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Reality Check for Younger Generation Workers

Reality Check for Younger Generation Workers

By John Heckers

March 04, 2011

The following article lists 9 characteristics of Generation Y in the workplace.

“Adulthood” has been getting delayed more and more the last couple of centuries. This is partly due to increasing prosperity, allowing parents to provide longer for their progeny, and partly due to increasing longevity, leaving older workers in the workforce (and alive) longer. Unfortunately, too many “Gen Y” (also known as the “Millennials”) are attempting to hang on to their adolescence for longer than is healthy or wise. Here are some realities younger people in the workforce must consider.

1. “Thirty” is not “a kid.”

I’ve heard several younger generation workers over the past few years tell me they’re “only” in their late 20’s or early 30’s. They want to do kid stuff, like spend every weekend on extreme sports or go out every night. Reality check: If you haven’t put some effort into your career by your late 20’s/early 30’s, you are seriously impaired in your ability to provide for yourself and your future family. Some of your contemporaries have been working very hard. They are the ones who will get ahead, not you.

2. You aren’t entitled.

Another major issue I see among younger workers is the attitude of entitlement. Get over this one right now. You aren’t entitled to a job. You aren’t entitled to a certain amount of time off. You aren’t entitled, period! You have to earn what you get. And you can’t earn that because you’re cute or “just for being you.”

3. Jobs are hard to find and keep…value yours.

The demographic facing the worst unemployment numbers is not those of us who are over the hill. It is young people. If you are one of the lucky ones who can actually get a decent job, even if it isn’t exactly what you want to do or doesn’t pay exactly what you want it to pay, be grateful, stay put and work hard. Many of your contemporaries are unemployed. And they’re waiting to take that “lousy” job you have if you blow it and either get fired or quit.

Have you begun the job search? Get started now.

4. The economy is in the toilet.

The unemployment numbers from Washington, like almost everything else that comes from there, are meaningless and deceptive. Unemployment is much higher than Washington is reporting. Statistics on unemployment are easily manipulated. If most Americans knew what truly bad shape this economy is in, and how slowly unemployment is actually recovering, there would likely be riots in the streets.

This fact means things are going to be difficult for you younger workers. You grew up in an era of relative prosperity. This “recession” is worse, in many ways, than the Great Depression you might have heard your grandparents talk about. Understand this.

5. You’re going to be expected to do more with less everywhere.

It isn’t pleasant when your boss puts pressure on you to do more in a day. Live with it. This is the reality for everyone in America who is fortunate enough to have a job. Don’t gripe. Don’t complain. And don’t slack, either. There are others who are quite willing to work very hard just to have a paycheck.

6. Your social life must be last.

Partying and other extra-curricular activities must take last place. There is no such thing these days as a “work-life balance.” Unless you are in a very low-level job, you are truly “on-call” 24/7. I see many younger generation workers resent this and feel entitled to their time off and social life. Reality check: Your work must come first if you want to stay employed.

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7. Don’t quit and don’t get fired.

It really stinks to be laid off. But doing your job so poorly you get fired for cause, or resigning because you don’t like the job can mean that you’ll be unemployed for a very long time. Employers are discriminating against unemployed people. Quitting shows poor judgment on your part. Being fired for cause usually shows poor work habits or outrageous behavior. These things do not play well in today’s market.

Another reality? If you are fired for cause or quit your (former) employer can probably successfully contest your unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance exists for those who are unemployed through no fault of their own, not those who quit a perfectly good job or are fired for non-performance or violations of company policy (for cause). So, you’ll be unemployed without even the paltry sum of money that unemployment brings, unless your employer is a very nice person and decides not to contest. Be aware, however, if they don’t contest, their unemployment insurance rates go way up. It is to their benefit to contest your unemployment.

8. Don’t burn bridges.

If you do wind up being laid off or leaving voluntarily, do it with class. Don’t mess with the computers or do anything else to negatively impact the company you’re leaving. This is not only career suicide (these things get around to other employers), but it is a crime for which you can be fined or go to jail. Make sure everyone knows what they need to know to carry on in your absence. Thank the employer for the opportunity and don’t be rude.

9. Don’t burn bridges even if fired.

If you are fired for cause, use this as a learning opportunity. You messed up. Don’t mess up again at your next job. Resolve to have a better attitude and correct the things that got you fired.

Of course, this advice is good advice for people of any age. But I see these behaviors much more in the 20-somethings and 30-somethings. Unfortunately, the party is over and it is time to grow up…now. You no longer have the luxury of being a “kid.” The good news is, in the end, this truncation of prolonged adolescence will be very good for both our younger people and the nation.


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