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What’s Your Opinion of Gen Y?

By JLP | May 22, 2007

My first impression of Gen Y after reading Attracting the Twentysomething Worker in Fortune, is that they are bit pompous and arrogant. Now I realize that not all Gen Yers are like this. That’s just the impression I got from reading the article. In fact, the cover of this particular issue of Fortune has a picture of a guy and a girl and the caption:

“Manage” US? PUH-LEEZE…

One thing that really stood out to me was the story about Joshua Butler, an audit associate with KPMG:

With his broad networker’s smile, stiff white collar, and polished onyx cuff links, Joshua Butler has the accouterments of an accountant. Even so, he looks a little out of place in a KPMG conference room. At 22, he’s 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, with a body made for gladiator movies. A native of suburban Washington, D.C., Butler chose accounting after graduating from Howard University because he wanted “transferable skills.”

At KPMG he’s getting them – and more: The firm has let him arrange his schedule to train for a bodybuilding competition, and he’s on its tennis team. Even before that, KPMG got his attention when it agreed to move him to New York, his chosen city. “It made me say, ‘You know what? This firm has shown a commitment to me. Let me in turn show some commitment to the firm.’” He pauses, a twinkle in his eye. “So this is a merger, if you will – Josh and KPMG.”

It’s the last line that really gets to me: “So this is a merger, if you will – Josh and KPMG.” Nothing arrogant about that!

Finally, the other thing I thought was funny was the article mentions Jason Ryan Dorsey, who wrote the book Graduate to Your Perfect Job even though he dropped out of college to write the book and didn’t have a job! That would be like me writing a book on how to manage a restaurant even though I have never managed a restaurant.

All that said, it isn’t my aim to make fun of a generation. Each generation has their strong points. I just don’t understand why companies are bending over backwards to treat these kids like royalty (read the article and you’ll see what I mean). If they (Generation Y) get hungry enough, they’ll work.

Topics: Generation Y | 20 Comments »


20 Responses to “What’s Your Opinion of Gen Y?”

  1. tinyhands Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 9:59 am

    I think every generation is inclined to view subsequent generations with skepticism, and yet there continue to be subsequent generations ;)

  2. BD Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Please don’t base your opinion of young people on what a magazine with an older target audience says about them.

  3. Luis Salazar Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Isn’t it good to know that this generation of people wants more and is also willing to work harder to have a complete life? After all, they will be taking care of the older generations when the time calls for it, and they will be raising the next group of people that will inhabit our planet.

  4. Brad Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 11:03 am

    tinyhands is right. I’m borderline Gen X / Gen Y (I’m 27– which group I’m in depends on who you ask). I do look at people a few years younger than myself and wonder how in the world they got so arrogant. But I’m sure people a few years older than me might say the same thing about my group. It’s all relative, though Gen Y is the most “fortunate” group to date, economically, and I’m sure that affects their/our behavior.

    Bottom line, JLP, is that it’s always going to appear that way the further removed you get from the youngest adults. Those who matured in the 60s looked pretty arrogant and rebellious to their parents’ generation, right? Same with the 70s, 80s, 90s. I can’t fault you for your opinion but I think it’s the result of a different perspective. In 15 years Gen-Y is going to look at the next generation (Gen-Z?) and see them the same way.

  5. crazypumpkin Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I’m left somewhat offended by that article, even though it was written by one of “us” (me, being a Gen Y, god I hate that term). I would be horrified if a boss ever asked my mother to come into work. I earn the paycheck, not her! But it also speaks to the attitude of being afraid of change. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. I don’t want to be a Baby Boomer, getting ready to retire, and being miserable because all I’ve done is desk work for the past 40 some odd years. I want my work to mean something. I want to look forward to going to work every day, and not just because it means I get a paycheck every two weeks. Things should change. But I wish there were some other term for those of us in that ‘generation’ who do work our butts off, who can make a decision, and know that sometimes the best rewards are from the inside not someone else.

  6. Amanda Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I think that making generalizations about a group is always problematic. As a 24-year old, I am obviously smack in the middle of Gen Y, however, I don’t consider myself entitled or arrogant. I believe in hard work, dedication, and taking your lumps / working your way up, which I think are the same values associated with generations before me.

  7. Chris Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    I have a good deal of interest in this subject. At 27, I am likely in the Gen Y category. There is a book called “Generation Me” that does a great job of describing how we all got to where we were.

    How did we get so arrogant? Well, why wouldn’t we be? From birth we have been told we are special, smart, capable, praised on, and taught not to value our accomplishments but simply to value our own self worth. There is no failure, everyone gets a trophy. 10th place ribbons, and the rest get “Great Effort” medals. Baby boomers saturated their younguns with shallow, esteem-boosting values based on the fact that we simply existed.

    Were we coddled? You bet. When a 30 year old is happily living at home and her parents are glad to have her there, I don’t exactly see an independent adult. I see a really old, helpless child. Many of them, even out of the home, cannot make good personal/financial decisions without first consulting their parents. They haven’t a clue how to function outside the nest, because they were never allowed to fly. Worse, they want to live a lifestyle equal to their parents without first building the foundation that mom and dad worked so hard to build.

    And babyboomers are suffering for it, I think. A good part of this immense debt that 40-50 aged parents have can be attributed to their children, I bet. A 30 year old child under their roof with $20k loan debt, mounds of credit card debt (that mommy and daddy often help pay off) and just the costs of housing and feeding a grown child are enormous. How can you make it to retirement and pay off your own debt when your kids need help paying for their new car? Look at Sheryl Walker in that article photo: 24, can’t even afford to live on her own, but what a nice car she has.

    Let’s examine the other photos. More twentysomethings covered in expensive electronic gear, afros (sp?) and tattoos, ninja poses, quitting their jobs if they’re unhappy. It’s no wonder they can’t afford an apartment.

    And what happened to hard work? They’re oblivious. Their parents held their hand growing up, and no hard work was needed in college: that’s what student loans were for. Now they get to the office and…wait, I have to work hard and rise in the ranks in this company before I can work on big important projects?

    And when they do get those projects? They need constant praise. Hmm, where was the article I read about a company who hired a woman – specifically – to throw confetti around the office and praise young workers? A simple “thanks, good job” is insufficient…mindbogglingly so.

    With respect to the author, it’s not confidence I see, its narcissism. I also see a generation that is going to find themselves broke at 40 with the parent safety net whipped out from under them.

  8. j&w Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Sounds like supply and demand at work to me. Don’t know where you work, Chris, but my company is almost entirely staffed by 20- and 30-somethings who work their tails off. Plenty of hours, plenty of responsibility, an associated nice paycheque, and a helluva professional end product. But we are certainly not shy about asking for life balance, and why should we be? This isn’t 1960. We are expected to have Blackberries glued to our hips, to work the equivalent of what three people were doing 15 years ago, to meet deliverables for multiple time zones, and at the end of the day have no loyalty from our employers. An extra week’s vacation or (shock! horror!) a pierced ear barely makes up for that at all.

    s for the living at home – I’m not American-educated and university fees are taxpayer-funded in Ireland, but aren’t young USians buried under unprecedented student debt? In comparison to their folks this isn’t a level playing field.

    (My demographics for the record – 30 year old woman, construction professional, $100k + bonus salary – and haven’t lived at home since I was 18!).

  9. Chris Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Yes, graduates are racking up record debts. First, the tuition rates have been going up dramatically, far faster than inflation. Second, many parents that I talk to do not believe in financing their children’s educations, or they just didn’t prepare properly. They grew up in a time where a small percentage of the population went to college, it was expensive but not outrageous, and you could easily work your way through and still graduate in a reasonable length of time. Now, far more go to college, even if they can’t really afford it, which inflates the average student loan balance because more people need to get those loans.

    Even so, I think many young people could handle their loan payments and still be out on their own if they accepted a lower standard of living.

  10. Wanda Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I thought the article was pretty interesting (I’m 22 and a newly-minted grad). And regarding the Josh and KPMG comment – I took as he was just kidding (i.e. twinkle in his eye). Every recruiting event I’ve been to talked about how it’s a “partnership” or “working-together” between the Firm and the Employee. I mean, Starbucks even call their employees “partners.” So, I don’t think Josh was being arrogant. He’s just repeating companies’ hiring rhetoric to the reporter.

    Most of my friends and I have jobs or are going to grad school. A lot of friends in my circle will work 70+ hours a week. It’s impossible to generalize about an entire generation, but my friends and I are willing to work hard – very hard – for things we want.

    With all due respect, JLP, your comments seem a bit “when -I- was your age…” ;)

  11. JLP Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Wanda,

    Thanks for the comment. Sadly, that “when-I-was-your-age…” stuff was a LONG time ago (or at least it seems that way).

    I don’t have any regrets for the comments I made. I’m just giving my impression of the article.

  12. Minimum Wage Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    According to the article, 22-year-old Joshua Butler “chose accounting” AFTER college graduation? How the heck did he do that?

    I have a college degree; I even took a year of undergraduate accounting. How can I “choose accounting” now? Where do I sign up?

  13. Miguel Says:
    May 22nd, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Seriously – do we really need to pander to these stereotypes?

    Like J&W, I also work in a field where the 20 and 30-somethings works their tales off, just as I did before them. Proof that if you set up a competitive, survival of the fittest, meritocracy, where the spoils are worth it, gen Y and gen X ers are more than capable of rising to the task.

    I think what has changed is that our society (work, parents, etc.) simply more often than not asks less of them – which is a shame for all.

    I’m a tail-boomer – born at the very end of the baby boom – yuck. Basically, following immediately after the bulge is like arriving to the party late – but for the rest of your life!

    Anyhow, I can identify with the arrogance of today’s youngsters because I was just as arrogant in my day (some would say that hasn’t chg’d with age). I was always eying older people, thinking yeh I could do it better, faster, and cooler, so why don’t you oldies just get out of the way already. Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong.

    So, now, when I encounter that youthful know-it-all arrogance, sometimes I have to beat it out of them, but I also try to preserve a bit of that too – it helps to be at least a little cocky.

  14. Flexo Says:
    May 23rd, 2007 at 1:42 am

    It is insane to make any broad-brush-stroke generalization about any large group whether it’s a generation, race, or religion. Just because Fortune makes generalizations (using anecdotal evidence) doesn’t make it in the least bit accurate on a large scale.

  15. KMC Says:
    May 23rd, 2007 at 8:17 am

    I agreed with Flexo and BD. The article was clearly written to attract (sensational) interest from its readership. Fortune isn’t a magazine for twentysomethings. It’s for older people (sorry – I read it sometimes, too). Just like an Ann Coulter or Imus comment – it’s meant to sell [magazines].

  16. Chris Says:
    May 24th, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Corporate America has helped bring this on themselves. In the “free agent economy” we can’t expect long-term loyalty from anyone anymore – it’s a year or two at this company and then parlay that into a bigger title and more money somewhere else.

    As an employee, if you’re very good and very smart, this can be a beautiful thing, but as a manager, I hate to lose good people simply because they hit a certain milestone with my company and feel they must move on to continue building their resume.

  17. jonny Says:
    May 27th, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    While this article is certainly an exaggeration, it’s not too far off–I’m a Gen Yer myself, and I see a lot of my fellow graduates continue using the parents to keep themselves together. On the other hand, I see it this way–if the rest of my generation is too ignorant or lazy to get the job done, well, I’m young and hungry and dedicated, and I’m more than happy to step in where the spoiled children won’t cut it.

  18. SavingDiva Says:
    May 29th, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I just finished reading Generation ME; and I think my generation is getting a bad wrap. Sure, there are some ridiculous, pompous body builder accountants; but what about the boomers who bought a $1million home when they make $50k/year and are pissed they were foreclosed on?

  19. Mark Munro Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Whats wrong with bodybuilder accountants anyway.
    Yeah because they didnt see what was around the corner. They thought they could take on the responsibility of buying a house out of there budget not thinking about the future.

  20. Jane Foster Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I think that making generalizations about a group like bodybuilders is always problematic. As a 24-year old, I am obviously smack in the middle of Gen Y, however, I don’t consider myself entitled or arrogant. I believe in hard work, dedication, and taking your lumps / working your way up, which I think are the same values associated with generations before me.

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