Sit down with an HR director at any Fortune 500 company and ask them what they think about the incoming Gen Y workforce and brace yourself for an angry diatribe on how “kids these days” don’t want to work, feel a sense of entitlement or generally thinks they deserve applause just for showing up.
While I could beg to differ on some of the finer points, one thing is true….today’s working-age young adults were raised in a very different family environment than their boomer parents. American youth have been raised in a self-esteem boosting culture where they were taught that they are all special: worthy of trophies and recognition just for playing.
This trend in “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you play the game” parenting and socialization has likely done this generation a disservice.
The world has changed dramatically since Reaganomics and Saved By The Bell.
We are a connected planet with a truly fluid and global economy that has shifted from industrial, to knowledge-based and finally a conceptual workforce. Indeed, competition for education and jobs is more fierce than it has ever been.
The academic curve has gotten so steep and college admissions require you to be so well rounded that an entire generation is poised to start steadily rolling down-hill once they get off their ADHD meds.
The reality of life for these adults could be a big let down if not properly prepared for the challenging reality that awaits them and the tools to embrace role that our rapidly evolving world can play in their evolution (aside from playing multi-player first person shooter games with a guy in china on X-box). We are thinking differently about work and life and financial versus spiritual fulfillment. We are prioritizing experiences over acquisition and mind/body/soul over matter. And we have a million and one ways to achieve our goals as long as we are willing to put ourselves out there and work for it.
Below is the link to a commencement address given at Wellesley High School this past weekend that has gotten quite some media attention.
The message is valuable not just for the “kids” but also for adults. Remember that although YOU are not necessarily special, the world these days is such that all of us can harness our collective “specialness” and really do some good.