The modern workplace plays host to three generations: the baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. A panel at the InsideCounsel SuperConference this week called the youngest of the bunch, Gen-Why?. The italics are likely meant to indicate a whiny tone, because this bunch, born from 1981 to 2001, are supposedly entitled and snotty. E.g., “You’re going to defer me for a year with a $60,000 stipend? Wah! I hate you!”
I attended the panel as did another legal blogger, Adrian Dayton. Check out his post on what’s wrong with Gen-Y. Despite their complaints about the young’uns, oldies tend to give in to their wishes, judging from the response one general counsel gave to a Gen-Yer who asked to head off to New Zealand for a year and have his job held until he got back.
A not-especially-snotty-or-entitled Gen-Yer was chosen for the panel: Jack Rossi, staff counsel at JetBlue, who scored an in-house offer directly out of law school. He admitted that some of the myths about his generation are true: he does like feedback and wants mentorship (and he’s gotten it in-house). An older baby boomer lawyer in the audience spoke up to say, “I wanted the same things as Jack, but I was not brave enough to ask for it… It was kind of ‘figure out for yourself.’ I think the fact that younger lawyers ask is actually a good thing.”
Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of tension in the room between Gen Y and Boomers, even when J.D. turned PhD panelist, Arin Reeves of The Athens Group, suggested Boomers were at fault for spoiling young folks given the wining-and-dining summer associate experience they created. “If you want to teach that work is the priority, take the events away,” said Reeves.
I think all of our Biglaw readers will agree with us in deeming that terrible advice.
In the room, greater tension seemed to exist between Gen X and Gen Y. “It sounds like we’re saying, ‘How are we going to accommodate an already spoiled generation?’” observed one Gen Xer.
Since I am Gen Y, and Elie is Gen X, we thought this would be an opportune time for a little ATL debate. I’ll let the old man go first…
Elie here: The plight of Generation X is not unlike the sad story of Prince Charles. We’re sitting around waiting for Mommy to die while the country is obsessed with the kids.
An under-reported part of this recession is how it is killing Generation X. These are their prime earning years, and they are getting screwed out of earning the money that is supposed to set them up for their golden years. Gen Y will have the rest of their professional lives to recover from this recession. But Gen Xers are taking hits now that are stunting their ability to generate wealth.
Rewind the tape: when the Baby Boomers were the age of Generation X, they had the ’80s. Morning in America and Greed is Good and snorting cocaine off of a stripper’s back.
Generation X is sitting here with a global economic crisis (created by the Baby Boomers), a global climate crisis (created by the Baby Boomers), and a national debt owned by China. And yet the Baby Boomers are still here, like agents in the Matrix, they still guard all the doors and hold all the keys.
That’s what Gen Xers are looking at, and then there are these Gen Yers — with their iPhones and iPads and iProblems. The lack of self reliance exhibited by some in Generation Y is shocking: it’s a generation that needs other people to help them build their own damn farm.
The sad reality is that Gen X is probably getting too old to change and easily adjust to the new economy. Like Prince Charles, they’re no longer trying to change the world, just want their time in the sun.
At some point Gen Y will have to realize that they are not next in line. Go download something and let the adults in the room figure out what to do.
Kash here: Typical Generation X lament. I just had a Douglas Coupland flashback: Lots of random cultural references and resentment of the good times the Baby Boomers had.
Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1980, are just coming into their own now, like the Cravath partner who gave us today’s Quote of the Day, who is part of the class of partners there in their 30s and 40s now taking over the firm. Sure, the economy sucks, but this is Generation X’s time to shine. Fix things! Make the world better for Gen Y.
The Baby Boomers brought us Apple and Microsoft: solid products. Gen X brought us Google: a solid way to use those products. Now, Gen Y is bringing us the newest societal game changers: Facebook and Twitter, radically evolving the way we communicate. Yes, Gen Y is hyper plugged in. Pity us that — we can’t be away from a computing device for more than 20 minutes or we start getting the withdrawal shakes.
We’re still young and want to have fun like the Gen Xers and their wild times in the 80s, but we have a heavy load on us. See MSN:
[T]he legacy costs that society has imposed on young people will be a millstone around their necks for decades. Who’s going to pay for the health care bill? Gen Y. Who’s going to pay off the federal deficit? Gen Y. Who’s going to fund all those cops’ and teachers’ and firemen’s pensions? Gen Y. Who’s going to support baby boomers as they suck the Social Security system dry while wheezing around Tuscany? Gen Y.
Unfortunately, there’s no iPhone app for solving those problems.
Baby Boomers Compromise for Generation Y [Marketing Strategy and the Law]