All Hail the Gray Hair with Bermuda Shorts and Loafers

A while back, the Des Moines Register had a piece called, "New Generation About to Grab the Torch" (no link because the Register wants me to pay for archives.  Sorry. What used to be a delighter, i.e. free historical content is now a minimum expectation.)

Link active now…someone from the Register provided me an archive story link.  Thank you.

The thrust of the piece was that kids graduating today could very well be the next "Greatest Generation."  So today I wake up to an RSS feed from the Des Moines Business Record containing the article, Employers, meet ‘entitlement’ grads.

Now I try to monitor my old guy meter (I know…age 36 is so seasoned right) with these grains of salt:

  1. Every generation says that the next ones are slackers.
  2. I can find great examples of responsible hard working graduates if I ask any parent about their 18 year old graduate. (I don’t know many 18 year olds since our kids are young). None yet has said, "Johnnie is a total slacker and will probably end up in prison"
  3. Technology has changed everything (as it always has) so I can’t discount a generation as slackers when they’ve had so many more tools and options available to them for their ENTIRE existence. 

Let’s remember that as a 1994 college grad (not that long ago!) I had ZERO Internet to use in my life because it barely existed for normal humans.  I did have AOL 1.0 and Compuserve.   But let’s face it, today I could outsource a paper to India on a Friday at noon, and expect it in my inbox by Monday at noon for a few hundred bucks on my "Yeah Spend! Card from Discover with a free iPod and 10 ringtones! I got by signing up for instant approval in the quad.

I struggle not to agree with the articles author Steven Winzenburg.  He says:

Today’s "entitlement generation" wants jobs where
they can relive their childhoods with fun group activities, flexible
schedules and entertaining shared assignments.


This attitude pervades the classroom, where many students see nothing
wrong with copying material verbatim off the Internet or turning in
work late. If they receive poor grades, they blame the professor for
failing to help them enough, or if they miss a deadline, they blame
others. This is all part of the "teamwork" mentality that says they
don’t need to be held personally responsible for their actions.

Mr. Winzenburg goes on to discuss the responses he receives in his career seminar class:

When I ask the seniors in my career seminar class
what they want in a new job, they often respond that they want to have
"fun" and to work with "nice people." They are looking for another
childhood experience instead of adapting to the demanding world of
business.

Ahh…the crux of it all…"Looking for another childhood experience" where everyone is great, no one is better than anyone else, and you always get a gold star because you showed up.

If we experienced another "boom" like the dot com version…would we find youth ready to step up and work the insane hours only possible in youth? (much harder at 36 and beyond FYI kids) If a start up didn’t have an XBOX of Playstation for break time would anyone stay at the company? 

Man it’s tough because we must make sweeping generalizations about "generations" period.  But just from my ad hoc experience the workplace must adapt and become very fluid and unstructured.  It needs to measure results vs. expectations about "time spent" in the office.  Assignments need to be clearly defined as "must be original content" vs. "scrape the web". 

Is this all feel good hooey?  I’m not sure.  My pendulum has certainly swung from being a cubicle worker bee to wanting the satisfaction of creating something and living with my own choices. (RentalMetrics)

But wait…I guess the difference is that I’m doing it on the back of my own hard work, smart (and dumb) decisions, time spent busting my hump, taking chances with start ups, making less when friends were making more, working in crappy offices with server "closets" when other were swiping their ID cards to enter the hundred million dollar NOC, and the last little difference…

I NEVER considered folding up and going back to mom and dad as an option.  It was perfectly clear that at age 18 I was an ADULT and responsible for my life.  Mom and Dad weren’t "mean" (I’m sure they’d get that diagnosis today).  They knew instinctively that setting me on the path to total self-reliance was the right thing to do.  My dad told me clearly, "This is it…the last of the resources we’ll provide you son.  From here on out, we’ll give you a 1-way plane ticket, a temporary place to live, and no judgments if your life crumbles…but this is it." 

That obviously made an impression on me that moving back with mom and dad was a last resort and clear indicator of failure to become an independent man.  That wasn’t explicitly stated, but back then I guess innuendo with a dash of possible shame had some impact on me as a youth.  Today it seems…not so much.

(No offense if you’re reading this on the MacBook you bought on the credit card your parents paid off when you moved back into the basement…yes turn down the iPod I mean you).

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