opportunity all of the time.

The problem is that companies feel the same way - they know they can tap not just the regional talent, but national, even global talent. This makes competition fiercer than ever. This, compounded with high unemployment, means that workers are already skitterish and businesses can start paying lower salaries with lower benefits. So why would someone making $24,000 a year while working 45 hours a week stay when they could leave, when they can visibly SEE another opportunity that offers (or pretends to) greener grass? 

But lazy? I work at a company that employs at least 60 people ages 22 - 28. It is a flagship model of Millennial business. Most everyone is here by 9 at the latest and dozens stay until 6pm or later. We're growing at an uncontrollable rate. 

Some could accuse me of being anecdotal. Well, so is every other god damn post ranting about entitled and lazy millennials, just because one employer didn't like the cut of some 23-year-old's jib.

Yet, while these vast generalizations of Generation Y go unchecked - but often impact employer decisions - baby boomers get away with accusing businesses of age discrimination. Can we do the same thing? Please? 

Let's cut the crap, media. Do you think we think being a "pre-adult" or emerging adult or almost adult at 26 is cool or something? Do you think going to a bar and telling a girl/guy that you're currently working at "nothing" and living at home is more socially acceptable?

Or, better yet, using the words of psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett: "Hey baby, I'm in the phase of my life where I'm going through identity exploration, instability, and self-focus. What are you doing with your life?

None of us want to live at home. None of us want to be doing nothing. We want to climb the ladder just as much as anyone else - whether that means getting more educated, getting a job or working for a NGO. But, unfortunately, we're doomed to have a harder time doing it, a worse time clinging to the bars, and a longer - maybe endless - climb.  

But, honestly, can't it be possible to illuminate the dire prospects that many young employees face in the wake of the recession without cushioning it with terms like boomerang kids and pictures like this?

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I look around and see many 20-somethings who are smart, educated and doing the best they can with a world in flux. Sometimes it is difficult to remember being 2o-something, but when I do I know it was not easy, wars, menial jobs, looking for decent babysitters and so much more. Yes, you have every right to complain...just remember when you call out "baby boomers" you are using the same kind of broad brush. We all are not heartless.
You should research what they said about the Sixties generation. They are the ones knocking you now.
Millenials! What a great label for a generation. I was the generation of peace and love. A good hippie girl with long hair and flowers on my jeans and lots of free love. I have two daughters in their thirties who have been though it all with not much help from me except to inherit my free spirit. I wish we were all able to stay young forever and not have to climb ladders or brown nose a boss. There are so many ways to live that really you only have to do what you want to do and looking back I did exactly that. I hope you keep posting and I love your energy. Thanks.
I stopped caring about what the older generations think of mine. :)

-R-
I think the 20 somethings of todays generation have learned some valuable lessons. I have one son who will be approaching 30 later this year, another is going for 29, the other is a daughter who will be getting married in 12, the last is another daughter who made me a grandmother, and goes to work and night school to get on with her life. I wish you all the best, your article is an eye opener for many that cannot afford how expensive rent, car insurance, and all the other things that are just adding to the burden. I truly feel for your generation, phones are a hot item, but how often does anybody look at how expensive they are month to month. If you cancel it's usually 200.00 bucks, something the millenial generation isn't too concerned with. Tatoos are big business? but many young people have a self indulgent need to be able to emancipate themselves in some way, what better than not to need moms or dads info. I wish you much luck, another coincidental plan for many of the 20 somethings is parents who are back in school. All that hoopla about being your best finally wore off on us the old fashioned people who belived in hard work, when it wasn't fashionable. It's the sandwich generation of entitlement that added the tsunmai sized debt marker where it is today and will remain until people go back to those good old fashion ways. Does the libiary sound like a good place for a date? these days people are watching thier dollars a little bit closer.
Hey, I think you guys are the most lovable generation ever. And you've got some mean breaks to face in the workplace since bloated boomers sucked all the air out of the place. But hang in there, we all need your sociability, your interest in finding new ways to work and your tech savvy. Rock on, Gen Y!
@ Buffy W -- Yeah, sorry if any stuff came across as a slight against baby boomers. I want to avoid that kind of cop-out generational warfare as much as possible.

@ Bonnie Russel -- As long as you rated it, you can laugh wherever you want - haha

@ Others -- Thanks for the positive feedback, I've got at least three other ideas for posts so there will be at least that many.
Hey, I'm a proud member of Gen X so I resent you guys trying to take over our slacker status!
Really, this is a great article and I get most of what you're saying - admittedly, I did not follow every link!
I feel like your generation is coming of age in a very, very confusing world. As much as you are masters of technology, that technology also can be distancing. Especially what I perceive to be an information glut that is difficult to parse - I have the advantage of recalling the time when information was much more of a choice. I feel assaulted, at times, by how much content there is available 24/7, and wonder how it must seem to someone who grew up with it.
I was your age during a recession - that luckily ended with the advent of the new information age. I can only hope that your generation gets the opportunity to find work and thrive.
I went back to college as an adult learner/non-traditional student/ old fart - and have many beautiful friendships with people your age who I connected with in the classroom. They are my peers. I might be able to give advice on occassion, but get just as much advice back.
None of them texted during class - and I will say I get outraged by that kind of behaviour!
Not sure what to say here, the twenty-somethings I see are all hardworking and pretty together...but I like your energy, glad you're writing!
As a gen x'er, I have to agree with you. Generations do have some defining characteristics, but I think so many of the comments about millenials is just projection - the boomers are mad that they're not the center of attention anymore, and we're all feeling short-changed and let down by the economy, so we project it by claiming this generation is 'over-entitled.' Actually, they're entitled to a lot more than they're getting. The young people I know now who are making things happen in their lives are having to work much, much harder than my cohort had to. And they're also quite accomplished and skilled. So, endeavor to persevere. I personally think the future is in good hands, or at least as good a set of hands as we and the boomers had way back when.
I thought the author was "spot on." Ironically, as a Baby Boomer, Iwent through the exact same negative (and inaccurate) stereotyping from "main stream" press (old school) when I was in my '20s. "What goes round comes round."

I've been very impressed by everyone in my workforce who is in their '20s. All have been not only hard-working, but think outside of the box in creative ways. I feel less of a "generation gap" with Millenials than I do with the generation in between. Kids who came of age in the 1980s are more conservative politically and tend to be averse to risk-taking compared to most Millenials I know. This is a broad generalization, that obviously does not apply to everyone in generation X.