Should Generation Y have even been a thing?
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About seven years ago, when Generation Y began to come of age, there were all sorts of people writing articles about how different they were and how they were going to change the world. But, if they were the good guys, there had to be bad guys and who were those bad guys? Their parents, of course.
I say “of course” but, at first, I was shocked. You see, I was raised to think that their parents, the Baby Boomers, were the saviours of the world. Weren't they rejecting their parents' culture? The father who worked too hard and the mother whose life was a social facade?
I thought so. But, now I learned that the Boomers were the ones who worked too hard. They were the guys who became alcoholics to stifle the pain of conformity. That's why they were all in twelve-step programs. But, their kids, well, they were intrinsic reward junkies. They weren't joining the rat-race. They didn't do things to get ahead. They did things because they liked them.
This was a learning moment for me — when I saw how shallow generalizations about generations can be. I knew that Gen Y wasn't what it claimed to be. First of all, it didn't refer to everybody in a certain age category. It just meant people who went to university. And, even then, it really meant people whose parents had also gone to university.
And, it was the same back in the sixties. Things had changed since the fifties. There were a lot more people taking drugs and having sex before marriage and the music was very different – but there was no Love Generation.
In 1972, when eighteen-year-olds got the vote, Nixon won by a landslide. Where were all the rebels then? They were only ever a small fraction of society who had made it to the front pages because they were entertaining. And when they got out of school most had gone mainstream. Haight-Ashbury was just a flash in the pan. And so was Generation Y.
But people who were old enough to know better were going on about how great these guys were. I went after one guy, a “futurist”, who crowed about how tech savvy they were. It was nonsense but he was smart. He got an article in O Magazine and I didn't.
But, eventually, we began to hear bad things about Gen Y. Employers said they were arrogant and lazy. Then the economy crashed and instead of taking over the world they couldn't find jobs. That’s when all the “Gen Y triumphalism” stopped.
But it isn't over entirely. I was prompted to write this article after reading one entitled, “Kids Can't Use Computers”. Some people still think they know a lot so Mark Scott tells us at length that this isn't true.
And just the other day I was speaking to a 47-year-old man who told me that his grandfather is a member of the Greatest Generation. This fellow is a smart guy. I think he's very intelligent but he didn't like it when I told him that the Greatest Generation is a nonsense idea. “Archie Bunker,” I said, “was the Greatest Generation”. But if a guy like that can believe this nonsense, anybody can.
So, here’s the lesson.
During the Gen Y craze, people were making lots of money giving seminars to Human Resource professionals about how to attract and manage Gen Y. The idea was that they were so different that an ordinary person couldn’t understand them and you had to do something special to reel them in. I remember a recruiting webinar in which we were told how to take a different approach when recruiting the different generations. It was such nonsense it was unbelievable but people were making money doing this. And that means you can too. Remember this statement: There’s a sucker born every minute. I’m not telling you to rob individuals but if a company is going to waste money on somebody – and they will – why shouldn’t it be you?
Pick a topic any normal person can learn about on their own and put it in a presentation and sell it to a company for ten thousand dollars a day. I know you think I’m joking but that’s what suckers always think.
The real winners know that knowledge – true or false – is worth a fortune.
The Recruiting Animal is the author of The Psychology of Job Hunting: Transform Yourself From a Lily-Livered Loser Into A Sales Person For Only Three Dollars.
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