Digital natives, Gen Y
Digital natives, Gen Y

Gen Y will be okay.

The Huffington Post recently ran an article on the difficulties of growing up Gen Y. Of course, this is old news. The generation gap has been real and prevalent for over 10 years. The gist of the article is that Baby Boomers raised their kids to believe they are “Special” and now those kids feel entitled and are unprepared to succeed in life and the work place. After all, success is based on hard work, showing up, and putting in your time and effort.

They added to that discussion that many 20-somethings are now in what Dan Sullivan calls, “The Gap.” This is the space between where we are and where we want to be. The problem of “The Gap” is that we get frustrated and disappointed when we look at it. The solution is to measure progress rather than “The Gap.” When we measure progress we are motivated to show up, work hard, and feel proud rather than disillusioned.

The problem with continuing to analyze the Gen Y conundrum as an entitlement issue is two-fold:

  1. Since the economic “collapse” of 2008, life has changed. Many Gen Ys graduating from colleges coast to coast during that time confronted an unexpected reality: zero jobs. But herein lies a gap. If you have an engineering or biotech degree you are employable. If you have a knack for creating conversations for others on Facebook, you are employable. If not, there is a good chance that you will end up answering phones or waiting tables. Another option, what parents are complaining about, is to move back into your parent’s house. This brings me to number two.
  2. The economic collapse happened to everyone. Not only were the Gen Ys between the ages of 18 to 28 in 2008 caught with their preverbal pants down, but so were their parents. Baby Boomers lost their homes, savings, jobs, pensions, medical benefits, the possibility of retirement—the list is long. Life changed for everyone except the well-heeled. Guess what that created? Another “Gap”!

What I’ve discovered for myself and in working with dozens of business owners and professionals is that it’s the Baby Boomers and Gen X group that got the real squeeze. If you were a 40- or 50-something in 2008, with up to 25 earning years left, you had to literally reinvent yourself. This created a morass so prevalent that I wish the Huffington Post article was about the entitlement issues of my generation. It is shortsighted and unfair to call Gen Y out on entitlement issues. It is also shortsighted to call out them out on frustration. Their frustration pales next to their parents’.

Gen Ys are taking any jobs they can—including serving fast food. Employers are willing to hire younger people at a much higher rate than their parents. Why? Because they will work for less. And as it so happens, another reason that younger people are more employable is that they have the innate skills that organizations desire. They are digital natives. They know how to crowd source. They may be young and idealistic but they are easier to mentor, bring fresher skills, and they are nomadic.

Gone are the days when organizations complain that their employees don’t stick around. Now organizations are scalable. They like the fact that Gen Ys are career nomads, because it means they don’t have to worry about long-term benefits like 401Ks and pensions. Gen X and Baby Boomers are mourning the loss of those benefits and are looking to replace them.

I believe that Gen Y has had a reality check at such a young age that they, for the most part, have been able to adjust quickly. Baby Boomers and Gen X parents are struggling with their entitlement beliefs in a very deep way. Where they think they should be and where they are has changed forever and that is “The Gap” we haven’t been looking at, discussing, and showing compassion for. This is today’s story. Our kids, they will be fine.




Ruth Schwartz

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .