Apr 18, 2011

In Praise of Gen Y

I like Gen Y.
I do, and I will sing it from the rooftops!

Here is why.

Firstly, because in general, I love young whippersnappers, whether kids, teens or "young adults". I love their energy, their optimism and their enthusiasm. I love what they remind me about my own younger days and how I felt and acted (and looked!)

Secondly, I work with a lot of Gen Ys, and I find them super impressive. They are smart, confident and ambitious. They know stuff I did not know at their age.

I'm a Gen Xer. Gen X was a little unlucky. (Not too unlucky - but a little). Coming of age in a recession and unable to find work in anything but "McJobs" for some time, we had little choice but to be "slackers". Our careers took off late, and to some extent we missed the boat. Held back by the Baby Boomers (as every young generation is initially held back by the one in front), we are overtaken by Gen Y just as things started to turn. But also, having for so long drifted around travelling, doing this and doing that, it has taken us a little longer to find our way and build a financial footing and a life.

This is a thing, right, it's not just me?


As Y's didn't get free university education, they had to choose their courses wisely. They also got better value for them, and learned things that were immediately useful in the workforce. The Y's we hire at work come work-ready - despite what is said and written about them, they are ready. They can do analysis and quantitative work that we had to learn on the job. They are quick witted, relaxed and competent. They work hard, they put in the hours, and they handle the networking with ease.

They are confident, where Gen X wasn't. Sure, some of this will be knocked out of them over time. But it's a great place to start.

Thirdly: the younger guys are way cooler about gender, diversity and lifestyles than my generation was at this age. I know, I know - the footy and NRL scandals roll on. But among real people, or at least people I come into contact with, the younger guys take all sorts of stuff as a given that guys my generation just didn't. Whether it's working mothers, stay-at-home-dads, gay marriage, foreign films or the enjoyment of soccer in addition to AFL - the younger guys just live and breathe this stuff where guys my generation had to learn it and did not all learn it too easily either.

Fourthly: as a Gen Xer I remember more than enough disparaging comments by elders when I was young. Whether it was university lecturers telling us off for not marching in the streets, friends of a (er, much) older boyfriend disparaging our "empty" lifestyles or employers making fun of the time we spent at university, I heard a gutful of it.
And what I remember, apart from the irritation I felt at each comment, was the fact that everything they said was wrong. Like their parents before them, the Baby Boomers misjudged and misunderstood us and disparaged a way of life that was different to theirs, out of blindness, vanity, fear and mistrust.

So watch out, Gen X - because you are now doing the same thing!

Every time I hear the usual throwaway comments about shallowness, attention spans and reality TV, I remember my own experience and I think,  You are getting it wrong, and you are also pissing them off!

Some of what is levelled at Gen Y is really just about youth. Some things that Gen Y are accused of now, Gen X before it was also accused of, and other generations before that as well - such as flightiness, selfishness and being unwilling to commit to one thing.

Each generation looks back on its own past with rosy glasses and then views the generation after it through this faulty prism. How easy it is to see one's own youth as wondrous and important and the youth of today as lacking in comparison.

And you know what? My attention span is not that hot anymore either, and admit it - neither is yours. On this one we are all going down together!
Youthful optimism - yay!
Image: Morguefile


  1. I couldn't agree more, Jackie. In one of my part-time jobs (last day tomorrow however, as we pack up our lives here and ready ourselves for Geneva) I'm surrounded by Gen Y's who regularly astound me at their confidence. Not cocky, but just more initiative and openness than I had at their age and their skill levels are incredible.

    Plus they're entertaining to have around - ready for a laugh and not be too grim just yet.

  2. I think I'm a bit too envious of Gen Y to praise them. Mind you, with a growing number of Gen Y friends, once they hit 25 they seem to settle down, get some semblance of an attention span and become less skittish. Good post.

  3. Agreed Kath. Sums it up well.

    Exactly Pandora - they're not too different to us as they age - funny that!

  4. I love your insightful observations of Gen X and Gen Y. They do exude that easy confidence but at the risk of sounding curmudgeon, I think it comes from having parents who give them plenty of opportunities.

    Gen X are a scrappy bunch because they are raised by television, latch key kids.

    You are spot on with your statement of "Each generation looks back on its own past with rosy glasses and then views the generation after it through this faulty prism."

    I'm a happy new follower.

  5. Hi Mila and welcome!
    I agree Gen Y have been lucky - very lucky.
    Unfortunately the generation after them probably not so much, what with the GFC and all. Life's hard for us all in our different ways I guess!



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